Tony-Nominated Playwright William M. Hoffman Dies at 78

Obituaries   Tony-Nominated Playwright William M. Hoffman Dies at 78
Hoffman's 1985 work As Is was one of the first plays to explore the early stages of the AIDS crisis.
William Hoffman
William Hoffman

William M. Hoffman, a playwright and librettist who earned a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination for his 1985 play As Is, has died at the age of 78. His death was confirmed to Playbill by Andrew Keates, the artistic director of London's Arion Productions, who helmed a production of the play at Trafalgar Studios in 2015.

As Is marked one of the first dramas to depict the early days of the AIDS crisis. The play, which centers on a recently broken up same-sex couple after one has contracted the virus, premiered at the Circle Repertory Company in March 1985 before transferring to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre that May. In addition to a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination, As Is earned Hoffman an Obie Award.

Hoffman’s numerous Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and regional plays prior to his breakout work included A Book of Etiquette, The Cherry Orchard Part II, Children’s Crusade, and Luna.

The playwright also contributed to the opera stage, having penned the libretto for The Ghosts of Versailles, which premiered at the Metropolitan opera in 1991. The recording of the 2015 L.A. Opera production won two Grammy Awards earlier this year.

Hoffman also inspired the works of other playwrights when he was not creating himself. In the 1970s, he published a series through the publishers Hill and Wang titled New American Plays, as well as the anthology Gay Plays: A First Collection. These collections marked the first time many up-and-coming playwrights were published. Additionally, Hoffman served as a professor of journalism, communication, and theatre at the Lehman College at the City University of New York.

In addition to his stage work, Hoffman wrote for the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, for which he received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination in 1992. He also penned a small screen adaptation of As Is, which aired in 1986.

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