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Gay History – “As Is” by William F. Hoffman: The Forgotten and Earliest AIDS Play of the 1980’s – VIDEO

Before "The Normal Heart" there was "As Is"

Everyone remembers “Longtime Companion”, “The Normal Heart” and “The Band Played On” all very important and powerful works about  AIDS and its effects in the 1980’s.  But “As Is”by William F. Hoffman is a lesser known work but just as powerful and sadly now all but languishes in obscurity.

The original Broadway production of “As Is” opened at the Lyceum Theater in New York on May 1, 1985 after an extended Off-Broardway run and ran for 285 performances. It was nominated for the 1985 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Play and won the  Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play

As Is focuses on the effect that AIDS, at the time when the outbreak first began and the effect it,has on a group of friends living in New York City. It was one of the first plays, and subsequent television films, depicting how the pandemic was affecting LGBT Americans, being produced shortly before Larry Kramer‘s play The Normal Heart was first performed on April 21, 1985.

This play revolves around a gay couple, Saul and Rich, who are in charge of opening up the play, separating. But Rich’s firm resolution is not that decisive, for he returns to Saul’s arms once he contracts AIDS from his new lover. Seeking emotional support, Rich stages how the diseased are treated by the American family, doctors, and friends. 

In In 1986, Hoffman adapted the play for a television production starring Jonathan Hadary, Robert Carradine, Joanna Mills and Colleen Dewhurst.

It’s nearly impossible today to find a complete copy of the television production but YouTube has a 15 minute clip you can  watch below.

 

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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