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    Patrick Hoffman Helps Preserve Broadway Performances of the Past and Present

    By Jan Wahl–

    From Ethel Merman to Harvey Fierstein, Julie Andrews to Hugh Jackman, Patrick Hoffman spends his days viewing and filming great Broadway performances of the past and present. He combs through archives of live performances, as classic as Richard Burton’s Hamlet and Brando’s A Streetcar Named Desire and as current as A Strange Loop or Six. A star will arrive at his Lincoln Center office for research, hoping to study an iconic performance. Bette Midler did this when she was preparing for Hello Dolly. Barbra Streisand and Meryl Streep came in for their own possible projects, Schmigadoon! and The Prom, respectively. By night, he is off to the latest Broadway or off- Broadway production. 

    Hoffman is the Curator and Director of the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. It is located between the Metropolitan Opera House and the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Head for that gorgeous fountain at Lincoln Center and you will think you are Cher in Moonstruck!

    Getting a chance to hang with the flamboyant, fun, and extremely articulate Hoffman remains one of the joys of my interviewing life.

    “I’ve been here for 29 years, loving every minute of it,” he told me for the San Francisco Bay Times. “My parents began taking me to the theatre when I was five years old. Not children’s theatre, but the adult theatre that was touring through Kansas City, Missouri. Big stars would tour back then, and I saw Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam, Mame with Gretchen Wyler, so many.  I would come home and recreate sets and scenes with colored paper or whatever I could find. I eventually found my way to the Museum of the City of New York and became Acting Curator there. Then I was recruited by this amazing place. The late, great Betty Corwin came up with the idea of putting performances that would be lost on tape, and the rest is Tony Award winning history.”

    Walking with Hoffman through the galleries showing these productions, I was thrilled to see how cutting edge and current they are. 

    “We have what we call social movements,” he said. “We have wonderful LBGTQ productions, going back to Michael Bennett’s one night of bringing all the casts of A Chorus Line together, and the recent production of Company where they gender switch the role of Bobby (Bobbie). The gay community has excellent taste and a very deep connection, history, and love for the performing arts. We have other areas that feature Hispanic, Black, and Disabled. Everything possible is in the theatre.”

    He continued, “Recently, people have been coming in to reappreciate Angela Lansbury in Blythe Spirit, Sweeney Todd, and Mame.” He added that those outside of the area can peruse some of the offerings at:

    “Go out and experience live performance with other human beings,” Hoffman shared. “Seeing it on your laptop can only do so much; we crave other people experiencing the magic with us. Your local productions are waiting for you, or come see us here.  The theatre will always welcome you.”

    Let’s go local and beautifully cinema graphic with Derek Zemrak, owner and operator of the gorgeous art deco Orinda Theatre.   This classic movie theatre is so gorgeous it will take your breath away. It was built in 1941 and retains its original designs, murals, and lighting. Zemrak found the theatre’s original drawings during the pandemic and poured passion and money into putting everything back to its original gorgeousness. The theatre’s muralist, Anthony Heinsbergen, was famed for his works at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Oakland Paramount Theatre, and many classic movie palaces. The lighting is now back to photo fluorescent, incredible in the darkness.

    Zemrak and I have worked together for many years. We did events at the Orinda with Cloris Leachman, Richard Dreyfuss, Rich Little, Burt Young, Talia Shire, and many more. He is always doing something creative and often crazy there, aside from the latest in Hollywood movies. The California Independent Film Festival will be starting soon. I’ll be there for a big presentation of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with Barrie Chase and the Grease singalong with Grease director Randal Kleiser. See you there!

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Off the Wahl
    Published on November 3, 2022