April 20, 2009 (Vol. 9, No. 7)
Lehman Professor William Hoffman to Discuss His Play 'Cornbury: The Queen's Governor' on 'Conversations' May 4
"Cornbury" takes a look at the life of Edward Hyde, or Lord Cornbury, the third Earl of Clarendon and cousin to Queen Anne of England. He was not only the colonial governor of what is now New York and New Jersey for eight years ending in 1708, but he was also, as the story goes, a cross-dresser. His portrait at the New-York Historical Society shows a man with five o'clock shadow on his round face, wearing a blue gown.
Prof. Hoffman, a member of Lehman's Department of Journalism, Communication, and Theatre, originally conceived of the play back in 1974, along with his collaborator, the late actor Anthony Holland. In the aftermath of Watergate, the country was preparing for the American Bicentennial in 1976. "We noticed that there were no plans to celebrate any gay presence in America," says Prof. Hoffman. "We were furious about it so, as an act of fun and revenge, we wrote our story of a 'great' American." In fact, Hyde was corrupt and often thought to be one of the worst governors to rule this New World colony. The play also touches on the openness and tolerance of early New York, then "New Amsterdam," in which a character like Lord Cornbury was free to be himself.
Prof. Hoffman is the author of the Broadway play "As Is," which earned him Drama Desk, Obie, and Tony Awards, as well as a Pulitzer Prize nomination. His other works include a masque titled "The Cows of Apollo," an opera titled "Morning Star," and the libretto to "The Ghosts of Versailles," which was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and composed by Lehman College Distinguished Professor of Music John Corigliano.
Now in its sixth season, "Conversations" won a 2008 Telly Award for cultural programming for its interview with Kent Nagano, musical director of the Bavarian State Opera. Previous guests have included Peter Gelb, director of the Metropolitan Opera, playwrights Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson, and Arthur Laurents, opera star Regina Resnick, and theater manager Albert Poland. The program airs over BronxNet and CUNY-TV. For more information about the series, call 718-960-2558.