Geoff Hoff: A Remembrance: RIP: 1955-2015 - By David Jette
Heard the sad news today that Geoff Hoff had passed away yesterday. Thanks to David Jette for letting me know. I didn’t know Geoff well, but I did know him. He invited me to be on the panel of the first Critics Panel at the first Hollywood Fringe Festival back in 2010 and he was always an avid reader and commenter at the Lemon for many years. And, as David will tell you below, he was the founder of the now defunct LA Theatre Review site and helped launch some known writers around town, including David, Kat Primeau, Brian Sonia-Wallace, Tracey Paleo, Ashley Steed and Ezra Buzzington – who I think has now been finally outed (did I glean that correctly, David?) as the infamous Addison DeWitt that I called to task back in the day for his anonymity – and many others. What I remember most about Geoff was his magnanimity. I challenged him on many occasions and he always took it in stride, not backing away, but always letting it slip off his back like water on a duck. A lesson many in the community would do well to observe. But David says it better here, so I’m going to let him roll. Rest in Peace, Geoff, and thanks for your contributions.
Geoff Hoff: A Remembrance: RIP: 1955-2015
I once wrote a play that got a bad review. It was a traumatic experience. Like most artists I am at once obsessed with and untethered from the opinions of others. My instinct is to defy expectation and convention whenever possible, my desire is for everyone to know it, and give me praise. My deepest wish is to connect, for someone else to recognize my value, to call out every clever turn of phrase, every reference to stage canon, every subtle innovation I imagine I have committed in each ill considered act of art.
After I read the review of my play by the late Geoff Hoff, who died yesterday at just 60 years old, I had to reach out. How could he not like my play? This beast I’d wrestled for a year or more, a production I raised funds for personally, which I stage managed, which I poured myself into so totally that it must have been infallibly personal and affecting, to any standard human soul. He admitted the play did not strike his fancy, but he acknowledged its potential. This was the hardest note to take: I could do better.
Geoff was so kind and insightful with his follow up criticism that I couldn’t stay mad. Some critics revel in the pain they inflict on their victims, but Geoff saw a very young writer in seek of wisdom, and he was happy to dispense with his. I asked if his new blog venture the LA Theatre Review (now defunct) was looking for writers, someone to pick up the weirder shows, the midnight shows, the ones with sex and gore, cuss words and dollar beers. He humored me and got me on the list for a dozen shows that summer. I saw more theater than I ever had before. I became acquainted with the messy, chummy, unevenly talented but vast and endless scene we call the ninety-nine. I wrote some rants, and some raves, and later I renounced it all, after another set of bad reviews, this time not so generous with their hope for my potential.
Geoff brought together a good stable of writers for his short lived experiment in citizen criticism. I remember meeting in his home prior to the very first Hollywood Fringe Festival, brainstorming a model for widespread coverage with the likes of Ashley Steed and Ezra Buzzington (who wrote under a pen name). This was the same time when Bitter Lemons was just getting started, as were other review blogs we now view as mainstays of coverage in our indie scene. LA Weekly still had a robust staff for capsules, but the writing was on the wall. Geoff was an old timer, but he was ahead of the curve in that respect. In the short time I wrote for him he never changed a word of my type. I wish he had. I believe the weakness of the blog critic model is a lack of strong editing, no institutional eye in place to keep the tone, style, and reference point of good work to build from, to anchor opinion, to temper praise and blunt the barbs which are so thrilling to write.
But Geoff gave me what I needed then more than anything, an outlet. Despite growing up in the 90s with a computer, it had not occurred to me to publish commentary online. I left college with the fantasy that someone would quickly recognize my genius and publish my plays in books, where they would be bought by people in stores. Geoff was an actual writer who knew that while writers write, writers must be read, and that takes hustle. He was among the first to leave the newspapers behind to try and create an online space where the LA theater scene could be seen, heard, and reviewed. It didn’t last long, but I remember it fondly, and I will remember him fondly too.
RIP Geoff Hoff 1955 – 2015