Contributed by Shay Gines
As someone who worked Off-Off-Broadway and understood the
community, Philip Seymour Hoffman was an artist the IT Awards wanted to get as a
presenter from the very beginning. Each year we would send the request, and each
year his assistant would try to work something into his schedule but –
especially after he won the Oscar – he was always busy filming or in
production. I just knew, however, that eventually schedules would match up, and we
would be able to make it happen.
The only actual encounter I ever had with Mr. Hoffman was at
a Starbucks in the Village. It is difficult sometimes for me to introduce myself
to people and start conversations, especially if I have an agenda. I feel
awkward and inappropriate, which only ends up making the conversation feel
awkward and inappropriate. Jason Bowcutt, on the other hand, is a genius at talking
with people. He can talk to anyone about anything. He has tried, on more than
one occasion, to teach me how he does it, but I simply do not have his skills.
So when I saw PSH in the Starbucks I could hear Jason echoing in my subconscious:
“Seize the moment. Be confident and just talk with him. He’s a theatre creator just
like you.” I screwed my courage to the sticking place, grabbed my business
card and approached him… I didn’t so much introduce myself to him as I… orally
“Hi my name is Shay (no breath) I’m with the New York Innovative Theatre
Awards (no breath) We love you and would really love to have you present an
award for us (no breath) oh, the awards are for Off-Off-Broadway (no breath) I
know that you are busy and I don’t mean to bother you (no breath) We’ve been
talking with your assistant about your schedule, trying to work something out (no
breath) she’s very nice and helpful by the way (no breath) it would mean a lot
to have you there (no breath) you’re awesome (no breath) oh, the awards are in
September (no breath) here’s my card (no breath) we’ve wanted to get you from
the very beginning (no breath) we’ll continue to try to work something out with
your schedule (no breath) didn’t mean to interrupt you have a good day!”
pretty much just yelled at him, very quickly, for two minutes, then stuffed my
card into his hand and ran away. He was nice. He smiled patiently and shook my
hand and nodded and looked confused.
When hearing about the encounter later, Jason asked me, “What
did HE say?”
“Um, nothing," I answered. "I didn’t really give him a chance
Jason laughed and shook his head, “You probably scared him.”
When I look back on it, it was such an embarrassing, clumsy moment for
me. I can’t imagine what he thought was going on. This crazy, six foot tall
woman, who maybe knew a little bit too much about his life, just verbally
exploded at him while he was trying to buy biscotti and then disappeared.
You’ll be happy to know that I did learn from the encounter
and have since finessed my approach when talking with potential presenters.
I was so sad to hear about Mr. Hoffman’s passing because I
admired him so much. He was an actor who made incredibly
brave choices and had an uncommon ability to reveal a humanity that was fragile
and weird and deep and beautiful. I will miss his insight and his work.
Community Prayer & Candlelight Vigil for Philip Seymour Hoffman