By Bob Abelman
Stuart Hoffman, actor/baker
CANVAS: Before the pandemic, you were an itinerant actor specializing in intriguing characters in small plays performed in the intimate spaces of convergence-continuum in Tremont, Seat of the Pants in Canton and the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, among others. When COVID-19 changed all this, you pivoted and became a professional baker. How did that happen?
Stuart Hoffman: I was introduced to baking as a kid. My mom was one of those mothers who baked for every school event and as holiday gifts for my teachers. She allowed me to help in the kitchen and I discovered that cookie dough tasted so much better than Play-Doh. I occasionally worked as a baker before the pandemic, but once the theaters closed, I dedicated myself to laminated pastries – croissants and tea biscuits, mostly – for The Stone Oven in Cleveland Heights. And then I worked at Luna (Bakery) at its Cleveland Heights and Moreland Hills locations. I get genuine pleasure making something from scratch, delivering it to eager customers and giving them pleasure.
CANVAS: Sort of like acting.
Hoffman: I never sat down to think of it like that, but yeah. I really love the creative process of both acting and baking. The early stages of both start with a written recipe that needs to be followed, and there’s comfort and structure in that. And once those key ingredients and instructions that make up a play and a pastry are mastered, there’s a certain degree of interpretation and freedom of expression to make the work my own.
CANVAS: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet (“Glengarry Glen Ross”) hated actors interpreting his words. In his book “Theatre,” he noted that actors “need only say their lines and get out of the way of the play.” And then there’s playwrights like Eric Coble (“The Velocity of Autumn”), who trusts actors, directors and designers with his scripts. In a previous Canvas interview, Coble – a Cleveland Heights resident – noted: “If I’ve done my job right in the writing, what I intended will end up on stage. But this is a collaborative process.” In terms of your baking, are Stone Oven and Luna more like Mamet or Coble?
Hoffman: Definitely more like Mamet. They have a brand to protect.
CANVAS: What’s also interesting about this parallel between baking and acting is that most of the hard work is done behind the scenes and in isolation – in a back kitchen or a rehearsal studio.
Hoffman: Which is also something I really enjoy. Both are largely solitary activities until the final product is eventually put on public display.
CANVAS: Just curious – are you more popular with your friends when delivering scones or Shakespeare?
Hoffman: Most of my friends are actors and you never hear complaints when providing actors with free food.
Hoffman has also returned to live performance, most recently appearing in Blank Canvas Theatre’s production of “Cabaret” this past December.