In film role: Hoffstatter walks on the dark side
Ted Hoffstatter — known to many as a selectman and teacher — has another side, that of actor.
Often cast as the “guy next door,” he will throw that image away when Asabiyyah: A New Social Cohesion, has its premiere Saturday, June 15, at the Schlumberger Theater in Ridgefield.
The independent film, produced and directed by Ridgefield filmmaker Jeff Bonistalli Jr., is about a troubled society on the brink of civil war, Mr. Hoffstatter said. In the film, he plays the head of a pirate news network.
“What’s the truth? That’s the question,” Mr. Hoffstatter said, speaking about the film last week. His character’s goal is to try and bring the truth to the fore.
“What was interesting is I met the director at a political event,” he said. “I ran out to my car and got him a headshot.
“I love the premise, the search for truth in troubled times,” he said. In an era of right-wing and left-wing media outlets, “what happened to just the truth?” he asked. “Where is the fair forum where people can take the facts and decide for themselves?”
The film was shot throughout Fairfield County, and Mr. Hoffstatter’s scenes were filmed in the Ridgefield Community Center, specifically in rooms that are used for emergency communications designed to simulate a bunker situation.
Mr. Hoffstatter has been involved in acting most of his adult life. As a political science major it was suggested he take a course in acting or public speaking.
“I took an acting class for fun and thought, ‘that’s it. I’m going to pursue acting.’ My parents almost died,” he said with a laugh.
After college, he attended the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in Manhattan, and studied with Sanford Meisner, a member of Stanislavski’s Group Theatre, just before his death. In New York City in the 1990s, he worked with Tony Randall on Broadway as an intern at the National Actors’ Theatre, and with Jesse Martin, an original cast member of Rent, and a co-star on TV’s Law and Order.
His most recent television appearances were on the soaps As the World Turns in 2009 and One Life to Live just before it went off the air.
“I have never left acting,” he said. “Sometimes it is on the front burner, sometimes the back burner, but it is always in the mix.”
The plot of Asabiyyah takes place in the future where a global economic breakdown has occurred and the United States government has been toppled. The new regime is throwing its citizens into collective farms, which the film’s writers modeled after “what the Russians did to their citizens during World War II and during the Cold War.”
The film’s title derives from Ibn Khaldun’s theory of social cohesion.
“Khaldun theorized that societies follow a bell curve — they rise similar to how they fall, in a repetitive pattern,” director Jeff Bonistalli explained. “The movie takes place at the bottom of the bell curve with society about to kick start again and that’s the setting of the movie.”
Mr. Hoffstatter’s role is 180 degrees from the type he usually plays.
“My character is mentally breaking down,” he said. “He has substance abuse problems. Although he is well-meaning he is not all there. … It was nice to stretch a bit.”
Mr. Hoffstatter said he drew on the swagger of Nick Nolte in Hotel Rwanda and the physicality of Jack Nicholson in The Shining for his performance.
Whether in front of a camera or on the political stump, Mr. Hoffstatter has found acting — particularly improvisation — extremely helpful. Whether dealing with other board members or knocking on doors asking for votes, acting “has taken me a lot farther in my political career.
“I am so used to having casting directors say no, that knocking on doors is no problem.”
In addition to serving as one of Wilton’s selectmen, Mr. Hoffstatter is working as a substitute teacher while studying for his master’s degree in counseling at Fairfield University. He had worked in the Bridgeport school district before his position fell victim to budget cuts.
“I enjoy the one-on-one interaction with the kids,” he said. He decided to pursue a counseling degree because teaching jobs are in short supply.
“It’s actually easier to get an acting interview than a teaching (job) interview,” he said.
For information on the movie, visit asabiyyahmovie.com.
by Steve Coulter