Bits 'n' Pieces: 'Sweeney Todd' star visits Ridgefield students

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photoRita Markova and Louis Hobson star in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," playing through Oct. 21 at the Gerding Theater at the Armory in Portland.

If you go

What: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” produced by Portland Center Stage.

When: Through Oct. 21: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and noon Thursdays.

Where: Gerding Theater at the Armory, 128 N.W. Eleventh Ave., Portland.

Tickets: $64-$70 adults; $30 students.

Info: 503-445-3700; Portland Çenter Stage.

A special guest recently visited Ridgefield High School to give Bob Meek's theater and choir students some tips on singing, acting and careers in creativity.

He's Louis Hobson, a popular Broadway musical theater actor who's in the area to star as Anthony Hope in the Portland run of the Stephen Sondheim masterpiece "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

Hobson and Meek became friends at Rogers High School in Puyallup, and both attended Pacific Lutheran University, where they developed a passion for musical theater. They created the extracurricular Night of Musical Theater, PLU's first such program.

"There was too much competition for space … so we had to practice after everyone else, later than 1 a.m. most nights," said Hobson. "By providing entertainment at banquets to raise funds, our program soon had the largest budget of any club on campus."

The friends both majored in music. Meek later returned to Central Washington University for a graduate degree in education, and a teaching certificate.

Anonymity to stardom

Hobson, meanwhile, pursued professional acting opportunities, and eventually moved to New York City, where he quickly landed a role in the critically acclaimed show "Next to Normal."

"In a couple of months, I went from being unknown to being a notable Broadway star," he said. "It was surreal to go from complete anonymity to being recognized on the street."

Both acting and teaching are all-consuming, Hobson told the students. "Theater and teaching are vocations rather than professions," he said. "You have to be willing to give so much of yourself, and to find the balance between work and family life."

And here's another dollop of showbiz wisdom from Hobson: "If you want to be an actor, you should consider getting at least a minor in business courses, too. Whether you want to be an actor, a teacher, or any other profession, you are your own product and you need to know how to market yourself."

— Scott Hewitt