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Elden Street Players Open with 'Henry V'

HHS graduate, in main role, chooses Elden Street Players to launch professional acting career.

Evan Hoffmann, 22, was introduced to acting at nine years old by his church choir director.

"'Music Man' at Herndon High School was the first theater I ever did," said the College of William & Mary graduate, "and I immediately loved it."

After his initial experience, Hoffmann said he immediately auditioned for a role in "Peter Pan" with Reston's community theater group — and got it.

It wasn't until a year later that the Herndon resident first experienced The Elden Street Players (ESP) — Herndon's all-volunteer community theater group — where he performed in the group's first-ever child-production, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

From there Hoffmann said he tried to work with ESP whenever he could and continued his acting career at Herndon High School where he held numerous lead roles in musicals and won major Cappie Awards for musical theater.

"I directed Evan in 2001 for '[The Who's] Tommy'," said Todd Huse, ESP actor and director. "He did a great job back then and of course he was in high school at the time."

After interning with ESP for two summers and finishing high school, Hoffmann said he went to William & Mary with the intentions not to major in drama — but soon found himself drawn to the department, starring in and directing school productions and eventually majoring in theater.

"I never followed the belief that you could make a living as an actor," he said, adding although currently pursuing a professional acting career he is also working full-time for the State Department doing computer inventory.

"It's very difficult to make a living in," said Richard Downer, Herndon resident and long-time ESP member about professional acting, adding "from the times I have seen him," he thinks Hoffmann has the talent to succeed.

NOW, 12 YEARS after his first ESP experience and with acting experience under his belt from HHS, William & Mary and working as an actor and then theater supervisor for Busch Gardens, Hoffmann finds himself back at ESP as the main role of Henry V in the group's Shakespearean production.

"Busch Gardens closed at the end of October and I didn't renew my contract because I had been primarily directing and leading staff — I wasn't acting," he said, adding he has no professional acting experience. "Knowing Elden Street was doing 'Henry V,' I decided to come back and try out."

"It's rewarding to see him back at Elden Street," said Downer, who tried to follow Hoffmann's college acting career. "I am looking forward to 'Henry V' because I haven't seen him on stage in ages."

David Sher, director of 'Henry V,' said when Hoffmann called saying he could not make it to auditions or call-backs but wanted to read for the part, he figured he'd let him read, then send him away.

"He just blew my mind," said Sher. "My vision of Henry has had his face on it since that day."

Since the late November selections, Sher has worked with the cast and crew to prepare his vision of "Henry V" for the Jan. 21 opening night.

"Evan has been a joy to work with," he said. "He has the most lines in the show and he was the first one off-book."

Eileen Mullee, producer of "Henry V," said she too was impressed with Hoffmann's memorization skills, saying he memorized his lines back to front because the last part is always the hardest to remember.

"He had to do some definite soul searching to identify with this character," said Mullee, adding the role not only requires a young actor, but someone who can convey varying emotions. "With the help of [Sher] he has really developed the role."

IN BETWEEN his preparations for "Henry V," Huse said Hoffmann — humble about his job after ESP — has spent almost every night rehearsing either for "Henry V" or as the understudy of the "Beast" for Toby's Dinner Theater production of "Beauty and the Beast" in Columbia, Md.

"He's underselling himself," said Huse of Hoffmann's modest nature. "I think Evan's potential — especially his youthful look — will give him a lot of roles for a long time ... I applaud him pursuing this career, he takes it professionally."

Sher, who has been scrambling with last minute preparations — including finding a replacement for a major role because an actor left last minute due to health reasons — said he has enjoyed watching Hoffmann transform the Henry V he envisioned into the character played now.

"His instinct on the stage is excellent," he said. "He always looks like he knows what he is doing."

Downer said, based on his HHS performances, he can tell Hoffmann has the talent.

"He commands the stage when he's on in musicals," he said. "You'll see performers come out on stage — they're not flashy — but you can just tell they love what they are doing ... and they just do it."

He added that Hoffmann is taking the necessary steps to become successful at the professional level — starting "at the bottom rung" and working up.

"I knew 'Henry V' and I knew the people," said Hoffmann about why he chose ESP to start building his resume. "I knew the quality and the professionalism were going to be there."