My Houde Story – Madison Woods



It was a cold October night. A girl, nervous, steps into the unknown world of acting. *Cue sparkles and jazz hands*

Just kidding. I had done acting before. In fact, I was a theatre minor during my first degree tenure. Unfortunately, as just a minor I didn’t have enough time to do the plays but I still took acting classes and did some short films, and that laid the foundation for the want (need) I have to be an actor.

Fast forward to 2017, I had just moved back from an ill-fated “move” to Los Angeles. Typical actor move (especially one with barely any experience and not a lot to sell oneself with)…At least I learned from it.

Anyway, so I was back in Cleveland, frustrated because I wasn’t where I thought I wanted to be and had limited friends and no hobbies and I was just sad. BooHoo. SO, I looked up acting classes because stubborn ol’ me decided that she was going to get that experience and marketability and make it.

Google search: Acting School Cleveland

First one that comes up, and the one that I have had the pleasure of studying at for the 2 years since:

The Houde School of Acting

Houde offers this great deal where you can try a class for free before signing up, so on a chilly October night in 2017, I took advantage of that and went to the Sunday Improv class taught by the AMAZING Thom Cullinan. He was great and he wouldn’t just let me sit and watch and I remembered then how truly fun improv could be.

My classmates at that class were great and they helped me along. I remember improvising a scene with a guy named Hung (who would soon become a good friend) and it was about me trying to kill him with furniture. I mime’d a side table and made a Million Dollar Baby reference that had the class rolling and I knew that even though I hadn’t been to the emotionally challenging Meisner class yet, that this was the place for me.

Meisner came to me less quickly than improv. It’s challenging and you have to be confident and vulnerable and you have to be able to listen and still express your truth and it is A LOT.

Jessica, the owner and Meisner teacher, is 2nd gen or essentially, she learned from one of Meisner’s original students, and her teacher and herself don’t change the technique from what they were taught. It’s an asset to anyone learning because it’s being taught the way it was intended to be.

Meisner is broken up into stages: First Stage Repetition, Second Stage Repetition, Activities, Hovers, Emotional Prep Class, Home Alones, Activities with Emotional Prep, Doors and then Relationships. And you must go through all of those before you can even think about touching a scene.

(Also, I’m not gonna explain what each of those means because it’s long and hard to do with a visual, and honestly y’all have Google. I’ll even help you out and put the Amazon link to Meisner’s book HERE. And the link to the Houde School of Acting website where you can sign up for your free class can be found HERE. You’re welcome.)

Back to the stages; I wasn’t good at them (at least the early ones). You have to be able to listen and react and connect with people, and wow, I did NOT know how to do that. I did the first stage for like a month…For a performance mentality person like myself, seeing people who started after being promoted before me, it was tough. But, it was part of the learning process.

You can’t be selfish in acting. Especially not in the early stages. I had to learn to be patient with myself and my partners and to listen to them, and to myself, in a way that I had never been taught before.

In a sense, I had to unlearn how to ride a bike in order to learn how to ride it better. But with feelings and no bikes and VuLNerAbILitY. Gross, right?

Well, it only felt that way for a while. Meisner helped me to be able to express my truth in a way that I had never before. It helped me be able to analyze and understand other people’s emotions as well and to empathize better when needed and to also stick to my guns when needed to.

And after six months, I finally made it to emotional prep. Even more feeling and EVEN MORE VULNERABILITY. EVEN GROSSER.

Except at that stage, I was figuring out that feelings ≠ gross. Feelings = FreedomFreedom to express oneself. Freedom to be vulnerable with others. Freedom to know how you feel deeply. Freedom to understand others. Freedom to empathize. Freedom to LIVE TRUTHFULLY.

After about a year and a half at the school, I got to the advanced class. And wow, did it feel good, especially to finally be able to act scenes with dialogue, and implementing the technique. It was long and challenging, and my learning in acting is far from over. But I would encourage anyone who is thinking about it to try and understand that acting is a forever journey in finding yourself and it TAKES TIME. Professional athletes still practice every day regardless of their million-dollar contracts; acting requires that same discipline.

But, if you’re looking for a place to hone your skills and teach you that discipline, HANDS DOWN, The Houde School of Acting is the place to go.

The Houde School of Acting & Demo Reels has two convenient locations in Downtown Cleveland and Kent that offer Meisner Training as well as Improv, On-Set Script Choices, On Camera Monologues, and Dialects. Visit their website for more information and learn how to attend a free class!