Coventry's Houde School is a home for aspiring actors
The Houde School of Acting, at 1777 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, opened in 2007. The school offers classes for people of almost all ages, with three classes for children ages 6–13, and other classes for teens and adults.
Jessica Houde Morris, 37, founded the school. Born in Massachusetts, Morris moved to the Cleveland area with her family when she was 18. Shortly after they moved here, she was wondering what she should do with her life, and her parents suggested that she look into acting or modeling. Eight months later, she moved to Los Angeles and began taking classes at the acting school Playhouse West.
Robert Carnegie, the founder of the school, worked with Sanford Meisner, who developed what’s called the Meisner style of actor training. The Houde School focuses on the Meisner style. “His theory was that, in order to act, you have to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances,” Morris said. “There are 10 levels of technique you have to go through to learn the entire thing.” She noted that it can take up to four years for a student to learn the Meisner style.
After three and a half years of classes at Playhouse West, Morris began teaching at the school. Then, two years later, Morris returned to Cleveland to open her own school. Her father had died in 2004, and she decided to use her maiden name for the school’s name.
Houde’s students come from all over Ohio and neighboring states. “We have students from Mansfield, Lodi, Canton, Columbus, Wooster, Pennsylvania and many other places,” Morris said. She estimated that she has around 100 students enrolled in the school at any one time. Three months ago, she opened a second school, in Kent.
In addition to classes about the Meisner technique, Houde offers improv classes and “camera” classes, which focus on acting in commercials.
The school also offers audition technique classes. “I give the students a script for the first time,” Morris said. “They act out that script, and I give them critiques and adjustments, and they come back the next week with those adjustments.”
Over the course of her career, Morris has worked with several well-known actors, including James Franco, who has starred in many movies; Shawnee Smith, best-known for her role as Linda in the CBS sitcom "Becker," and Scott Caan, a regular on "Hawaii Five-O."
Several of her students have gone on to pursue successful acting careers. One student, who is now in Los Angeles, will appear in two upcoming shows on NBC. Another student has appeared in commercials for Mr. Hero. Kurt Yue, an instructor at Houde, frequently appears in Ohio Lottery commercials.
Morris lives in Cleveland Heights. She is married and has a daughter, Essic, who is 17 months old.
For more information on classes at Houde, visit www.houdeschoolofacting.org or call 330-348-1106.
James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.