Green Shirt Studio

Teacher Profile: Ashlea Woodley

Ashlea Woodley

Ashlea Woodley describes herself as a “teaching artist,” and she brings that combination of practical technique and creative inspiration to her work as a Meisner instructor at Green Shirt Studio. Woodley was introduced to Meisner as a theater major at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and she was intrigued enough to study the technique in-depth at Green Shirt Studio. Now, she’ll be guiding students through the process from the other side.

Woodley grew up in the small town of Campbellsport, Wis., near Fond du Lac. “Straight-up country living!” she says. Like many performers, she was drawn to acting as a way to break out of her shyness.

“My grade school teacher asked me to try out for a Christmas play, so I was in my first production when I was six years old. Acting became a way for me to become a more effective communicator,” she says.

After receiving a master’s degree in special education from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, she taught special-needs students at Milwaukee Youth Theatre and First Stage, work she has continued since moving to Chicago a year ago. In between teaching jobs, she still makes time for acting, most recently with the educational GreatWorks Theatre Company. “I’ve been fortunate to do what I love so fully,” she says.

We sat down with Woodley to find out more about what she loves about acting, and why she is so passionate about teaching the Meisner Technique.   

Q: How did Meisner change your process as an actor?

Woodley: Fully embracing this work was a life-changing experience for me. Like so many actors, I struggled with finding a method that allowed me to fully embody the nuances of the character in a deeply meaningful, truthful way, beyond simply knowing the circumstances of a role. I struggled to get out of my head and give over to trust in the actor’s faith. With continued practice, I began to feel those inhibitions melt away.

Q: Can you describe a specific role or situation where the technique really led to a breakthrough?

Woodley: The interesting phenomenon about this work is that it permeates your everyday life, until it’s almost impossible to ignore even the simplest of repetition between human beings. I could name roles or plays where Meisner was formative to my work as an actor, but I don’t think that’s where my biggest breakthrough came. Through this work, I became more attuned to my surroundings. I recognized in others what was often left unspoken, especially in the most challenging of circumstances. For the children and adults I worked with who were nonverbal, I became a better teacher. Very generally put, it made me a better human being!

Q: What do you enjoy about teaching?

Woodley: I’ve been fortunate to study with and learn from some brilliant instructors all around the country who have mentored me in this didactic art form. When I teach, I want to see the same “a-ha!” moments that I experienced as a developing actor. That’s the part of teaching that most inspires me

Q: When you’re not acting or teaching, what else do you enjoy doing? 

Woodley: I love going on adventures! Sometimes I’ll get on my bike and go wherever the wind takes me. I love reading in coffee houses, and I love being outside with my two dogs, running along the beach and playing catch. I’m an amateur wine maker, and my husband brews beer, so we’ve created a full alcohol-making operation right out of our kitchen, much to the delight of my family and friends!