Samantha Woodman ’10 had a thirst for comedy early in her life. As it so happens in families sometimes, making people laugh was a way for her to lighten loads and productively kill some time when an older sibling was stealing the show. “I grew up in Willoughby, Ohio riding horses and participating in 4-H,” Woodman said. “[But] I couldn’t show my horse until I was eight years old or in third grade. So, while I waited for my sister, who was older, to show hers, I would entertain the crowd with my comedy routine.”
She already knew that there were plenty of opportunities to be around horses at University of Findlay, and, once there, she found out that there was a solid Theatre program at UF as well. Not totally certain of a major focus, and seeing the potential to discover different avenues for majors, she headed down to Findlay to take up residence after graduating from high school, knowing she was where she needed to be.
Eventually, she said, as a student taking part in a work study program on the UF campus, building sets for Theatre performances, she started to get the urge to perform again. She was introduced to the scholarship program and moved forward toward stage productions. When she had a few credits as stage manager under her belt, she began auditioning. She had decided to pursue a business degree, and the two avenues were mutually helpful to each other. “When it came to my business degree,” she said, “it was very easy for me to be able to talk in front of people and present projects, since I was so used to being on stage.” These types of blending experiences at UF aren’t rare, as the options to explore are widely available, so Woodman’s pursuits and the successes that came from them created in her a student – and eventually an alumna – who was and is well-equipped to go down multiple avenues.
And go down multiple avenues, she has.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance and two minors in Business Marketing and Business Administration, Woodman took to the road, literally, moving to Chicago three months after graduation. She had wet her comedy chops even before this point, taking an intensive improv course at The Second City, which is, according to its website “the world’s premier school of comedy,” the winter before graduation. “Funny enough,” she said, “one of my business classmates had lived [in Chicago] and was moving, so an apartment fell in my lap thanks to the University network.”
As anyone who has fallen in love with a hobby, a career path, a passion or all of the above could tell you, one tends to be taken over when the particular desire takes hold. Her interest in improv comedy had made Woodman want to learn everything there was to know about the craft. She binged watched the classic comedy show SCTV (Second City Television), studying the methods of its stars Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy. She went through Second City’s Improv for Actors program and graduated from their Conservatory, afterward being seen all through Chicago doing improv and writing sketch comedy at the Second City and clubs like iO, and the Annoyance. She moved to New York City to learn more with the Upright Citizens Brigade and do stand up at the People’s Improv Theater, at the same time dabbling in voiceover. It was complete immersion into the world about which she had dreamed so often.
Now, Woodman has taken the talents she learned at UF and in the clubs and recently relocated back to the east side of Cleveland. She’s still working on writing and performing, and, realizing one day that what she has learned might very well be of service to some current UF Theatre students, came back to campus to direct the improv play this past September. “I thought, ‘huh,’” she said. “’I wish I had some improv or had brought improv in my life earlier like in college.’ I reached out to [Assistant Professor of Theatre], Meriah Sage, and offered some sort of idea for a masterclass teaching improv. Meriah heads the alumni theatre page anyway so it was a way to really give this new craft to the students as well as give back to the alumni. I got to build out my own improv training program and showcase the students.”
Woodman said that the nostalgia she felt when she was back on campus took her back, but that seeing things “with a different lens” was refreshing. “I [found] the department with new faces, new energy, and a lot more students taking interest in our small but mighty program,” she said. “One of my favorite things that I [found] so heart-warming was that I [had] the same costume designer [Kathy Newell] for my show as I did when I was in the department. It’s so full circle and really makes my heart happy.”
In the winter, Woodman will be attending welding school to further her education and will continue with her love for performing. She looks back fondly on her time at UF and is quick to note the benefits she still enjoys from her time as an Oiler. “Not only was it a time where we were learning who we are as people but developing skills in life that would help us on our journey. Shout out to some of the most influential teachers I had the privilege of learning from and a big thank you for never giving up on me.”