Start With Where You Are With What You’ve Got and With Who You Are

Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Maria was in her early 50s when she began her return journey to the world of acting. Over thirty years earlier, on finishing school, she had gone straight onto drama school, gaining a BA (Hons) in Drama & Theatre Arts. Soon after she married and started a family. She chose to be a stay-at-home mum, and to put her dream of becoming an actor on hold.

Over the years she kept her hand in by being involved in her local community theatre, mostly behind the scenes, helping out with whatever needed to be done on productions, as General Production Runners assistant — from making costumes, to office administration to promoting ticket sales, and cleaning up.

Start With Where You Are With What You’ve Got and With Who You Are: A Case Study:

Her dream of becoming an actor had never gone away, and in recent years she had successfully auditioned for small roles in her community theatre productions. This reignited her quenched fire and she knew she wanted more. She wanted bigger roles in her local theatre productions, and she also wanted roles in bigger theatre productions, as well as roles in film and TV.

To achieve this she knew she needed to develop her skills, and so began her quest to learn, and learn and then learn some more. And so, she took class, after class, after class. This helped to give her the confidence to successfully audition for those bigger roles in her local community theatre productions.

Three years later she had taken every course possible at all of London drama schools offering part time courses, and she’d played most of the leading roles in her local community theatre productions. She had put all of the skills she had learnt to good practice, both on stage in the theatrical productions she had been involved with, and on screen by becoming involved in student short film productions.

She was at a point where she wanted to perform on stages other than those that were considered to be amateur dramatics productions, or even fringe theatre. And she wanted to move away from student films to be part of mainstream films and TV productions.

This was when she hit a barrier. She didn’t believe she could achieve this starting from where she was, with what she had, and with who she was. She believed she needed to attend a leading drama school, undertake a full-time course — the courses she identified would take two years. This she believed would allow her to start from a better place, with what she needed, and with who she would be by the end of the course.

Maria identified three London schools she wanted to apply to, each of them offered two-year courses, and so she began to prepare for auditions. She was successful in being offered a place at one of the schools.

Over coffee, Maria shared her good news with her trusted friend Bella. They’d attended Drama School together all those years ago. Bella had gone on to become an actor, and played roles on stage, film, and TV. In between times when she wasn’t performing, she taught acting at a leading drama school.

Bella wasn’t convinced that Maria’s belief that she needed to attend a leading drama school and undertake a two year course was true, or that it was the only option that Maria had, or indeed the best option. She had been to see Maria’s most recent stage performances, and she’d watched the short films she’d acted in. Bella was impressed with her performances, and she thought that Maria was actually holding herself back, and that she was in danger of becoming a perpetual student. She gently broached this with Maria, sharing these:

Word of Wisdom

While learning is wonderful, it can sometimes hold you back, it can be your comfort blanket.

She went on to ask Maria to consider the following questions:

What will going to a leading drama school for the next two years give you?

What will not going to a leading drama school for the next two years give you?

What will you gain by doing this?

What will you lose by doing this?

Can you get what you want in any other way?

Maria was thrown by what Bella said. Before they met she was convinced that going to a leading drama school, and undertaking a full-time course, was not only the best option, but the only real option she had. Now she was less certain. Because she valued Bella’s thinking, she knew she needed to give the questions Bella had posed serious consideration.

Reflecting on these questions, this is the feedback she gave herself:

Going to a leading drama school for the next two years would give her great credibility. To have been accepted onto the course in the first place was a great achievement. The audition process was tough, places were limited. She knew from the feedback she’d been given, that the school had seen something in her, for her to have been successful in being offered a place. Building on this over the course of two years, Maria could only get better because of the intensive training she would undertake.

Not going to a leading drama school for the next two years, would give her — well it would give her two years to focus on getting the roles she aspired to getting, on stage, on film and on TV. A head start as such. If she was good enough to be accepted into this school, well maybe she was good enough to begin to get small roles, which in turn could lead to something bigger.

She would gain more skills and more confidence as a result, by doing this.

She would lose the opportunity to be out in the real world auditioning for real roles, and gaining real world experience of the industry, and potentially being offered roles by doing this.

She could get the experience in another way by identifying her learning gaps, learning what she needed to bridge those gaps, then putting that into practice, enabling her to learn and grow.

Maria was confused, she really didn’t know what to do for the best. She had two months before she needed to accept her place, she also had the option of deferring for one year.

She and Bella met for coffee again, and Maria shared the feedback she’d given herself, prompted by Bella’s questions. Bella had brought along a book which she believed would be helpful to Maria.

Book Wisdom

The book was The Intent to Live Achieving Your True Potential As An Actor by Larry Moss.

“Moss shares the techniques he has developed over thirty years to help actors set their emotions and imagination on fire, resulting in performances that are powerful, authentic and career changing. From the foundations of script analysis to the nuances of physicalisation and sensory work, here are the case studies, exercises, and insights that enable you to connect personally with a script, develop your character from the inside out, overcome fear and inhibition, and master the technical skills required for success in the theatre, television, and movies.” These words from the back cover spoke to Maria. Immediately she made the decision to spend the two months she had before she needed to make her decision, learning as much as she could from Moss. She wasn’t convinced she could get the learning she needed from a book, but she was willing to give it a go.

Sage Wisdom

“I call this book The Intent to Live rather than the Intent to Act because great actors don’t seem to be acting, they seem to be actually living. You know you’re in the presence of the best actors when you forget you’re sitting in an audience watching make-believe and instead you are catapulted onto the screen or stage and blasted into the lives of the characters.”

“I want to tell you another, more personal reason for the title of this book. When I was a young actor, I had many negative feelings about myself and about my life. I made a decision not to destroy myself but to understand and heal the pain that at times seemed so overwhelming. In other words, I made a decision to live. And one of the things that helped me was learning the craft of acting.” Larry Moss


Maria did in fact learn a lot through the book. Not as much as she knew she would learn attending drama school full-time for two years, but enough to allow her to know that her best decision at the end of the two months was to defer for one year. This would allow her time to put the learning she had gained into practice, and to continue this learn/practice loop by continuing to identify her skills gap. She made the decision to start with where she was, with what she had, and with who she was.

Today’s Featured Book is: The Intent to Live Achieving Your True Potential As An Actor by Larry Moss.

Today’s story was featured in my book: How To Embrace The Superpower of Self-Awareness from The School Of WorkLife book series.

Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, where you will see the stories and assignments. Tap the link below to see the other books in the series. 

WorkLife Book Wisdom Stories:

The intention of the stories I share is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories, you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles, failures and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.

I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.