HOW TO MEMORISE LINES FAST- By Matt Newton
What is the best way to memorise lines? You may have twelve pages of sides for a callback tomorrow morning, or maybe you have to memorise a two-hour play in just a week because someone has unexpectedly dropped out, maybe you signed up for a casting director pay-to-meet, and at the very last moment decided to memorise a really overdone monologue from your favourite film.
You have no idea how or where to start with how you’re going to learn the lines this quickly. Maybe you’ve tried having your roommates or your family sing your lines to you throughout the day. You’ve tried everything and it doesn’t seem to be working. What do you do? There is an old method (that everyone has tried at least once) of covering your lines with your hand and that just doesn’t really work, as the lines always feel like they are on the surface, and not ingrained- sort of like cramming hours of study in for a math test- and will be out the window the second you finish.
There are many different methods of memorising lines and the following are definitely some of the quickest ways to do so.
The Rehearsal 2 app
There are many apps out there that can assist actors in learning their lines, but this one is definitely a favourite. Think of it as the scene partner that never gets tired of running lines with you. It’s a little pricier than $0.99 but it is a game changer. You can highlight the lines in the app, record the other character lines, and use it as a teleprompter, which will scroll through the script as you’re reading it. From there it will just keep playing on a loop. One tip for using it is to whisper your lines and read the other character’s lines out loud when you’re recording, so that you don’t get too caught up in the way that you’re saying your lines, but you know how much time you will have to say them.
Write them out
Please believe that this tip is a lot quicker than you think, and you always remember the lines word for word when you are done. Many actors use this method for memorising longer scenes with lots of speeches. This works really well because by doing this, you’re connecting your mind to the action of writing the lines down and seeing the lines at the same time. They almost seem to be going into a deeper part of your brain. Most actors prefer writing them by hand instead of typing. It can feel more personal.
Also, write out just your lines in one big paragraph, then run through the scene out loud. Then do this five more times, breaking your lines into thoughts each time. The last time you write them out, try to see if you can do it without looking at the script, and just think of the other person’t lines. This is a good idea because this way you aren’t just memorising what the other characters are saying, you are also listening into the scene and not anticipating the lines.
Run the lines with someone many times
This tip works very well with a fellow actor, although if you have no one else, a friend or family member will work just fine. The first time that you run through the script, just listen to the words. Make sure to focus on pausing between each line, really absorbing what’s being said and going over the scene may times in many different ways, playing with intention, actions and pacing. Try different way of reading the lines out loud. Try it sitting and standing, and allow yourself to make mistakes and explore every way not to do it, while also getting more and more comfortable with the lines. Focus on the “why” and the circumstances, which will help you to learn the scene on a much deeper level. If you forget your lines, you can always find your way back because you’ll really understand what’s actually going on.
Every actor has their own style, their own way of doing things, but sometimes it’s nice to try something different. Some actors even like to use a combination of these three techniques to prepare them for every audition. Write down the lines, then run through them with the Rehearsal 2 app, then with another actor, during that time you should speed through them as fast as you can (which would be the real test to see how well you know them). After that, improvise the lines, and see if you can come up with any added moments and reactions between the lines that would feel real to you, in a way that you yourself would say them. Then try to layer the writer’s words back on and blend it all together. That way, you are memorised, but also flexible and open to the possibility of a new direction and change.
By the end of the day, the goal is to want the lines to seem like second nature, genuine and authentic, as if they are coming from a real person with real thoughts and ideas. It’s no secret that auditions can cause anxiety, and while you may have memorised them at home, when you walk into the room it’s easy to panic and forget. As actors, you need to prepare in advance for this, and be very, very memorised (but not locked into a pattern), so that you will be confident, relaxed, committed, listening, and open to direction.