How do you memorize all those lines??? You know the feeling when you buy a baby a gift and they end up playing more with the wrapping paper than gift itself? I feel like that when people remark on how impressed they were with how I memorized lines. I always think, ‘That was the impressive part? I just bled my heart out on stage and you were more impressed with my retention abilities!?’
But I digress.
Memorizing lines, apart from being very impressive to people who miss the point, is also a required skill if you want to be an actor. Like any other skill, if you have a natural ability to begin with you do not have to work that hard to get it to a functional level. But if this is not your strong suit, keep reading.
My own method of memorization varies from project to project.
How To Memorize Lines
If I am working on a scene/film/play, I tend to spend a lot of time with the script, taking notes and analyzing. Not focusing on memorizing perse, but rather I like to attach a potential intention/action to the lines that I plan to try out in rehearsal. This also helps to solidify those actions/intentions with the line instead of just saying the words for the sake of remembering them. Run the scene as many times as you need to get off book. I would start with a chunk and run that section until you are completely off book and then move on to the next section. Do this until you are completely memorized. Then I allow the repetition in the physical rehearsals to imprint the lines in my mind organically by just running the scene with my partner/s. I do this for the purpose of trying to avoid anticipating my partners lines and to avoid ‘memory rhythm’. That means saying a line the same way every time. Memory rhythm is also a pretty big indicator that your intention/action behind that line could be stronger FYI.
If I’m working on a monologue, I find it easier for myself to read the first lines out loud. Then look away and say it. Look back to see if I got it word perfect. If not I stay on that line and repeat this process until it’s locked in. Then I move onto the second line and repeat the process. When I’ve locked in the second line word perfect I add the first line. Say the first two lines out loud together then look back to see if it’s right. If not, stay on those two lines until they stick, then move on in that fashion until it’s all in there. Then I take a break. There are a lot of studies that explain why taking breaks help. When I think I have it almost memorized, I read it again and again. This time not focusing on memorizing. Just reading it. The reason I mention this is because I used to feel like it was cheating if I was reading the lines after they were memorized. It’s not. Maybe that’s just me. I would also assume that once I memorized it, that would be enough, but I also tend to change words around sometimes #dyslexia so I like to check in with the script to make sure I’m not adding any and’s or butt’s or like’s.
Auditions With Quick Turnaround Times
When I have an audition and I need to cram something in fast the quickest and surest way to get the lines in quick is my triple prong approach. Say it, listen to it, write it at the same time. This is the best way for me to get lines in quick when I’m in a time crunch. Grab your phone and record it. Then when you listen back to it, follow along with your script so you’re hearing it and seeing it at the same time. Then add the writing part. Say it out loud as you’re writing it. Then switch back and forth. When all else fails. Use a teleprompter app. They have saved me many times. Especially when I get a commercial audition with a turnaround time of less than 24 hours and it’s a lot of text. There are severalfree versions on app stores. Just download one now while it’s on your mind. And good luck!
Now that you are an expert on how to memorize lines you must understand that practice is the key to getting better. Memorization is a muscle like anything else and needs to be worked out. Practice memorizing text from time to time even if you don’t have a project coming up.
Written By Peter Alexandrou