6 Tips to Help You Memorize Your Lines
by Christy Arington
As an actor who does a lot of Shakespeare, I’m often asked the question, “How do you memorize all of those lines?” I’ve found that there are a lot of different techniques that can help you along the path of memorization and believe me, I’ve tried them all. There are a few sure tricks that I can suggest that can help you quickly learn your lines like a pro.
1. Break the script/scene down
In other words, delineate chunks or beats in your text. Rather than focusing on all of the lines, only focus on a section of them at a time. It helps you maintain your focus. Once you get the first section, you can successfully move on to the next, adding each chunk as you go. This is a great way to memorize a monologue or a soliloquy.
This technique pretty much speaks for itself. I’ve found that once I memorize my lines, I need to repeat them a lot. I do this when I’m doing the most menial tasks like washing the dishes or making the bed. I say my lines aloud in my car, when I’m walking alone on the sidewalk and I also say my lines to my cat a lot when he’s sitting on my lap.
3. Know what your doing and with whom you’re speaking
It sounds like common sense, but seriously, if you don’t understand your intentions it’s going to be difficult to connect the lines to anything tangible. Put a clear focus on your intent, your motiviation, your conflict, your love. It also helps to exaggerate the emotions when you’re learning lines. Remember that you can always pull back or change the intentions/motivations etc. once you have the lines secure.
4. Move that body
Physical memory is a powerful tool in remembering your lines. Get up off your feet and move around as your memorizing. I’ve always had a difficult time remembering my lines if I don’t have a physical action associated with what I’m saying. Most of us who do theatre will tell you that getting up on our feet changes everything about lines, intention and motivation. Regardless of whether or not those physical actions change once you start rehearsing the play, your physical body will help you remember. Ever left work and not remember getting home? Unless you were drunk, it’s because your physical memory took over and got you where you needed to go. It’s the same concept when memorizing lines. Some people like to write their lines on a piece of paper. The physcial memory of doing this can help those lines stick in your brain. It’s all about the physical.
5. Incorporate a friend
Memorizing your lines alone is one thing but saying them with another person is entirely different. Not only are you hearing your cue lines, you’re forced to listen and as we all know, listening is a huge part of acting. I’ve hammered lines into my head, been convinced that I knew them cold and then…I say them with my scene partner and I start fumbling to remember. Acting is not a solitary sport, so remember that as you’re memorizing your lines, you’re going to actually have to interact with scene partners. It’s incredibly useful to hear the lines you aren’t speaking but are reacting to. Ask a friend, your partner or a fellow actor to run through your lines with you. If you can record the scene with your scene partner(s) do that as well.
6. You deserve a nap
This may sound strange, but I’ve found that if I go over my lines before I go to sleep, my brain is processing them all night and I’m not fighting with my memory. Instead, as I’m resting, my brain is putting things in order. The brain processes my short-term memory which in effect makes it better for long term recall.
If you’re still having trouble memorizing those lines, there are some pretty incredible apps out there to help. Here’s a few:
Off Book! Off Book! is an app designed by an actor for actors. It’s really simple to use. You basically create your Works, Scenes, add Characters, and Record Lines!
Line-A A new way to learn lines. Unlike other apps, in which one has to record themselves, Line gives you a partner to rehearse your lines with. It speaks your scene partner’s line and waits for you to say your line.
LineLearner Line Learner helps you to learn lines as quickly and easily as you learn a catchy song. Line Learner enables you to record scenes from plays. It allows you to listen to the full recording while you learn your part.