As Bill Nighy once said “If you’re doing anything, whether it’s a play or a film, learn every single word that you have to say backwards forwards and sideways before you go into a rehearsal room and before you go on a film set.
There are two things that for an actor are inescapable. The first is auditions. No matter what level of actor you may be, the dreaded audition is always going to come up for you in some shape or form.
Auditions are a normal part of life as an actor.
The second is line learning. This is where so many actors fall down. They believe they know their lines until they get into the audition or on set.
That’s where nerves take over and lines go out of the head. That dreaded memory loss when nothing but nothing comes into the head.
I know it all too well. And it’s not only terrifying. It’s embarrassing and ultimately depressing.
So what are some of the best ways of learning lines.
1. Write your lines out by hand.
When I was acting I used to find writing the lines out. Line by line. That’s not typing them. But writing by hand. This is especially helpful when it comes to speeches. It forces your mind to connect to the action of writing the lines down and seeing the lines. Make sure you focus on writing your lines out and your lines only. It will let you focus on you without having the distraction of other actors’ lines.
2. Run lines with someone.
This is the best way I find.
Find a partner who is happy to be your line buddy. Don’t talk them into it as you don’t want you line buddy to get bored and leave you just as you need the help the most. Be sure to find someone who really genuinely wants to help you. Obviously, the best you can do would be to find another actor. This way you can help each other in your audition opportunities. If you can find someone who can also give you tips and can help you with your character and your delivery then you’re a winner!
During the first run, you’ll want to listen to the words and absorb the script.
If you can’t find someone to run lines with you, try using the app Rehearsal 2. While the app is $19.99, it allows you to highlight lines in the app, record other characters’ lines, and use it as a teleprompter. Another is werehearse.com or weaudition.com. Both are great tools.
We have a deal with weaudition where they give all our students a good discount. So let me know if you are interested and I’ll line it up for you.
3. Quiz yourself.
Another way is to use a scrap of paper hiding all your lines. Work this over and over again. Its amazing hwo this one sticks after a number of times. Keep working odwn the script until you have memorised every line.
4. Go for a walk or take a nap.
Another great tip that I use, is to do my memory tests for the lines then go for a walk.
Here is a great article published by “Chicago Tribune.”
Cindy Gold of Northwestern University explaoins why it actually works. While you rest, the information your brain just processed moves from short-term memory to long-term recall, where you will be able to recall things easier. Also, when you walk, you are exercising muscles and that helps with memorization.
5. Use a mnemonic device.
You can use a mnemonic device to help you remember your lines. Try writing down the first letter of every word in your lines. When you look at those letters, it will help jog your memory and you’ll remember your line a bit easier.
Think of the mnemonic device as a short cut.
6. Learn the cue lines.
Cue lines are just as important as your lines as they give you the prompt for your line but they also teach you to listen.
7. Know your character
And finally, once you have really familiarized yourself well with your lines, then it is time to investigate your character. Who is he/ she? Where do they live? What is their social outlook? What has brought them to this point in the script? Never stop asking questions about your character. This is what really cements the lines in your head. Only when you know your character can you honestly know what lines he or she speaks.
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