How to Memorise Your Lines Like a Pro
Memorising lines is hard work. If only we lived in a Matrix-style world where lines could be miraculously downloaded directly into the brain! Alas, that technology hasn’t been invented yet, and we must resort to tried and tested techniques for line memorisation.
Still, our brains are extraordinary things. People can memorise entire books by heart when they set their minds to it. Even though memorising lines can be challenging, it is within your power. As for how long it will take to learn, well that’s down to the individual and the timeline you’re working with.
Need to quickly and effectively learn some lines for a play? Read on and discover some of the techniques that professionals use to get the job done.
Four Essential Rules For Memorising Lines
When you set out to learn your lines, one of the best things to do is remain patient with yourself. Even the best actors cannot learn their entire script in an hour or a day! Whether for a musical, play or film, try not to rush the process as this is not conducive to effective memorisation.
1. Read The Entire Script First
When you receive a script, as tempting as it may be to only focus on reading your lines, you must read the whole thing from start to finish first. Why? Doing this helps you better identify your character, the story progressions, moods, important transitions and more.
Understanding your role as part of the entire script helps you gain direction and gives clues that can help you remember when your dialogue is coming up.
2. Use A Highlighter
Just like high school or university, a highlighter can be your best friend when it comes to helping you remember your lines. This helps them stand out, makes them easier to find and there are links between colour and better retention of text, so find your highlighters and get to it!
3. Write Your Lines Out
While you may not need to write out your entire dialogue, writing out difficult-to-remember sections can be very beneficial. The act of writing your lines out can be a highly effective tool for helping you remember, especially if you recite them out loud while doing so.
4. Practise Out Loud
Reciting your lines out loud is a simple but effective method for helping you remember. Practising with a scene partner, or even a family member or friend can further enhance the brain’s ability to store your lines in your memory.
How Do Actors Memorise Lines?
In addition to the above, there are lots of different techniques that actors use to memorise lines. Two of the most popular options are brute-force repetition and memory techniques.
Repetition And Rote Learning
This method is nothing fancy, it’s just rote learning. You repeat the lines, over and over again, hammering them into your brain. This tends to be a boring and painful method, but it is also one that can get reliable results.
Some actors manage to find ways to enjoy learning by repetition. Done a certain way, it can become almost a meditative experience. You can also try moving around while learning lines. Repetition and rote learning is the same way we learn the alphabet and how to count.
The action of repeating the words helps them to become second nature, so that it requires no thinking to recite them.
If you want an option for memorising lines without rote learning then implementing some memory tricks may be the solution.
It has been shown that memory techniques like a mnemonic device can help people to learn their lines faster. You might try things like attaching visual images to the lines or creating a short song using words from the passage you’re studying.
Some people are stronger in visual and spatial memory than verbal memory, and so they find that building pictures and spaces in their minds for their lines can yield better results.
Go Scene By Scene
Some actors will only focus on memorising their lines scene by scene, not moving on to the next passage of text until they have mastered one entire section.
Breaking it down in this way can make a somewhat insurmountable feeling task feel entirely more manageable and less overwhelming.
Invest In Understanding Your Character
Taking time to truly know your character not only helps you to deliver a better performance but can help you to memorise your lines.
Understanding your character’s motivations gives you a subtext that can make memorising your lines much easier to achieve. They become not only words on the page but a conversation with emotion that is entirely more memorable.
What Should You Do If You Forget Your Lines As An Actor?
Even after you’ve spent days and weeks learning your lines, it can be easy to suddenly forget them. This happens to even the best and most professional actors. It even happens to them onstage, in the middle of performances. The horror!
If you forget your lines during a show, the important thing is that you don’t panic. Remember that time always seems to work differently on stage for an actor — everything slows down.
When you’re up there on stage, trying to think of your lines, it can feel as though an infinity of time is going by when, in actuality, there’s only silence for a few seconds.
Remember, if you have done the preparation, the words are in there, you just need to take a few deep breaths and not let yourself get overwhelmed. Let the panic pass over you, relax, and more often than not, the line will come to you.
Where To Find Help With Mastering The Memorisation Of Lines
At The Actors Pulse, our team of expert acting teachers specialise in supporting actors in not only mastering their acting skills but all aspects of their craft, including the memorisation of lines.
As an essential skill, taking time to develop a technique for learning lines that will work for you is critical to your progression as an actor. It is possible to memorise your lines, even if you are not a natural at remembering things. Think of theatre actors who memorise entire scripts for delivery in one go, with no do-overs or actors who memorise lines in another language they’ve never spoken – your brain is an incredible tool.
Whether you’re having trouble learning your lines or struggling with any other component of acting, our dedicated team can help you achieve your goals. Call us today at 0414 475 515 to learn more or to get started.
Billy Milionis is one of the few Australians to have ever studied under the legendary master teacher, the late Sanford Meisner. Billy has also studied story structure and scene analysis techniques with John Truby and later at UCLA. He has also spent several years doing improvisation in Hollywood with the L.A. Connection. In addition, he trained in the technique of Stella Adler, Practical Aesthetics and Lee Strasberg’s method.