As an actor, being able to learn lines quickly is one skill you cannot be without. For some, it seems to come easily. For the rest of us, learning ten pages of sides your agent just sent you for a huge callback tomorrow morning might make you a tad nervous.
Don’t worry! I’m here to tell you that no matter where you fall on the learning lines spectrum, you can improve your memorization skills so those last-minute auditions become a piece of cake.
Here’s what I’ve done to improve my memory and learn lines like a boss:
1. I read my lines out loud.
Read through the script many times. This not only helps with memorization but will also help you pull out details that might not be evident at first glance. Knowing what a scene is truly about will help your brain remember lines more easily because there’s a story connected to the words.
2. I write my lines down
Take your script and write out your lines word for word. Then say your lines out loud. Then write them down again and try to do it without looking at your script. Say your lines out loud again. Do this several times until you don’t have to look at the script to write them or say them.
3. I use index cards.
This is a variation of writing out your lines. Instead of writing them out in one big monologue,use one index card for one line. On the back of that card, write out the other character’s line. Use the cards like flashcards, with the goal of not looking at your card for your line but flipping it over to grab your cue line.
4. I employ the ‘first letters’ technique.
I just discovered this technique and I’m super excited about it. First, read your lines out loud while glancing at the script. Do this several times. Then, write down the first letter of each word on a piece of paper, along with the correct punctuation. Say the lines again and keep looking at the text to make sure you’re not skipping words. Repeat this step until you’re comfortable with every line of text. The last step is to put the text away and say the words without pausing. You can do this old school with a paper and pen, or check out this great little website that will help you.
5. I download Rehearsal Pro App.
Easily upload your sides and highlight your lines. You then record the other character’s lines and your sides scroll just like a teleprompter, l playing on a loop. It’s like running lines with someone who is always available!
6. I run lines with someone else.
This is super important and will help you not only learn lines but LISTEN to what the other character is saying in the scene. This is where you can rehearse intentions, the moment before, and the stakes for your character, all while helping you memorize.
7. I use my brain.
Think of your brain like a muscle: the more you practice, the easier it gets! The best thing I’ve done to train my memory muscle is to go to an on-camera audition acting class on a consistent basis. Having to memorize copy every single week means I’m exercising those memory muscles, and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in a short time. Don’t have the budget for class right now? Grab some copy online or a script on your bookshelf and commit to learning at least one monologue or scene every week. You’ll be surprised how much easier it gets the more you do it!
Do you learn lines like a boss? I’d love to hear about your favorite memorization techniques!
Originally published on Backstage.com