Learning lines

I had a nice little acting job today in Thame, which was the first speaking role for the person playing opposite me. On the train back to London, he asked me if I had a few tips to learn my lines, so I thought I could share them here too.

Those “techniques” work for me, and may not work for everybody, but if you’re struggling to learn your lines, these may be helpful:

  1. Writing down my lines: It can be really tedious if you have a long script but I personally have always learnt better like that – even at school. I remember my own handwriting better. And also,  I’m guessing it has to do with making the lines my own in this process.
  2. Learning one page a day: Breaking down a long script in small chunks makes it feel like you’re not climbing the Everest but only a flight of stairs everyday 🙂
  3. Reading out loud several times: It makes you remember the sound of the lines, but I do believe there is some muscles memory involved in there too. A bit like when you learn to ride a bicycle by letting you body remember how to balance itself, you probably remember the moves your mouth makes (but that’s only my theory, and it’s not been tested, so please do not take this as a fact!!)
  4. Learning before going to bed: At night, your brain apparently processes/re-organises all the information learnt during the day. So what’s been learnt before going to sleep is going to be more easily imprinted in your memory as it’s what’s been seen last (there is this phenomenon I remember learning about in psychology classes – I don’t remember its name, but basically it is proven that, when learning a list, you always remember what came 1st and last more easily. That may be taking place here too.)
  5. Learning at the last minute: Ok, I’m not sure I should recommend this one (might get me a few punches in the face by actors who followed that and forgot all their lines!) but I personally remember my lines much better when I learn them under pressure. At University, when studying for my exams, I would do that too. Then I would panic because I barely had time to learn everything, and call myself names I shouldn’t. But in the end, I would remember everything. Same goes for my lines. The added adrenaline seems to make my brain work faster. But that’s certainly not the cleverest way to learn, especially if you’ve been given sufficient time to do so!

Obviously, I don’t use all those techniques at the same time; I “carefully” select (yeah, right) when to use them. For instance, for today’s shooting, which was short, I wrote my lines down when I received them (technique 1 – but that was mainly because they were all on slides and I don’t have a printer yet). I was given over a week to memorize them, but I actually really learnt only last night, in bed (techniques 4 and 5). It’s partly because I know that I can learn fast and partly because I’m a bit lazy, lol!

I hope these tips can help some 🙂