10 Secrets the Pros Use to Memorize Lines

Staring at your script and wondering where to begin? Memorizing lines can be a struggle for even the most experienced actor. With the strategies below, you can put your best foot forward and never forget your lines again.

1. Know your material.

It helps to understand your content first. Find find a quiet place and read your lines out loud. Read them slowly and carefully. Spend the time to get your material accurate - now is your chance to get it right. Make sure to read through the entire script, not just your own lines, to contextualize your part within the broader piece.

2. Divide it up.

If you're struggling to memorize the whole paragraph, try breaking it up into smaller sections. This allows you to learn each sentence as its own unit. Practice each sentence until you can recite the entire paragraph altogether.

3. Memorize from the end.

Start with the last sentence, then the sentence before that, connecting into the last sentence, and so on and so forth until you reach the top of the paragraph. This is one of the best tools for accurately learning your lines!!

4. Learn the cues.

Memorize the prompts and cues! When you are learning your lines it's important not only to learn your part but the line or stage direction that comes right before when you speak. That way, you’ll know when to deliver your line. If you’re memorizing dialogue, rehearse the other person’s cue line leading right into your own part before you practice your own.

5. Listen.

As you read aloud, listen to every word that you say – focusing on the meaning, and the point you are making.

6. Record yourself.

If you don’t have time to spend hours actively memorizing your speech, this technique is great to get it into your brain with the minimum of effort. Grab your phone and record one of the practice runs of your reading of the script. Make sure it’s the correct version! This technique uses rote learning and will have you repeating your dialogue word for word. All you need to do is set your recorded speech on loop, and press play. Consistently hearing the speech in your own voice, over-and-over again reinforces the content in your mind. You can listen to it while you’re at the gym or while walking your dog, or in the car as you drive to work. You could even listen to it at the office while doing other simple tasks!

7. Write it down.

Writing your lines out will embed the content in your memory after only a couple of repetitions. Writing lines out helps with accuracy. At rehearsals, you need to be past the point where you are approximating the gist of lines. Writing it out helps the progression towards accuracy.

8. Walk around the room.

Rehearsing your speech while on your feet is a great technique. With your blood moving, you learn much faster than sitting at your desk or in a chair. Moving around the room while making your blocking crosses also keeps you active and more awake, which boosts your ability to remember the lines.

9. Buy the REHEARSAL 2 App.

This is a scene partner that never gets tired of running lines with you. If you can get past the fact that it’s $19.99, this is a game changer. You can highlight the lines in the app, record the other character’s lines, and use it as a teleprompter, which will scroll through the script as you are reading it. Then it just keeps playing on a loop. Record the other person's lines so you can say your own to a personal cue master.

10. Practice with a friend.

At the end of the day, you want your dialogue to seem like second nature, genuine and authentic, as if they are coming from a real person with real thoughts and ideas. Ask a friend to test you so that you are accustom to rehearsing with someone. Sometimes rehearsing with fellow peers causes anxiety, and while you may have them memorized all your dialogue and song words at home when you walk into the rehearsal it’s easy to get distracted and forget. Practicing a scene with a friend can help as a stepping stone towards rehearsing with others. They don't have to be with you either; dial a line partner and recite lines from the tub!

I hope these tips help you prepare for your next rehearsal. Actors need to be prepared to be off-book at blocking rehearsals and be very, very memorized - but at the same time, not locked into a pattern. You want to be confident, relaxed, committed, and open to direction.

Best of luck memorizing!

A Guide to Post-Show Depression

Yes, parents and spouses... it's real! And it's called Post-Show Depression (or PSD).

What is it?

The feeling after a show is finished it's run. After putting months into rehearsals and throwing all your energy into doing your very best, the show run ends. It's somewhat like birthing a child. The actors have poured their heart and souls into a project for months. It's is born, it lives and then it's over.

Symptoms

Your performers may experience feelings of emptiness and sadness. This sometimes starts during intermission of the final show. It can continue for weeks after the production is finished. Although most performers welcome their free time and evenings back from rehearsal time, there still is a pang of sadness. This depression is shared by all of the cast and the last show generally involves a lot of hugging, and tender parting words.

How can you help?

Post show blues is only really understood by fellow performers. Their castmates are their theatre family. However, plan a fresh air activity. Go out and feel the sunshine, or watch some movies, or try a new recipe. Celebrate the show with a dinner out.

Will they get over this?

The only way to recover is to dive into another production. Actors will understand post show blues and they will be grateful for the process and the experience they shared with others. After some time they will realize that performing  is ephemeral. They will be grateful for the opportunity, and should try to look forward to the next adventure on stage!

The Lesson

Cherish the time you spend on the stage. Life goes by quickly. Be happy in the moment for all the opportunities life presents (click to tweet this). You will never again be with this cast in this production with this creative team ever again, so soak it all up. But there will be new projects and new excitement again soon. Look forward with grace.