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How to Memorize Your Lines In a Play

Updated on October 26, 2011

Chances are, you'll have to memorize lines at least once in your life. Whether it's for a play, presentation or discussion, knowing what you have to say and how to say it is crucial. Public speaking isn't for everyone, but if you're confident in yourself, you won't be a nervous wreck.

Each of us is different when it comes to what types of tricks will help us memorize lines. The only way to figure this out is to find which one works best for you (or which feels most effective) and to stick with it.

I'm going to outline the ones I have tried and provide other tips that should help you memorize what you have to say.

Getting Started

First, you need to read over what you need to memorize. This is important because you'll then know exactly how much you need to memorize, and how long you'll be speaking for. It is best to do this as soon as you receive your script.

Next, highlight your lines with a bright colour. This is useful because it makes your blocks of text stand out so that you are less likely to lose your place during a read through or a rehearsal.

Read Your Lines Again and Again

Repetition is key in memorization. Read your lines whenever you have free time. If you're on the bus, on a break or even eating dinner, reading your lines over and over will help it stick. This is usually effective for everyone.

Make sure you're not reading your lines over in the same place every time. People tend to read in bed, and if you are mainly looking over your script in the same place, you will associate those lines with that specific place. Try reading outside, or in different places at home.

Once you feel like you have a handle on your lines, read the entire play again. You need to make sure that you know when to say your lines.

Try reading your lines aloud a few times so you can hear what you sound like when you say them.

All of this should take place before your first practice/rehearsal.


Attend Every Rehearsal

If you're in theatre, you'll definitely have many rehearsals. Missing one will set you back, though some things are unavoidable. If you're certain you won't be able to make a rehearsal, ask the Director what he/she plans on doing that day, just so you have some sort of idea what to expect when you get back.

Attending rehearsal is not only important for the play/musical as a whole, but it's especially important for yourself. You need to hear what the lines sound like coming from yourself. You also need to hear what everyone else's lines sound like. It may be annoying hearing the same thing over and over again, but after a while, it'll become second nature.

Ask a Friend

Ask a friend to read over your lines with you. He/She can read the lines of the other characters while you read your own.

Try asking your friend to read your lines as well so you can hear them coming from someone else. That way, your mind can relax and you focus on the words being said.

Other Tips/Tricks

Everything listed above are techniques that should be effective for everyone. However, these next tips and tricks may or may not work for you, but it is best to try them and see which one is best.

Write out your lines.
Writing out your lines with pen and paper can test you to see how well you know your lines. Put your script away and say your first line aloud. If you can't remember it exactly, try writing it out. Do this for every line.

Different Colours.
If you're having problems with a specific portion of a line, write out that portion in a different colour. This highlights the problem, making it more likely that you will remember it the next time.

Cue Cards.
Write down each sentence/line on a different cue card in large letters. Then mix them all up and try to put them in the order of how you're supposed to say them.

Highlight the Other Lines.
Try giving each character a different colour and highlighting their lines accordingly. This can give you another visual representation of when your lines have to be said.

Meet Up With Other Cast Members.
Outside of rehearsal, try meeting up with other cast members so you can go over your lines together. Getting used to their voices and how they say their lines can help you feel the rhythm of the play. There are several exercises that you can do together to help memorize your lines.
-Take out your scripts and do a run through by saying your lines as quickly as you can.
-Then try them same thing, but without your scripts.
-If you're close to the performance, try reciting the entire play together in unison. It's funny hearing everyone say each other's lines in the same way that the original person does!
-Try all of these exercises, but with your eyes closed. This will eliminate all visual distractions, and you can focus on what is being said.

Relax!

Though public speaking is one of the most common fears, it can be overcome. If you're confident in yourself and your ability to deliver your lines, you'll be fine. Feeling nervous is normal. Everyone around you will be nervous too, even if it doesn't appear to be the case. Nerves cause us to be more alert and in tune with our surroundings, so be glad that you're nervous! You'll soon feel as if you're back in rehearsal and having a great time with your cast and crew.

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      AntonOfTheNorth 6 years ago

      Good tips. Particularly the 'relax' one. :)

      One that I always insist on with my students is: "Never memorize out of context".

      We remember what we frequently do. If you memorize sitting in a chair with a script in your hand, that is what your body remembers. Learning lines isn't just about the words, its about gestures, breath, tone, physicality. If you learn lines on your feet, or with your blocking, they'll stick quicker.

      Also, don't use rehearsal to memorize. If you are in rehearsal and you don't know the piece yet, carry your script. Learn the moments in the play, not the moments of "darn! I had this in my living room at home! Line?"

      cheers

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