I can’t be the only one who has opened their script, stared at the first page for what only felt like ten minutes, and then looked up at the clock to find a full hour has passed me by.
When your script has become your comfort blanket, despairing at the thought of letting it go before show week will do nothing to reduce all the other stresses that come with being part of a production.
So, I would like to share a few tricks that, in my experience, have been incredibly helpful when starting to learn my lines.
1) Write the lines out by hand.
It may be a pain, but it’s worth it. If there is a line that is causing you trouble, write it out a few times. The act of repetition will cement the line to memory.
When I was in primary school, I was given L.A.C.A.W.A.C. spelling homework every week, which stood for Look And Cover And Write And Check. This idea could be applied to line learning. Write out the line, study it for a moment before covering it, write it out again and then check to see how well you remembered it. Doing this a few times should get you used to even the trickiest of lines.
2) Say the lines out loud.
Just reading the lines repeatedly would do nothing more than make me fall asleep on my script. While I would be hoping that the words get absorbed into my brain through osmosis, I would inevitably wake up feeling even worse than I did before.
I recommend speaking the lines out loud because you can learn the words at the same time as figuring out how you’re going to say them on stage. This method provides a two-for-one deal; master the words and the expression together. You may find that understanding the emotion in the scene behind the lines makes it easier to remember what your character should say.
Maybe jot some notes on your script as you go, to remind you of your character’s emotional journey.
3) Get someone to help you.
Probably the most obvious tip on this list. Have someone else read in for the other characters in the scene you’re learning.
Learning your lines is one thing but learning when to say them is another. Having someone read in your cue lines will get you used to performing the scene with other actors, and cue lines can also give you a huge clue as to what your next line should be.
Hopefully these simple tricks will alleviate some stress, and secure your place in your director’s good books for getting off-script before anyone else!