One of the things I spend a great deal of my time doing is working with our local Christian Youth Theater as a director. We typically have 80 to 100 kids in our casts that range in age from 8 to 18! It’s a wonderful – and exhausting – experience each time we stage a production. And usually, I find that there are questions my CYT kids ask that may be helpful for a wider audience. So that’s what I’ll share in this spot!
Tips on Memorizing Lines
So you’ve gotten a part in a play or musical – congratulations!! Whether it’s your first or your 15th role, every actor eventually hits a time when the number of lines seems daunting to them. No matter what the size of your role, it’s important for the show, and for your fellow cast mates, that you have those lines down cold!
There are two parts to learning lines –
1 – learning the line itself and
2 – knowing your cue – or when to say it.
The rhythm of the show depends on dialogue that moves at the right pace. Your goal should be to know your lines so well, that you’re not thinking about the lines anymore, and can instead focus on becoming fully engaged as the character.
Tip 1: Read!
Read the scenes that you are in over and over again. Even when you’re not actually saying a line, if you are on stage, you should be reacting to and engaged in the scene. This part of the process cannot be underestimated. Read through your scenes at least once every day, even while you’re practicing the other tips.
Tip 2: Work the lines!
Learn each individual line. Start by reading it out loud, then cover the line and try again. Repeat until you can say each line without looking at the page. This is a good time to try out different ways to say it – explore your character possibilities!
Tip 3: Work the scene!
Dealing with one scene at a time, use a piece of paper to cover the page and slide it down so that you reveal only one line at a time. Say your lines at the right times. This is important for picking up your cues. Make sure you know what comes before your line (not just a word or phrase, but the overall idea, because you never know when someone might drop a line and it’ll be up to you to pick up what was missed!)
Tip 4: Work with a partner!
Grab Mom, Dad, a friend or a sibling and ask them for help. Now is the time to hand over your script. Have your partner read all the other parts of the scene and you chime in with your lines. If you miss a cue, go back. If you stumble on a line, make sure you go back and work that line. Keep doing this until you’re completely comfortable with when to jump in with your line.
Tip 5: Move around!
Make sure you practice your lines with expression and inflection. Every time you say them, you should mean them! Give energy to your lines and your character by standing up and moving through the scene just like you would on stage. Not sure of your blocking yet? No worries! Move around anyway:-)
Tip 6: Don’t stop reviewing!
Until the curtain closes for the last time, you should be reviewing your scenes and your lines. If you find yourself with some downtime offstage, practice with the others in your scene. Don’t wait around for someone to tell you to rehearse, grab your friends and practice!
Tip 7: Relax!
If you put in the time and work to learn your lines before opening night, when it comes to show time, take a deep breath and relax. Remember that you aren’t up there “saying lines”, you’re up there as a character, telling a story. So give your audience a great show!
This is certainly not the only way to tackle lines, but it might help give you a great start! Are you a pro at memorizing lines? What are your tips & tricks?