Tips for Learning Lines

Do you find learning lines tedious and difficult? Do you experience anxiety that you are going to forget your lines when the pressure is on? 

In this video I reframe the learning lines process and bring it into alignment (aline-ment, if you will. Yes— I went there.) with your character development process, so that it can be a lot more enjoyable. 

This question came from an actor so I talk about it in terms of character development, but if you have to learn a script for a keynote or for a particular pitch, there is still valuable stuff here for you, just translate as you need. 

Line learning is not just about you looking at words on a page and trying to remember them. The words your character speaks, and the rhythm and structure they speak those words in— that’s an important behavior that tells you a lot about who this person is: how they think, how they breathe, how they feel, how they see the world. So these aren’t just words on a page. The script is a 2-dimensional map for a 3-dimensional human being, who is having a 3-dimensional experience while speaking these words. 

So what I wouldn’t recommend when you’re learning lines is staying static and keeping the process mental: sitting on a bed or a chair and repeating the words over and over again in your head. What that is doing is divorcing your body from the words. This doesn’t help you get to know your character any better and it may mean you’ll only have a superficial memory of the words— which won’t help you in charged situations like auditions, rehearsals or performances. 

If you want to remember the words through thick and thin, you need to give your body an experience of these words.  I talk in the video about ways you can do that.

These tips come from classic text exploration exercises from Cicely Berry and Barbara Houseman, whose exercises from Tackling Text I particularly enjoy. 

You don’t have to do the exact exercises I’m suggesting. Perhaps just start with the reframe: learning lines is about embodying character, giving your body an experience so that it has the impulse to speak these words. Start from there and see what grows! 

Curious to hear how it goes for you. Please reach out and let me know. 

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