TRIED AND TESTED TIPS
You’ve been cast in a play, a musical, a TV show, a movie … and now you have lines to learn. Lines and lines of lines … so, how do you do it?
Given that we all have different learning styles, is there a one-size fits all technique? Or is it more a matter of trial and error, testing different methods to find the one that suits?
Do you rehearse wherever you are, heedless of stares as you mutter and wave your arms about? Or find a quiet place?
We asked our loyal theatre community for their top tips.
No, not the musical instrument that is almost as bad as a fork screeching across a plate.
Recorders are performers who record their lines using all manner of devices, from the near-extinct to the commonplace.
‘I always record them. With all lines for the first part of rehearsals. Then re-record part way through rehearsal period with gaps for my lines. I used to do it on my trusty tape recorder (yes, I’m that old). Then onto a CD when I was driving in my car each day. These days it’s easier on Voice Memos on my phone.’ – SKY KETTLE
‘I tape record them old school and learn them ad nauseam.’ – SHARYN McCASKEY
‘I use the recording method, usually just with the voice memo function on my phone. Each scene gets recorded twice – once with my lines spoken in to help me get familiar; the second time leaving blank spaces for me to fill in my lines. The thing I like most about this method is that it helps you to learn your cues as well. And if you read in all the parts in a scene, leaving blank moments for your lines, you end up with a really good knowledge of the whole scene. This has come in very handy when someone has made an error and I’ve been able to get us back on track without missing any of the core information that should come through from the dialogue in the scene all while staying in character.’ – DARREN BRADLEY
‘I record my lines … once with the full script, and second recording with all parts except the part I’m learning, leaving a pause for me to be able to respond :)’ – NAY LOUISE
‘I record my lines on my phone with a friend speaking the other part(s), then listen over and over on my commute or whenever I can, as well as marking up the script with a highlighter and reading/ repeating daily. My tip is to start as soon as you’re cast, even before rehearsals start, then you’re ahead of the game when they do. Hope that helps!’ – AMANDA SMITH
‘Record everyone’s lines, leaving your lines out.’ – CAT RIPPON
‘Sometimes on tight schedules I will record on voice memo during line read for back up.’ – SUE HASEY
‘I usually just sit with the script and go over and over. No real secret there.’ – JEFF HANSEN
‘I read chunks of script out loud over and over until I’m sick of it (by that time I’ve memorised it), then move on. And make sure I revisit it the next day and repeat if I’ve lost it.’ – MEGAN FOX
‘I usually read the whole script to get the story. Colour my cues then use the read-cover-check-repeat method.’ – SUE HASEY
‘Try LINE LEARNER app. It’s great!!!’ – MEL SKLENARS
‘LINE LEARNER app – it’s great!’ CLARE FAZACKERLEY (Do you see what Clare did there?)
BEN SMALL says it like this: https://dramaresource.com/line-learner/ Techy, but super helpful.
‘The REHEARSAL app is useful as well. REHEARSAL gives you the option to highlight your lines, then black them out with a tap. You can also use it to record the lines. You scroll as you read the lines, and when you playback, it scrolls at the same time.’ – JEFF HANSEN
‘I used OFF BOOK APP to learn Shirley Valentine. If it’s an ensemble piece you can choose to play back in a variety of ways. Very useful. Can recommend.’ – JENNY HOWARD
‘I write them out. I switch pen colours for each character (that seems to be key). I pretty much know it after writing them.’ – KIMBERLEY SHAW
‘I also write out my lines. And when I say write, I mean the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, not a keyboard and screen.. This is a proven, tried-and-true technique for helping to move something from short to long-term memory. Research suggests the optimum number of times you should write them out to get the best level of transfer is seven times, but who has the time for that? I try to do three times and that seems to be sufficient, especially when paired with the recordings. I’ve never tried the different coloured pens though; I might have to give that a go as it would really help to visually differentiate between characters. ’ – DARREN BRADLEY
‘The different coloured pens somehow trigger the visual memory and while writing cue lines in full you are vigilant about when ‘your’ next line appears. On very wordy scripts I have written it out twice – certainly never had to go to seven times. I write into an A6 notebook that tucks into my handbag and use that for revision.’ – KIMBERLEY SHAW
‘I sit down with the script and cover the page with a piece of paper and attempt to recite my lines. When I fail a line I have to start the scene over. It’s a game. You have to make it to the end of the scene before you can progress.’ – PAUL SPENCER
Gamers stick together, it seems …
‘Me too.’ – SUE HASEY
‘Yep, that’s the same technique I use. Miss a line, go back to the start of the scene.’ – THOMAS HENNESSY
‘Give the other lines to someone I work with. During the day, they occasionally walk past, quote a random line or two at me, and I need to be able to respond. Disclaimer: I only tried this for one show, but it worked okay!’ – SIMON WALTERS
And… tag Mikaela Leanne is it: ‘This is so cool. I have to try this!’
‘Make it up as I go along.’ – TIMOTHY HOW
Other methods not touched on include THE BREAK-IT-DOWN (break down the script and lines into chunks to learn each day) and the TONGUE-TWISTER (not really, just good old-fashioned mnemonics – “a technique where the new desired memory (the word, fact or name) is hooked onto an existing memory/ thing your brain already knows (a rhyme or initials)”.
But wait, there’s more … tell us your tips in the comments.