How to Memorize Lines Like a Bad@ss
Do you suck at memorizing lines? Let's change that. No more excuses, no more self-tapes where you are staring at your script half the time, or staring at the casting assistant in the middle of your CBS pilot audition wondering when you are going to totally forget where you are, lose your page, smile nervously, and take a really long awkward pause in the middle of your scene while you try to find your line and recover, all the while wondering just how bad your feedback from your agent is going to be.
You are an actor, yes? You are going to spend the rest of your career going on last minute auditions, or having lines changed the day of your shoot I want you to know what you are doing. Casting directors and showrunners want you to know what you are doing. Yes, I know. "The script comes in late last night while I was in the middle of a shift." Or like 9am the DAY OF the audition, and there are five scenes, one of them including a monologue with a bunch of medical jargon. F*&ck. How in God's name do you memorize all these lines and "make the character yours" when you can't even remember where you put your Subway card? How do you "connect" to the reader when are hungover, tired, and have 3 more auditions and have you pick your baby up from day care, all before your 5pm temp shift?
There will always be someone more memorized than you, don't forget that. Like sitting right next to you in the waiting room. So up your game, stop making excuses, and learn how to memorize lines like the bad@ss you are. I don't want you losing out on a guest spot on "Blue Bloods" because you couldn't get through your speech to Tom Selleck's character in the producer session, and had to say "I'm sorry, can I start again?" like 3 times. No, you can't.
Let's fix this, yes? Here are my two top ways to memorize quickly. I've been using them for a very long time, and recommending them to my students.
1. Get the rehearsal Pro app for your phone. Just do it. It's $19.95. Just chill on the Starbucks for 3 days. This one is a game changer. It is the easiest, most actor friendly app on the market, and helps you memorize huge amounts of dialogue quickly. I don't work for them, I don't know them. I just like it. You import the scene, highlight your lines, record them, and it plays back in a loop until you have them down pat. You can work on it in the card, on the subway, in the waiting room, or doing the Stairmaster. You can black out the other character's lines if you want, do all kinds of different voices, and get your freak on. But most importantly, you get a tremendous sense of the rhythm of the scene, so that you are ready and flexible when you walk into the audition room. (Tip: When recording, whisper your lines, and say the other characters' lines out loud. This will help you leave the right amount of space for lines, and also will prevent you from hearing your lines out loud and getting locked into a "pattern" of saying it).
2. Write out your lines. Do people still use pen and paper? I've been doing this since my high school drama teacher suggested it when I had to memorize a bunch of monologues for a half ass production of Molier's "Tartuffe." Write out all of your lines in the scene as one big paragraph (not the other characters), then write it out several more times, breaking it up into smaller and smaller thoughts each time. This seems time consuming, but it's not. It's amazing, and really gives you a feel for the arc of the scene, and also really gives you a deeper understanding of the character and the thought process. Writing out lines gives you this amazing ability to connect the mind to the page, and really helps you get the lines down cold, especially when you have an audition for Aaron Sorkin and can't mess up a single word.
3. Improvise the scene. Seriously. If your 60 year old roommate sucks at it, and your mom is too busy telling you to give up on this acting thing, get an actor friend and have them really run through the scene with you in your own words, many times, and many different ways. It gives you a fuller, more three dimensional feel for the scene, fills out the relationship between the characters, and then you layer the lines on at the end. By memorizing the sequence of events in the scene, the lines come a lot easier, and have a fresher feel to them.
Try it. Trust me. Find your "thing." Be good at this. Please? Whittle your prep time down to like an hour and save your sanity every time one of these last minute auditions come in. Or keep doing the thing where you cover your lines with your hand, and spend like several days trying to get the lines right. That one never worked for me.
I love you. Good luck!