One of the most common questions an actor can be asked is, how do you learn all your lines? It can feel overwhelming to learn pages and pages of dialogue and the dreaded fear is that you will forget them all when you perform. Every actor has their own individual way of learning lines, but here are a few handy tips to help along the way.
Why can I never remember this line?
There's usually some lines that never seem to stick in your head when you're trying to learn them. It's often because you simply don't want to say them, but why don’t you? It could be that you haven’t worked out what they really mean and why your character is saying them. As Judi Dench recently pointed out in an interview, you have to ask yourself “why does that person say those lines in answer to something that somebody else has said? What is it in that person’s make up that makes them react in that way to say that.” Once you have worked out the meaning behind those difficult lines it will become easier for you to remember them.
Practise Makes Perfect
Reading the lines aloud again and again and again may sound laborious but the repetition helps to cement those words in your head. Take it line by line and repeat that line aloud several times before moving onto the next. Hearing yourself say it will aid your memory. Find somewhere where you can move around and speak as loud as you like so you are not distracted or feel restricted by people or things around you. You may also find it useful to record yourself saying your lines and play it occasionally in the background whilst you are doing something else as your lines will start to sink in.
Learn the Cue Lines
It's important to remember to learn your cue lines. You may well know your own lines but unless it's a monologue they will only make sense in the context of the entire scene, so you need to know what the other characters will say before you. This will help you have a good understanding of the text and the interaction between all the characters in the scene.
Ask Your Friend for Help
Find a friend who will run lines with you and can test that you know them. It is important that you can put your script down and go through your lines as you would in performance. A friend can help check that you are sticking to the words on the page and are not missing any chunks of text.
Be Open to Directions
If you are learning lines before you start rehearsals, which you're often asked to do, you won't have been given directions with your lines. Whilst you'll be learning a lot about your character through learning lines, remember to be open to new ways of delivering them as your director may well have other ideas for you to try out.
Give Yourself Breaks
Finally, remember to give yourself breaks from learning lines. If you feel tired then you will be less likely to focus and absorb anything. Stay calm and come back to the lines when you feel fresh and ready to start again, you will be amazed at how quickly those lines can be learnt.