This post may contain affiliate links, so I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Check out the disclosure for more info. And thank you for supporting free content!
Last Updated on
How To Learn Your Lines in 15 Minutes or Less
Have 15 minutes? Try Steps 1 & 2 and one other thing.
If you want to be an actor you are going to have to memorize lines – a lot! And that’s the good news, because it means you’re working, or at least auditioning. While some people are blessed with a photographic memory, most actors I talk to, especially new actors struggle to memorize lines. This may not be an issue if you are auditioning for a 2 line co-star role on a your favorite TV series, but chances are you’re going to have to do a lot of workshops and long scenes to get to that point.
Here are 3 solid steps and 5 ridiculously effective tips to help you memorize lines fast.
Step 1: Read the whole script first.
Before you do anything else, read through the entire script – just for information and to see what’s going on. Don’t focus on your character just yet or what you’re suppose to be doing, but find the story. Notice what point in the script makes you go “ah ha”… that’s the twist, or the pivot and it can be useful to mark that. Having a sense of what the story is and where it’s going can be invaluable when trying to remember your lines.
Step 2: Get a Feel for What You Are Doing
Now go back and highlight your lines and read the stage direction out loud, using “I” for your character. For example: “Distracted I walk into my office and am slightly shocked to see Bob sitting there. Quietly I close the door and say…..” It can be really helpful to go through the motions too. Do this a couple of times.
Step 3: Take It For a Walk… and Do The Voices
We remember anything a lot more once we get it into the body, and actors tend to be very physically aware. Walk around your house or apartment while reading the script out loud, or better yet, go for a walk around the block. It can be super useful to get outside into an uncontrolled environment where there are noises and distractions. Read all of the lines, both yours and the other characters, and do the funny voice for other people’s parts; it’ll really help to solidify the scene in your head.
Now The Magic Tricks
Once you’ve gone through the basics, pick one, or all, of the super fun and useful memorization tips below. Eventually you’ll probably find a couple that work best for you, but if your have to cram for a last minute audition, by all means, all hands on deck and give them all a workout.
1. Roll Up And Down Through The Spine
This is a technique I learned when doing Linklater voice work (which I highly recommend if you can find a live class near you!)
- Put your script on the floor in front of you but close enough so you can read it.
- Roll down through the spine like a rag doll.
- When you get to the bottom read ONE LINE out lout.
- Roll back up through the spine repeating that line. Now back down through the spine repeating the same line.
- Once you get to the bottom, repeat the steps with the next line.
This is another way to connect the text or thoughts with kinetic movement. What we hold in our bodies sticks!
2. Try a Crazy Accent
Still don’t have the text down? Or just looking for another fun technique, (what actor doesn’t love a good game!) give this one a go. Read your lines out loud in your best, or worst accent. This has nothing to do with doing a credible accent and everything to do with getting you out of your head and exploring the work from a different point of view. It’s also an excellent technique to use to stop yourself from locking in a particular read and getting too rigid or over-rehearsed in your delivery.
3. Record and Listen
We all learn in different ways. Some people are visual learners, others auditory and others kinetic. Most of us tend to do best with a combination of learning styles, but have one that is dominant for us. I’m covering all bases here! This one will really help you if you are an auditory learner – and it’s super simple! Grab your smart phone and read the entire scene out loud while recording. And yes, funny voices do help 🙂 . No, play it back… again and again and again. Maybe even incorporate this one into a walk around the block. And a little exercise and fresh air probably won’t hurt either!
4. Work it Into Your Morning Routine
I am a super practical and super efficient human being, so I love this one for it’s multi-tasking aspect. Tape your sides around your bathroom, to the wall or the mirror, someplace you can see them as you get ready, brush your teeth, shave, do your make-up etc. Glance at the lines and say them out loud when you can. Seeing the page like that will help to solidify them in your mind and you’ll know what lines fall where. It also helps you to lock in the lines while focusing on something else.
5. Rehearse Out Loud and With a Scene Partner
I’m sure you all know this one, but rehearsing with a partner, and preferably another actor, is probably one of the quickest ways to learn your lines and get a feel for a scene. Don’t be embarrassed to just read through with someone else; rehearsal and working out a scene is just that, it’s the work. You’re not presenting finished work to anyone, and if it’s another actor buddy, you have no one to impress. Don’t know anyone to rehearse with? Not a problem! There are 2 really great resources that I love for this:
FREE Option: Facebook Group: Rehearsal & Self-Tape Partners For Actors
Just like it sounds, join the group and post a notice in there where you need someone to read with. You don’t have to be in the same city, many actors are rehearsing online these days using Facebook video chat, FaceTime, Skype, or other video conferencing software. The only problem I find with this is that you do need to plan in advance and although there are more than 4,000 members in the group, you may not always find someone who wants to give up their spare time to read with a stranger.
PAID Option: WeAudition.com
Can’t say enough good things about this service, absolutely love it! Yes, it is a paid service, (around $10 / month) and yes, you do have to pay someone to read with you. (usually around $5 / 15 minutes) but because you are paying you can almost always find someone. This is a really versatile and well laid out video conferencing platform that allows you to upload your sides and even record your audition all within one system. And yes, I use it a LOT!
I hope these tips really help you! As always, would love to read your questions and comments below.