Theatre Thursday

Off Book Tutorial

All of my little actors will be in the full swing of rehearsals next week.  We will be diving into blocking and dance rehearsals.  “Off book” is in 2 weeks.  It’s time to work on getting the lyrics to songs and the lines of their scenes down!

Many young actors struggle with memorization.  However, learning lines is part of the job!  There really isn’t much out there on memorization technique curriculum.

I decided I would do a little research and even share a few of the tried and true ways I use to get my lines or lyrics down.

Like all new skills, memorization takes practice!

The most effective way I know to learn a show is to start with a full text analysis. The first time you read the script, try to imagine yourself in the scene.  Your brain will begin making it a reality.  The scene flow will begin to make sense.  Highlight your lines.  This will allow you to quickly locate the line when you need to glance at the page.  Identify beats.  Make a few notes so that you clearly understand what is making you say your words and what causes you to transition from one beat to the next beat.  Choose your objectives, points of focus, tactics, and think about emotional obstacles.  Figure out what you want in the scene.  Take note of events that move you toward or set you back from getting it.  This helps to develop a train of thought.  Having a train of thought that makes sense to you rather than thinking about a dozen individual lines to memorize is more manageable.

Once I have completed a full text analysis, I mainly read the script… a lot!  I just read it, read it, read it.  You might be thinking, “that sounds… boring.”  Think about it.  It works.  Think about how you used to memorize a song on the piano (you know you memorized Chopsticks).  You played it over and over again.  So, to start memorizing your lines, start with repetition!  The more you say it, the more you’ll know it.  It also helps to break it into sections.  Get one section down and then move on to the next section.

Seriously, most people memorize by repeating words over and over.  However, when memorizing lines you need to be careful.  You are not only memorizing words, you are memorizing rhythm, cadence, and tone of voice.  Don’t believe me?  “I pledge allegiance (pause) to the flag (pause) of the United States of America (pause)… See?!  It’s called muscle memory and it can be lethal in acting since each time you deliver a line it needs to appear to be the first time you have lived that line.  Thus, I often repeat words over and over and over in a monotone voice, without inflection… robot-like.  If we have already started working on blocking or character I can then add inflection to my memorization process.

Sometimes it helps to repeat lines with a scene partner.  Don’t “coach” each other.  Stay away from reading stage directions.  Just practice listening to the words.  Focus on really absorbing what’s being said and what is going on in the scene.  Play with intention, actions, and pacing as you repeat the lines.  Try it sitting.  Try is standing.  Focus on the “why” and the circumstances.  This will help you learn the scene on a much deeper level.  Your delivery will become second nature because you have practiced “listen, respond” as you worked on memorization.

If a scene partner is not available you can use an app, like The Rehearsal 2 app. Or you can just record your lines and cue lines and play them back to yourself.  If you choose to record your lines, try whispering your lines and reading the other character’s lines out loud.  This way you don’t get caught up in “how” how to say your lines.  Plus, if you whisper them in the recording you can say them normal as you pretend you are running lines with someone.

I find it helpful to write my lines out by hand.  When I write out my lines or lyrics I am always able to remember them word for word. (They say that writing text is the equivalent of reading the same text 10 times so it a much quicker than you think method of remembering your lines).  I also like to break up long speeches into thoughts as I write them out.  This method works great for long speeches and song lyrics.  It works!

It often helps to move while you memorize.

We all have different learning styles.  Some people are visual; some learn pest from hearing; many people need to “do” to learn; some people are tactile learners.  Thus, do it all.  Do what you need to to get word for word.  The play write took great care to choose each word.  The audience deserves to hear what they wrote.

Accept that your memory is much better than you think.

You are telling and retelling a story.

Now you are ready to go “off book!”

Pictures are from shows I have been involved with as a director and or designer.  All of these fine actors worked hard to memorize their lines and lyrics.

You can read more about Band Geeks (click here), CHS Addams Family (click here), Bocon (click here), Oklahoma! (click here), White Christmas (click here), You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (click here), Young Frankenstein (click here), Seussical the Musical (click here), Once on this Island (click here), Pentacle Theatre Addams Family (click here), Beauty and the Beast (click here), Bang, Bang You’re Dead (click here), Les Miserables (click here), and Secret Garden (click here).  Lion King, Jr will be produced in March so look for further blogs on about that production.



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