Learning lines

by Cellobella on Sunday, May 2, 2010 · 1 comment

Yes community theatre is all very well in theory – a fun time out showing off in front of your mates.

But there’s some serious line learning to be done – even if you’ve got a smallish character part.

So… what better way than to learn them and exercise at the same time.

Learning Lines

Learning Lines

Learning Lines

Once at rehearsal Groover says the lines didn’t come as easily as he hoped.

Apparently that’s quite common.

I can’t remember how I used to learn lines back at uni but maybe you have some tips to share.

How do you learn lines?

{ 1 comment }

Crgwllms May 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Hey Groover! A bit different to just making them up on the spot, hey?
Lines learning is a bitch. But I have a couple of methods which I mix and match between, until they finally get drummed in.

My favorite is first to record them. (These days on my computer, so I can turn the scenes into mp3s on my ipod, but the old cassette works just as well, especially driving in the car.)
2 points to this:
First, I record ALL the lines in any scene I’m in, not just my own. For all the other characters, I speed-read through them, just to get them on tape. (if they have a long monologue, I might skip a bit and cut to the end of it, but usually I will read EVERYTHING, really fast). I slow down when it gets to the last few lines preceding mine, so I know it’s my cue coming up. When I am listening back, I imagine what I am doing physically while those other lines are being spoken. It’s a good way to learn the WHOLE play, not just my lines, and it’s great for learning cues.
Second, when it comes to my lines, I change to a very slow monotone. No feeling or inflection, just the words. This way I don’t start to learn any particular ‘way’ of speaking it, I leave that process to rehearsal, so I won’t get thrown if things change. All I’m doing is drumming the words in. When I’m listening back, I hear the other character’s lines very fast, which then slow down just prior to my cue: I then try to say my lines fairly quickly, with normal feeling and inflection. Because on tape I’m speaking my lines very slowly, I usually keep ahead of it, but if I forget what comes next, I just wait for the tape to catch up.
This method is a little time consuming to set up, but I find it really effective. With mp3s I arrange them like chapters, so I can easily jump to any scene I want to go over, or even put them on random play to test myself. And I’ve even tried going to bed at night with the whole thing on continuous play…like self hypnosis! It helped a lot in the play I recently did where I had about 14 monologues!

I saw someone mention writing them out…my variation is to write out all the cue-lines (ie the last few lines before I have to speak, a bit like the above on tape), and then when it gets to MY lines I only write the initials. For instance, if I was going to write out this very sentence, it would look like this: F I, I I W G T W O T V S, I W L L T.
It’s good for testing myself, giving clues to my words but still making me concentrate and remember. Be careful not to learn a paraphrased word that just happens to have the same initial…keep checking against the actual script!

And another really good way is to only concentrate on key words. When I highlight my script, I no longer highlight ALL my lines, just the one or two key words that will help me remember the rest. For instance, in the lines “Whether ’tis NOBLER in the mind to SUFFER the SLINGS and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take ARMS AGAINST A SEA of troubles, and BY OPPOSING end them.”, the block capitols show the words I may have written down or highlighted. Notice just the word ‘slings’ may remind me of the whole phrase ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, so there’s no need to highlight it all. Try to highlight as little as possible! When you find yourself stuck, look for another word that’ll trigger the bit you can’t remember, and highlight that. Often it’ll be a word you don’t expect, not the major nouns or verbs…you’ll find they already fall into place! If you’re getting anyone to help you with your lines, try getting them to only read the highlighted word if you get stuck.

And it’s good to remember that it’s not just about learning the words, it’s about learning the thought process and the emotion. This will come more readily in rehearsal, when you start to really feel what the character is feeling. When you get to the stage where you REALLY know what your character is feeling when other characters speak to you, and WHY, often the words will come naturally. The words you speak trigger feelings, the same way that those feelings will trigger words, and both are triggered by actions. Wherever possible, if you can physically move about while remembering your lines, you’ll find many lines get married to an action, and your whole body will develop a memory for what comes next, physically, emotionally and verbally.

I hope you find these variations helpful. Basically, it all comes down to endless, endless repetition, but it’s good to mix up the method to keep yourself thinking and on your toes.
Cheers!
Craig

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