Here are twelve practical techniques for learning lines. These should be effective whether you are an actor, lecturer, speech-giver or storyteller. Good luck – and practise, practise, practise!

  1. Read the lines aloud. By speaking the lines you will hear them and they are more likely to stick.
  2. Ask a friend to help you. Friends can correct you on any mistakes you make, give you the cue lines and go back over any weak areas.
  3. Practise, practise, practise. This is the only way to make the lines stick. There is no such thing as a “photographic” memory. Everybody has to do this, even Kenneth Branagh.
  4. Little and often. Go over them first thing in the morning, a few times during the day and last thing at night.
  5. There are several apps which can help with learning lines. Here are some I have reviewed and recommend: With Line Learner you record all the lines including those of other characters and then listen to them leaving silent pauses to speak your own lines. With Rehearsal Pro you can upload a script and watch it scrolling by as you record your lines to listen to.
  6. Even if you don’t use an app you can make a recording of the scene with a tape-recorder or smartphone. Listen to it while you are shaving/washing up/driving (but keep your eyes on the road). It’s a good idea to leave gaps in the recording to speak your own lines.
  7. Move around while you are saying your lines. This has been scientifically proven to aid memory. The best thing to do is to act and feel the emotions of the character so that you are learning the meaning of the speech as much as the words. Or just for a change you can even do something entirely unrelated like juggling or sweeping the floor.
  8. Go for a drive or better still a walk. Walking and saying your lines can be quite relaxing (though beware of strange looks from passers-by).
  9. Learn the cue lines that lead in to each of your lines. Being prompt with your lines will give you and your fellow actors more confidence.
  10. As you say or read the lines, follow the thought pattern of each speech and the overall progression of the scene. Your lines are a part of the play. They don’t exist on their own.
  11. In rehearsals, listen to and think about what the other actors are saying. Don’t just concentrate on what you’ve got to say.
  12. Make a recording of the cast reading the script and use this to practise with so that you get used to hearing the other characters’ voices.

And a bonus tip – when the actors are feeling familiar with the lines and they need them to sink in a little more, try this game from 101 Drama Games and Activities:

Script game
A fun and challenging game to play during the latter stages of rehearsals. The actors are assembled around the acting area. The director calls out a random line from the script. Immediately the cast have to rush to where they should be at that moment (if they can remember) and start playing the scene from that line onwards. Anyone not on stage should leave or stand at the side. As soon as everyone recalls where they should be, the director stops the scene and chooses another line.

101 Drama Games and Activities

101 Drama Games and Activities

If you enjoy this article, please consider buying one of David Farmer's books. This game is taken from 101 Drama Games and Activities available in paperback and Kindle. The book royalties help to keep this website completely free.

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