10 Tips for Memorizing Lines for Plays


How to memorize or how not to memorize? That is the question when it comes to memorizing lines for a play. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to memorize lines, but there are some helpful memorization tips that will probably make the process a whole lot easier and get those lines to stick around a while.

We want you to be prepared for your big debut, so let’s get right to it so you can start running those lines and commit them to memory. Grab your script as we get you ready to show those lines who’s boss!

10 Tips for Memorizing Lines for a Play

There are two very important things you need to do before you can start memorizing your lines. These first steps are essentially laying the ground work for the memorization process, so don’t cheat here by skipping this part.

What you need to do is very simple and won’t take up much time. First, read the entire script once to yourself and then aloud for a second time. Next, sit back for a spell and digest everything you’ve just read. Make sure you understand the material, the characters (especially yours) and the tone of the dialogue. Feel free to read the material a third time if things aren’t quite clicking for you as well.

That’s really all the pre-memorization work you need to do. Your brain is now ready to get to work as you try the following 10 tips to aid you in memorizing lines for a play.

 1. Re-Write Them

Memorizing Lines QuicklyRe-writing something you’re attempting to memorize is a tried and true technique that is applicable across the board. It works great for lines for as it helps you slowly but surely embed them into your memory with repetition.

Now, while it might sound tedious and like it will take forever to write all of your lines, it’s really not a lengthy process at all. Plus, by the time you’re done writing them out, you’re more than likely to have successfully crammed those lines into your brain. You will likely have little to no problem recalling them like a pro as a result even if you’ve got a cramp in your hand.

A good process to establish when re-writing your lines is to simply write your lines in paragraph form. You can just as easily type the lines out if that’s more your style and if you think it will help you memorize them better. Don’t just write or type them out once, though. Instead, go big or go home by writing your lines out 4-5 times.

Read what you’ve written or typed between each re-write spurt, too. This will get your brain firing those memory happy neurons in double time, which will help you commit your lines to memory faster.

Bonus tip: You don’t have to write them all at once! Instead, re-write and practice one section at a time. It’ll seem much less tedious, and you’ll probably remember things better with a combination of writing and reciting.

2. Practice With A Partner

Grab a partner and have them run lines with you. Your partner can be a friend, family member or (ideally) another actor. Just make sure that your partner is willing to spend the time it takes to run through the lines a few times and is up for a bit of acting along with you. It will help you memorize your lines if the person you’re practicing with adds inflection into the words they are saying.

It’s super important to be really present and focused when practicing with a partner. This is important because you are actually working towards memorizing your lines in two ways.

The first and most obvious way you are committing your lines to memory when practicing with a partner is purely by repetition. The more you say and read them, the more you are going to remember them. You’re cramming those lines into both your short and long term memory this way, which will make it easier for you to deliver your lines when it’s show time.

The second way you’re mastering the memorization of your lines is through listening to your partner recite other lines from the play. It’s super important to listen and absorb what’s being said by the other actors during the play because it will serve as a way to trigger your brain when it’s your time to speak. You’ll remember key words and know what to say when the time comes.

3. Cover Them Up

You’re probably pretty familiar with this method of memorizing lines since it’s one frequently used when studying in school. All you have to do is grab your material, either the actual script or your re-written lines, cover them up with a piece of paper (or your hand) and give your memory a quick test.

Try to recite your lines purely from memory while they are covered up, but don’t uncover them until you’ve said everything or you get stumped. Now you can assess how you did and try to pinpoint any areas you may need some extra work on. Repeat the process as many times as you need to as you work on memorizing your lines.

4. Read Your Lines Before Bed

We know you’re probably not going to be too excited about giving your brain a mental work out right before bed and drifting off to sleep as you watch Jimmy Fallon slow jam the news sounds much better. Sorry to burst your pre-slumber routine bubble, but you’d definitely be doing yourself a favor by running through your lines before your head hits the pillow and you snooze off to Drool Town.

Studies show that your brain really digs receiving information before going into reparation mode during sleep. This means that you’re more likely to wake up with your lines resting nicely in your memory vault and primed for you to recall them later. Running through your lines before you sleep is going to save you a bit of work in the long run since you’re putting your brain to work while you’re sleeping.

So…mute your TV, prop yourself up on your pillow and practice your lines a time or two. There’s time for late night TV after you do a bit more work.

5. Practice In Different Environments

Tricks to Memorizing LinesLike many people, you may prefer to practice your lines in the comfort of your own home without any distractions from other people or sounds. By practicing this way you’ve created a nice little bubble for yourself that feels safe and allows you to recite your lines without a problem.

However, the odds of you actually speaking your lines without some kind of distraction when the curtain goes up are slim to none. There’s bound to be someone in the audience talking, a phone ringing, a technical issue behind the scenes or possibly your ex-boyfriend who dumped you via post-it note in the front row. Any one of these things can cause your brain to stutter and as a result make it difficult for you to recall your lines properly.

Save yourself from having an “Oh crap! What’s my line?” moment by popping the comfort bubble and practicing in different, uncontrolled environments. You can shake things up and test how well you’ve memorized your lines by reciting them at the park, in the coffee shop, on the train and even in the office break room. Give your lines a go anywhere you’re ability to focus and your memory recall will be pushed to the limit.

6. Record All of the Lines

It can be extremely helpful to listen to a recording of your lines as well as the lines of the other actors in the play. You can play the recording anywhere you want to and as many times as you feel necessary while trying to memorize your lines. Listening to a recording will help you memorize not just your lines but also the lines of your fellow actors to help send those brain triggers we mentioned earlier.

All you need is a recorder, your script and the time to read everything. You can really up the ante by having a buddy read the lines you’re recording with you since having distinct voices can help you with memorizing whose lines are whose. You’re bound to get the job done either way you go about recording it.

7. Use an App

There really is an app for just about everything under the sun these days including one to help you memorize your lines. All you need is a mobile device and you’ll be able to take advantage of the Line Learner, Line, Please and Scene Partner apps. Each of these apps is available in your device’s app store, so check them out if you think they will help you.

Line Learner will help you learn your lines in a snap as you use its many features like the recorder, editing tool and scripting loading ability. Line, Please is pretty simple and effective as the app enables you to record your lines, practice them and replay that with ease. Scene Partner is proving to be a favorite among actors for its useful tools like playing your lines back for you in different voices and recording feature.

8. Move Around

Don’t just sit around on your duff while trying to memorize lines. Instead, get up and get moving while you recite your lines. Moving around will help you memorize your lines better by generating good blood flow to your brain and by helping you get into character a bit.

Don’t shy away from gesturing, standing, walking and attempting to embody your character while moving around and reciting your lines. Each new movement you make can help you commit your lines to memory better as you attempt to get a feel for how you may say or do something during show time. This works well because you’re encouraging your brain to send memory signals in different ways with the result being memorized lines.

9. Chunk It Up

Take advantage of the always helpful mnemonic device of chunking when trying to memorize lines. Chunking for memorization requires you to group chunks of information together to make retaining it easier. For example, instead of trying to memorize an entire page of lines you would instead chunk them up into manageable sections to work on one at a time.

In our opinion the best way to apply the chunking technique when learning line is likely going to be by chunking in paragraphs. To do this you’ll simply highlight or re-write the chunk of your script you’d like to focus on and go to town memorizing it by re-reading, reciting and re-writing it until it’s locked tight in your brain.

10. Recite Lines While Doing Mundane Tasks

Make use of the time spent doing tasks unrelated to memorizing your lines and turn each one into a little line cramming session. Recite your lines to yourself when you’re folding laundry, doing the dishes, exercising or cleaning. These mundane tasks don’t require you to use much brain power, so seize the opportunity to fill it with a memorization activity.

Doing this helps you test your recall and it also allows you to put a bit more strain on your brain while doing so, which will make it easier for you to remember your lines under various circumstances. You’ll find that the lines will come to you much easier if you get stuck later on if an image of laundry soap pops into your head or if you remember saying a specific line while scrubbing the toilet. We know it sounds weird, but it works!

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