Learning Lines

Learning lines
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loobyloo May 24, 9:47 am show options
Newsgroups: rec.arts.theatre.plays
From: loobyloo – Find messages by this author
Date: Tue, 24 May 2005 14:47:15 +0100
Local: Tues,May 24 2005 9:47 am
Subject: Learning lines
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Hello everybody

I’m an almost complete newbie to all this and I wanted to ask your advcie
about learning lines. This summer I’ll be performing a one man show in
Edinburgh and I need to learn a script that (with pauses and so on) will
last about 40 minutes. I know it’s not Hamlet, but it’s quite a lot for
someone who hasn’t tackled something like this before.

I wonder if anyone knows how more experienced actors go about doing this,
and what methods have proven effective for learning big chunks of text?


Cliff Laine, The Old Lard Factory, Lancaster http://www.loobynet.com
* remove any trace of rudeness before you reply *
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Jim Beaver May 24, 1:06 pm show options
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From: “Jim Beaver” – Find messages by this author
Date: Tue, 24 May 2005 17:06:59 GMT
Local: Tues,May 24 2005 1:06 pm
Subject: Re: Learning lines
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“loobyloo” wrote in message

I’ve done several one-man shows of this length or longer. I just learn them
paragraph by paragraph: learn a line, learn the next one, learn them
together, add the next line, till you’ve got the first paragraph down cold.
Then start the next paragraph. Once you’ve got it down, go back and do both
paragraphs together, when you’ve got those two paragraphs down solid, start
paragraph three. Then you can either just keep adding paragraphs, or learn
each new one in conjunction with the previous one. Either method makes sure
that you learn each new paragraph as a connected part to the previous
paragraph, which helps you maintain the flow of thought. But at least once
or twice a day, run through the whole thing as far as you’ve learned it and
then read aloud the remainder. I’ve never had a very hard time learning a
long one-man show this way. Of course, the better the material, the easier
to memorize.

Jim Beaver

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Christopher Jahn May 24, 6:50 pm show options

Also, it’s better to work on your lines while on your feet than sitting
down. You will be SPEAKING them while you’re moving around, after all.
It also keeps your blood pumping and prevents you from sloooowly fading
out.

A trick I have used for really difficult patches or when I have only a
short time to learn them; I transcribe the words from the script onto a
pad of paper in my own handwriting; this forces my brain to process the
words on a slightly deeper than simply reading them. Then copying the
transcription in your own hand forces you to translate your own
handwriting and re-process it as you write it out again. This can be
extremely effective.

This is how I learned a 5 page monologue in five hours for a production
in KEELY AND DU, when I was picked to be the understudy after the actor
injured himself during the matinee.


}:-) Christopher Jahn

{:-( http://home.comcast.net/~xjahn/Main.html

Ven Hawkins May 25, 3:17 pm show options
Newsgroups: rec.arts.theatre.plays
From: “Ven Hawkins” – Find messages by this author
Date: 25 May 2005 12:17:12 -0700
Local: Wed,May 25 2005 3:17 pm
Subject: Re: Learning lines
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I’ve used three methods:

Method One: Record all the lines on tape. Use a small recorder with a
pause button. When it comes your time to deliver a line hit the pause
button, say the line, then listen. Of course since you’re doing a one
man show, it will always be your turn to talk, so just take a chunk of
dialog at a time.

Method Two: Backwards. Memorize the last line. Then the previous
line, then the one before that. One each iteration go all the way to
the last line. This way, the lines you’re least familiar with are the
first ones you say. Do it in managable chucks. I don’t use this
method alone, I still use the tape when I’m driving or some other
activity that won’t allow me to use the script. I used this method
when I had two weeks to memorize lines for a 2 1/2 hour show in which I
played the lead character who was on stage the whole show.

Method Three: I don’t try to memorize them at all. This actually
works for me in some shows. We”ll have a week or two of blocking with
scripts in hand to take notes. I’ve found that quite often I’ll have
memorized the script without trying. It’s still a good idea to use the
tape method to reinforce your lines to avoid paraphrasing.

Good Luck!
Ven Hawkins

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Cassiusw90s May 25, 9:19 pm show options
Newsgroups: rec.arts.theatre.plays
From: “Cassiusw90s” – Find messages by this author
Date: Thu, 26 May 2005 01:19:57 GMT
Local: Wed,May 25 2005 9:19 pm
Subject: Re: Learning lines
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Cliff:
One suggestion, by which you can kill two birds with one stone, is this:

Go through your scenes a couple of times and break up the “lines” into units
of intention…that is “What does the character want?”, “How is he trying to
get it?”, “What obstacles are in his way?”.

Afterwards, take an hour a day..or more if possible.. and work through each
scene with an index card covering all your lines except the one you’re
currently on. As a result of the work above, you’ll have memorized stuff
without knowing it. And you’ll be memorizing the lines as part of
understanding ways in which your character is moving moment to moment
through the play..

It may sound pretentious, but, honestly, it works brilliantly.

Regards,

CassiusW90s

Jim Beaver May 25, 9:34 pm show options

I’ve found this method to work very well myself. And not just for
monologues.

Jim Beaver

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Mark Cipra May 26, 6:50 am show options
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From: “Mark Cipra” – Find messages by this author
Date: Thu, 26 May 2005 06:50:26 -0400
Local: Thurs,May 26 2005 6:50 am
Subject: Re: Learning lines
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“Cassiusw90s” wrote in message

news:1v9le.14501$IX4.2961@twister.nyc.rr.com…

> Cliff:
> One suggestion, by which you can kill two birds with one stone, is this:
Go through your scenes a couple of times and break up the “lines” into units of intention…that is “What does the character want?”, “How is he trying to get it?”, “What obstacles are in his way?”.

I wouldn’t say this to a veteran, but since you say you’re a newbie …
This is very important advice. You’re not memorizing the multiplication
tables, you’re learning a role. The words arise out of wants, actions, etc.
It’s more akin to learning how to rebuild a carburator than memorizing the
phone book.

- Hide quoted text -
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loobyloo May 28, 4:07 pm show options
Newsgroups: rec.arts.theatre.plays
From: loobyloo – Find messages by this author
Date: Sat, 28 May 2005 21:07:54 +0100
Local: Sat,May 28 2005 4:07 pm

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One thought on “Learning Lines

  1. Sudipta,
    Fantastic! I think you wanted us to comment on the RSS but I had problems in registering; so I am leaving my comments here with trepidation that I’ll bore some of you.
    I have used the two tips – 1) Jim Beaver’s suggestion of memorize a para, memorize next para, connect, add a para, connect – thats my primary method, often used. There are two major pitfalls – 1) sometimes in our zeal to get the lines absolutely correct, we spend too much time perfecting and can’t get very far. This is specially hazardous for large sections or poetry or monologues. My suggetsion is to yank yourself out of repeating the same para when you have got 80% done. Since during the connect phase you are going to repeat the paras anyway, the remaining 20% get done automatically. 2) In monolgues (read Eersha) some paras are disjointed. They dont flow one to other and is hard to connect. In those places it helps to think where did the character wanted to from here, what did he/she felt at this point and so on. Write a little note (like sigh with remembrance, disdain for walking out on me, etc.). Then an amazing thing happens. I am blessed with (many of you are probably!
    are more gifted) a bit of visual memory. When I recite, I could visualize the script, roughly where this part is, and what my note was for and that jots the memory for the next para, even if disconnected.
    Generally I stop there, but if things are not going well, the next thing I do is checking my memorization similar to what Ven Hawkins said about using a cassette recorder, taping the whole play, and repeating my lines. At this point one can actually add body movements, pauses, vocal/emotional crutches we use to time them. Its the “Sing with Bernie” part.
    One thing I did not see in the blogs. That is, any good scriptwriter will write connected thoughts and lines or phrases (I call them triggers). If one can find these, it makes it easier to memorize the next line. This is a must for action and conversation-oriented dramas, where each actor needs to react with visual and vocal clues and triggers from others as well as his/her own. It could be as simple as “Kothai boshi” “eikhane Boshun” or connected triggers in a monologue that are 4 lines apart.

    K. P. (Basu) Das

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