Acting Tips on Learning Lines

by Megan
(United States)

QUESTION:

Do you have to remember your lines? I mean I can do that.

ANSWER:

Great question!

If you're asked for a monologue for an audition, then you need to know your lines inside out. If you don't know your lines very well, you could easily forget them with the added tension of the audition environment. Learning lines is very easy for some actors, and difficult for others. Try different ways of learning your lines (check out the video on "How to Memorize Lines" on our acting videos page). What worked best for me is to read them aloud, but make sure you learn them flat, without a specific intonation. You want your acting to remain fresh and spontaneous, and if you learn your lines with a specific intonation, it will be hard to break out of it.

If you have to do a scene from the script for an audition, you don't have to memorize it perfectly, but you should know it very well. If you can memorize it, that's even better. Even if you know the scene by heart, though, you should keep a copy of it in your hand. A casting director expects a professional actor to still be holding the scene in hand. First of all, you can refer to it if you do forget a line. Secondly, it tells the casting director that the performance you're giving is a work in progress, not a finished product. This is important because they feel they can work with you and adjust your performance. Monologues are different. You should not have a copy of your monologue in hand because the casting director knows you've been working on your monologue for a long time and expects to see your best. One last acting tip on this subject… If your audition is being filmed, be careful not to make loud noises with the papers you're holding.

Finally… If you have to do a cold reading, no one expects you to know your lines, but try to get as familiar with the copy as you can in the waiting room (you usually have about ten minutes, but you can try to show up earlier to have more time). A good cold reading class will teach you tricks for quick memorization. The good news is that it gets easier the more you do it. I met a soap actor who only needed to look at the lines for a few minutes to memorize them entirely! Until you reach that point, a good cold reading tip is to keep you thumb next to your lines and slide it down the page as you read. This way, you'll be able to look up and concentrate on your acting during your audition instead of having to worry about finding your next line on the paper.

I'm assuming this question was about learning lines for auditions. Obviously, once you get an acting job, you need to know your lines. Keep in mind, though, that in films and commercials, rewrites are routine and your lines will change often. It's a good idea to take an improvisation class to deal with these last minute changes… plus if you ever forget your lines onstage, the show won't stop… so you'll have to make up something!

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