How to learn your lines – By Ryan Bennett

Line learning. Isn’t it the worst? It certainly isn’t the glamourous part of acting, but it’s a hurdle we all must clear to get to the part we love.

But does it have to be all banging-your-head-against-the-script or is there an easier way?

This article is designed to inspire you to try a few different approaches that may make the process easier for you. None of them are a one-size-fits-all, it’s very much a case of what suits you best. I’d recommend you give them all a fully committed go before determining your preferred method. You may find certain methods exacerbate your bad habits where others harness your preferences and talents. Take what works and discard the rest.

Absorption Method:


How to:


Find a spare piece of A4 paper.


Cover your script, top to bottom, with your A4 paper.


Draw the piece of paper down over your script until you reveal the first printed line of text.


Read the text aloud 3 times. Pause to reflect on its meaning. What images, ideas, possibilities does it conjure up in your mind? Can you see the scene taking place? Read it once more.


Repeat with each printed line. Spend approximately 10mins per printed page on your first reading of the script. Indulge in the words and expand your sense of them.

Pro’s:

  • Allows you to view the scene as the audience might, really absorbing each moment bit by bit
  • Fosters connections that anchor the words and start the creative process.
  • Invites the imagination, engaging your creativity with ease
    Con’s:
  • Requires headspace and time
  • Will require a follow up read or 3– attempting to predict what lies ahead (Or perhaps a pairing with another method?)

Playback Method:.

How to:

  • Read through your script, checking your understanding (and pronunciation) of everything within.
  • Record the script line by line using either Voice Memos or an app like Line Learner – being careful to avoid interpretation. Read it like the phone book – flat and unaffected. If necessary, record a second version leaving large gaps for you to speak you lines in around the other characters.
  • Recheck your accuracy by listening back while reading along with the script (you’ll regret mistakes if you have to re-learn over them).

Pro’s:

–   You can multitask! Listen on the tube/bus/car ride and let the lines seep in.

–   You become familiar with the other character/s lines and what they might mean too

–   Can simulate the experience of reading it with a scene partner & trying out choices

–   Suited to aural learners

Con’s:

–   If you have a keen ear & develop patterns easily, you may get stuck delivering the lines in the way you recorded them (hence why we record flat).

–   Your tempo/rhythm and expectations of the scene may narrow with repetition. This may require a shake up when rehearsals/performance comes.

Problem Solving Method:

How to:

With each line you speak, ask the following three questions

What Am I Saying?

•   Do I know the definition of each word in the line?

•   Are there any references I don’t understand?

Test – Can I put the sentence into my own words without losing any information? If not, what am I missing and why?

Why Am I Saying This?

•   What was the last thing said to my character and how does that stimulate this line?

•   What is the next thing the other character says and what does that tell me about how I deliver this line?

Test – Can you surmise the intention/action in 3-5 words

Why am I saying it like this?

•   Why did the writer choose these words to express this thought?

•   Take each word and consider its synonyms – what does this word offer the other options don’t?

Pro’s:

–   Allows you to process your script as you learn – two birds, one stone

–   Forges a deep understanding of the logic within the script that necessitates the words spoken as written

–   Offers you a great correction method – when you paraphrase a word in rehearsal – “Why is it not that word? What’s the difference?”

–   Suitable for the analytically minded

Con’s:

–   Can get you bogged down in detail and interpretation

–   Choices may change and new patterns need to be formed.

Half-Way Script Method:

How to:

Find a spare piece of paper and…

•   Read your first line aloud 3 times.

•   Take that first line you speak and write the first letter of each word on your paper – if it’s a capital, make it a capital, if it’s lower case, make it lowercase.

•   Add all the punctuation found in the line.

•   Read the line aloud 3 times scanning the notated letters as you do.

•   Speak the line aloud 3 times looking away from the letters and script.

•   Mark a dash each time the other character/s talks (or notate their line in full).

•   Repeat the process for each line…

NB – Only works if you go at a slow pace. Only add once you’ve learned what you have & repeat every line notated whenever you add. This will reinforce what you know.

Example –

DYLAN

Hi!

KIMI

Hello. How are you?

DYLAN

I’m good. I’m good. This is me…

_____________________

(For Dylan)

H!

Hello. How are you?

I g. I g. T i m…

Pro’s:

–   Gets your brain to problem solve the puzzle and fill the gaps. It is genuinely really effective for fast uptake.

–   Promotes accuracy in learning – it’s rare to find words with synonyms that have matching first letters.

–   Helps your brain transition from the script to without by adding a middle stage – hence “Half-Way Script”

Con’s:

–   Works well with monologues/chunks of text. Can get fiddly with sequences of short dialogue.

–   Requires methodical application to see results

Hopefully one or more of those four methods makes the process a little easier for you. Ultimately, there’s no way to skip over to process completely. You need time to ingest the ideas in their specifics in order to be able to represent them. But, with practice, it doesn’t have to be arduous.

Happy learning!

Why don’t you put one of these method’s into practice by applying one or more techniques to an iampro self-tape challenge! Information on these can be found on our chat boards for members and details are also posted in our self-tape challenge Facebook group for non-members.

Join Ryan for his Activating Monologues and Improv and Devising modules as part of our Foundation Drama LIVE course and his new on-demand acting courses will be dropping soon!

Find out more about Ryan in his ‘Making It’ video, now available on Youtube.

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