On Memorization

I was posed a question by Ella on Twitter (@janellemousseau) on how to memorize quickly. In the world of film and television (and auditioning, in general), we are sometimes asked to commit a lot of text to memory in a very short amount of time. Below are a few of the things I do to speed up the learning process (aside from the obvious – say the words out loud, over and over again):

  • Recording my text and listening to it over and over again.
  • Recording my text (quietly) and the other speaker’s lines, and listening to it over and over again.
  • Using the Rehearsal 2 app.
  • Using the “and then what”? method (thank you Laurence Ballard): Let’s say you are memorizing “To Be or Not To Be.” Here is how you work the method. Say the first word of the speech aloud, “To,” then ask yourself aloud, “To what?” Then answer with, ” To Be.” And move on to, “To be WHAT?” Followed by, “To be or…” Etc. Get it?

11 thoughts on “On Memorization

  1. GREAT tips!! I am the actor, sitting in her living room, curled up in her recliner, speaking each line out loud, over and over again. I will use a piece of blank paper to slowly slide down the page. The blank paper will hide the line to follow, pushing me to remember what comes next. I also LOVE the “and then what?!” Thank you David Hogan Via Mr. Ballard 🙂

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment! I like your technique, too. It needs a name…a hook…Would you like to coin the phrase? You sound like a wonderful actor, and I can tell you will have a fruitful 2012.

      ~ DSH

  2. Excellent piece. Memorizing lines has always been tough for me. I mainly record my lines with no emotion and listen repeatedly. Then, when I’m comfy with my lines, I record my partners lines with pauses and speak my responses. I have also written out all my lines with no punctuation. That Rehearsal 2 App sounds great. When I get an iPhone, I will def download it. I like the sound of “And then what” Ill try it as well. Thanks again for posting. Acting is hard enough, w/o having all the stress of memorizing lines.

  3. …the “and then what” also works well for concepts or themes. When you’re doing your scene study work looking for your objectives and intent, it’s helpful to go through and line all those up along with the lines. “Here I’m trying to keep him in the room. Here I’m trying to get him to see why I did it.”
    That way, in the worst case scenario if the lines are not there (and we all know it happens) you at least know what you’re trying to do and can get from point A to B even if it’s not letter perfect.

  4. Pingback: Actor Fitness « davidshogan

  5. I sing my lines, I paraphrase them, and then hone in on specifics. I use accents. Sometimes the more I go with what is ‘fun’ and also run them while doing anything physical, the easier they stay in my body. How do you like the Rehearsal 2 app? Is it worth it?

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