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How I Memorised 1,215 lines in 6 week.

Updated: Mar 24

Mid last year at 6am on a Tuesday morning I received an email that completely changed what my 2020 would look like. The email was from Jason Klarwein, inviting me to be one of two actors for Grin and Tonic's regional school-touring troupe. Without much logical pondering, I said yes.


Approximately six months later, I'm in my first week of shows.


In 2019, Grin and Tonic tour 4 shows.


2 Shakespeares and 2 contemporary, verbatim shows.


Each show is around 45 minutes long.


There are 2 actors.


We have 6 weeks rehearsal.


in which we are to memorise approximately 1,215 LINES.


It was a mouthful...literally.


Having come out of the wilderness I wanted to take some time to reflect upon what worked and what absolutely didn't when trying to memorise that many lines:


○ WHAT DID WORK ○

  1. Many consistent pockets of work: I boil learning lines down to either moments of self loathing vs times of inspired productivity. Therefore, it doesn't necessarily need to be hours and hours, but a daily, small set practice.

  2. Writing it out, over and over and over.

  3. The LINE LEARNER app - a brilliant app that allows you to record all of the lines in the show and then leaves the appropriate amount of time to say your lines in real time. A great way to learn cue lines as well.

  4. Have a schedule of how much you are going to learn & when - but also being gracious to yourself if you don't hit that.

  5. Taking your script on walks/changing environments in which you learn lines. Wash the dishes, hang out your clothes, mow the lawn... change it up!

  6. Focusing on learning the thought patters behind the lines, rather than the specific line itself.

  7. Let the first thing and last thing you do that day be reading over the lines.


○ WHAT DIDN'T WORK ○

  1. Having anxiety about not being able to do it.

  2. Learning a chunk/script and then not returning to it for a long time.

  3. Thinking that you have to know every single line before day one- most directors allow for a good percentage of the rehearsal period to be with your script (a little harder for musical theatre) but remember you also learn faster when you lock in lines with the blocking.

  4. Not giving myself permission to enjoy time off- it made me cranky and not a fun person to be around because when I was doing something that wasn't learning lines, I would have this overwhelming sense of guilt and it would spoil time away. Then when I returned to the lines, I was resentful. Your brain needs time to re-charge, allow it to do so.


Your brain and memory is an incredible thing. It will continue to grow and retain as long as you don't give up on it. Remember at the end of the day, this is all fun. We are not conducting brain surgery - we are here to entertain and create.


Much like a lot in life, you have to work out what works for you. There is writing it out, physicalising, hearing the line ect. but there isn't an easy way about it - it's old-fashion discipline but your brain is up for the challenge.

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