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by coureurdebois

Tips on learning lines for a play

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Learning lines for a play involves more than memorizing strings of words. But that's the starting point. So know your lines.

If you are stumbling over your lines or always needing lines fed to you, it’s not fair to the director, the other actors, or the entire production. So know your lines - only then can you really start acting.

actress before an audience
actress before an audience

  • Get the big picture with a complete readthrough of the play. This will help you start putting your lines in order and in context.
  • Have someone read the other characters’ lines – especially your cues – with you. This will help you pick up your cues instinctively.
  • Train your lips to obey your brain. Always practice your lines out loud so that your mind, lips, and voice react automatically. Practicing lines silently is much less effective.
  • As soon as your part is blocked on stage, even at home practice your lines with the blocking and with any props your character may have.
  • Practice your lines on a stage (or practice stage) whenever possible. The feel is different than in the closed-in-ness of your dining room, bedroom, dorm, or apartment.
  • Record yourself saying your lines (with someone else saying the cues, if possible) on your portable media player. Listen to your recorded lines over and over so that you begin to anticipate, just like when you listen to a DVD and know what song follows which.
  • Make the lines meaningful. This is critical to learning your lines more quickly. Rather than thinking of lines as robotic strings of words, think of your lines as communicating your character’s thoughts, motives, actions, desires, etc.
  • Experiment saying your lines in many different ways. Until one way starts to feel just right, try emphasizing different words, use different volume, different speed, different phasing, different emotions.
  • Get rid of the script as soon as possible. But refer to it occasionally to make sure you are saying lines correctly, or are missing any stage directions.
  • Don’t let a day go by without running through all your lines at least once.