Line-Learning Tips For Actors
If you want to be an actor, you’ve got to learn lines. It’s a fundamental skill. Elizabeth Avery Scott, Managing Director of Perform Australia (Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art), has some tips and tricks.
Getting your lines down early in the production process is essential. However, some novice actors think of lines as the endgame. But really, the lines are just the beginning.
A director can only work with you to shape your character once your lines are flowing freely.
But the reality is some people find line-learning harder than others. There’s no getting around it, you just must commit.
You just have to put the time in, knuckle-down and do it. For some actors, it’s hours and hours of work.
There are numerous ways to approach line learning. It’s about finding a methodology that suits you personally. Here are some tips from Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art.
- Chunking: Go through your script from the top, and cover the words, say them, and check them - in phrases (chunks). Be careful not to memorise words in rhythms, though – well-trodden rhythms in your mind can mean you end up delivering you lines in a sing-song way. Moreover, at the line-learning stage, you don’t know how a director is going to ask you to deliver each line. Don’t become wedded to a way of speaking them too soon.
- Visualisation: If your text uses a lot of imagery, as you might find in a Shakespearean work, for example, use visualisation to help get the lines down. Imagine the scene in a series of pictures. Draw them if it helps. Tie your line memorisation to images, rather than words.
- Use your phone: Not only can you record your lines on a phone and play them back, you can source an app that is specifically designed for line learning. Apps like Script Rehearser and Rehearsal Pro let you upload a script, record it, or play it back line by line.
- The Buddy System: Once you’ve got the basics down, find someone who’ll run your lines with you. That may be a fellow actor, or just a willing friend. Give them a copy of the script, and have them read opposite you, ready to correct you when needed. Working with another person can make line-learning fun and less tedious.
- Get the words into your body: If you’re struggling getting certain phrases into your head, assign physical movements to the tricky bits. Sound them out symbolically with gestures or whole-body movements. When you physically repeat them, your brain is finding a way to make connections beyond the words on the page. Some say this method works wonders.
- Write them out: This is perhaps the ‘old-fashioned way’ of line-learning - but there’s something to be said for the magic that happens once words travel down your arm and out your pencil! The brain loves a process to help solidify learning.
Once you learn your lines, you must maintain them.
You may find that during a season, if you’re not going over them regularly, some of the words slip away - so it’s always good to revisit the script.
To study at Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art, go to www.cada.net.au