of no fixed subtitle
January 26, 2009
How to Memorize Scripts
15 years ago
Oooh very interesting. A variant of method 1 usually works for me, but I do have to read things out loud. The strength of people's types of sense memory apparently vary wildly - eg, my auditory and kinetic memories are good, so hearing myself say something and the action of writing it down are good for me - so I guess this is maybe why different ways work for different people? Great link, thankee much.
I'm always amazed that a TV actor can go home and memorize a script for the next day. I'm not always sure of my phone number.
Back at the beginning of a theatrical boot camp (semester-long, 7:30am - 10:30pm more or less), the director of the program asked me: "Do you have any apprehensions about the upcoming semester?" Knowing that one of the things I would need to do was massive memorization every week, I mentioned that. "Oh, I think one finds ways to do that. It varies from person to person but one finds ways." The first week, I got what turned out to be the largest amount of memorization anyone needed to do that whole boot camp. Naturally, I "found a way." It involved lots of repetition and repeating the lines out loud with myself and running the lines with fellow actors. Saying stuff out loud is also good for me to actually get my mouth to "own" the words. I've found the "running lines with fellow actors" doesn't always work as well in TV and film situations for a variety of reasons--the most common I've found is finding the time, the most annoying is when the fellow actor has some insane take on the script. Why did this never happen in theater? Ah well.
I used several methods, increasing in franticness as curtain night approached. 1. Highlight lines 2. Get annoyed when lines get cut, because crossing out highlighting is ugly. 3. Record yourself reading lines, listen during commute (this was in my minidisc days) 4. steal a notebook from work, and write lines from memory again and again, checking for correctness from time to time. 5 (and best). get a colleague to make you repeat speeches until you GET. IT. RIGHT. NO. Do it AGAIN.
Once I had the honor of working a donkey puppet for the comedian Ray Goulding (of the old-time radio show *Bob and Ray*). We were shooting a commercial for the Arizona Bank. All I had to do was make the donkey puppet kiss Ray after the real donkey was led away. We did many takes. In every one Ray used a different telling, even adding new dialog that totally fit. Every variation was uniquely funny and drenched with reality, I think because of his spontaneity. In other words, Raye's method of memorization was that he had only learned the ESSENCE of what needed to be said. The words he brought up spontaneously out of HIMSELF. This wasn't a theatrical rote memorization, but it worked so well. Especially his last line, off camera, which only I was able to hear: "I don't know WHAT they're paying you, but it couldn't be enough! I've worked under bad conditions in my time, but this is the absolute WORST." (I was hunkered down behind a desk at the time, kneeling on a tarp that the stagehand had thrown over the scraped up mess that the live donkey had left behind.)