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How to Remember Lines

Learn how to remember lines in this Howcast video about memory techniques featuring memory expert Barry Reitman.


Hi, I'm Barry Reitman, author of "Secrets, Tips and Tricks of a Powerful Memory" and let's discuss for a little bit how you, as an actor or actress, will remember your lines. Let's discuss perhaps the most stressful situation, for an audition. And if you're like most actors auditioning, two days before, or even a day before you haven't even received the full script. You've just received the sides with your lines on it. It's hard to even imagine how the scene was created originally, but to the best extent you can, try to picture the events. Just read it casually a few times before you even try to get your lines. See the picture unfolding. See the play unfolding. Then you're going to turn to the lines you have, again maybe just on a couple of pages of sides.

You may want to do one of two things. One is remember your lines by the numbers. Throughout this series there's several ways to remember numbers for things you want to remember by the numbers. Let's take any one of them, body parts. In our body part system, number one is big toe, number two is knee, number three is midsection, number four is rib cage. So if my first line is "Hello, Harold. How are you?" Well, my word picture for the name Harold has to do with "hairy" easy for me to remember. But really if you picture someone that's very hairy, Harold maybe he as a feature of a large chin, maybe put a lot of hair on it with a big beard. Harold, if I see someone with a hairy, strange hairy feature, I know his name is Harold or Harry, and my natural memory will tell me the difference. Now I'm going to see that number one is toe, so on my toe, I look down, and my shoe is off, and my toe is looking up at that hairy face saying, "How are you?" If I see that happen, I'll not only remember the line, more important I'll remember that that's my first line.

"Where have you been, Harold?" is my second line. Well my cue, my filing system for number two in this case is the second body part in my body part system, the knee. So, "How have you been?" well, I might repeat it a couple of times. It's a simple enough sentence. Or I might picture Harold turning into a lima bean. "How have you bean?" How did that happen? The answer is on my knee. My knee is asking, "How have you bean?" I'm going to put a lima bean on my knee so that when I see that it's time for my second line, I will look at my knee, or just think about my knee, and see a lima bean. "Oh yeah, bean, been, been." "How have you been?"

In reality, some directors will give you some free roam, but certainly for an audition you want to nail the dialogue. And I find that the best way is to review it several times but then give yourself those cues. Give yourself the equivalent of a three by five index card that you can look at that no one else can see. On the second index card is going to be a lima bean, and my second index card is down on my knee. Try that.

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