Actors' tips on how to memorise your lines

When asked for audition advice, many actors will tell you, “Know your lines as well as possible. That way you’re free to focus on everything else without holding a script.” Sounds simple, right? But what if your audition is tomorrow, or in three hours? How can you memorize your lines as quickly as humanly possible?

Learning lines quickly is a matter of conditioning; it takes practice. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Visualize what you’re talking about, rather than focusing strictly on how to say it. If you have very little imagery in the text you’re attempting to commit to memory, flex your imagination. Imagine what the language in the text reminds you of, then picture each thought using as many of your senses as possible to recall each thought (each line). In other words, picture what you’re talking about with as much sound, movement, and imagery as possible. Walk around your room and place each thought in a different spot as you do. This engages sight and your own movement as well, and explains why we learn our lines best when on our feet. The results may astound you.

Others think that actors shouldn’t be memorizing lines. Memorization is not acting. You cannot simply memorize a Shakespeare play and then regurgitate it on stage. You can do that, but no one will come to the second show. Just like in Shakespeare, once you understand the meaning behind the words, then his words flow freely as if they are the actor’s own words. Memorization is also not comprehension. Just because an actor memorizes a sequence of words doesn’t mean they understand the words—that’s why actors can be thrown off so easily in the room when they flub or mispronounce a word. 

Creative visualization and mental rehearsal for actors

Creative visualization is the cognitive process of generating mental imagery, with eyes open or closed, simulating or recreating visual perception in order to maintain, inspect, and transform those images and consequently modifying their associated emotions and feelings with intent to experience a subsequent beneficial effect, alleviating anxiety, improving self-esteem and self-confidence, and enhancing the capacity to cope when interacting with others.

For actors, mental rehearsal can make a big impact on performance. Research shows that mentally rehearsing scenes, monologues or auditions in your head is almost as effective as actual rehearsal. The explanation is that the same neural pathways are activated by mental rehearsal as actual rehearsal.

So how should you mentally rehearse? First, relax, find somewhere comfortable and quiet and breathe deeply. In through the nose, then hold and out through the mouth.  Second, imagine in vivid details of sound, movement, feelings and visualisation, whatever you want to practise. Third, imagine it from beginning to end, including a successful conclusion. Fourth, repeat regularly. Mental rehearsal is a technique that athletes, musicians, doctors, soldiers, and even astronauts use to prepare for the worst and perform at their best. 

Mark Westbrook's Actor's Guide to Overcoming Mental Interference

Even the best actors can struggle to convert audition opportunities in acting jobs. The 12 Obstacles, An Actor's Guide to Overcoming Mental Interference in Exceptional Performance, reveals how all of us are challenged by the mental interference of performing under pressure, because audition success requires more than just good acting and a bit of luck. 

Author, acting coach and performance psychology expert Mark Westbrook reveals the 12 most common obstacles that stand in the way of our best acting performances under pressure. Mark offers powerful tools for overcoming these obstacles, freeing your natural ability from the restraints of the Inner Critic. 

Mark Westbrook is one of the most outspoken acting coaches in the UK, his blog is regularly read by over 30,000 people. His clients include Oscar and BAFTA winners. He is the author of Truth in Action, a Manual of Common Sense for Actors. Every day Mark helps actors overcome their mental obstacles on their way to a more truthful and captivating performance.

Marks says: "We are masters of self-sabotage. t's my mission to help you overcome the mental obstacles that block the route to exceptional performance. In my eBOOK The 12 Obstacles, I'll introduce you to the 12 mental obstacles that you'll have to overcome to give every performance your best.  Then, I'll give suggestions about how to overcome them. And you can download it for free. So what's stopping you?"