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.