Learning a text

Learning a script can be challenging, especially in early rehearsals, but there are ways of making the lines easier to remember. By experimenting with different methods of learning lines, a performer can select the techniques that they find most suitable for them.

  • Line run - Line runs focus on simply running through the lines, without any acting, to help performers to practice and remember their lines. This process can assist the technical and design teams, as well as performers. It will identify if performers are engaged and ‘acting’ at all times, reacting to each other’s lines as opposed to just waiting for their own.
  • Listening to a script - Some performers prefer to record their own voices speaking the lines and then listen back to it. Others will record other characters’ lines and leave spaces or pauses where their own lines would be, so they can practise remembering their own part.
  • Drawing pictures - Being able to picture key lines through visual objects that relate to the dialogue can often help performers remember the order of their lines.
  • Actioning - This requires a performer to add movement to the speech that helps them remember the order of events, and therefore their lines. This often happens naturally as a performer goes through rehearsals and movement, or is added to the piece during blocking.
  • Reading or writing - Some performers prefer to write out or speak their lines repeatedly. This process of repetition helps them to learn their lines as a grounding before they add movement.

Once on stage, a performer should always be acting, even if it is not their turn to speak, although it doesn’t have to be large and noticeable to be effective. Performers should always be in role, even if they aren’t playing a character - this is sometimes known as actor as demonstrator. Coming out of character, or out of role, is called corpsing.

A female and a male actor run lines from a script
Two actors run lines

Cues

When learning a script, it is important for a performer to also learn their cues. For example, a character’s first line may follow a lighting change at the start of the play and even if they are on stage prior to the lighting change they must not speak until they have seen or heard their cue. Performers also need to respond or react to others on stage, and considering how a character might react to the lines or actions of others in the play is very useful.