Here it is…the BIG lines. I know, it’s sometimes really tough especially learning your lines when you a) have no time b) your scene partner’s lines are not really giving you a hint on what you will say next and c) you don’t understand what you’re saying (for example medical or juridical terms). So how to tackle the huge pile of papers and these endless-seemingly sentences?
UNDERSTAND THE TEXT
There are several ways to learn lines, but the most important thing at first is that you really have to understand what you’re talking about. I know that seems to be obvious. But still when having asked actors what they were really talking about many answered: “I am not sure.” Do your job, guys! This is the part where you have to put all your focus and energy in. A person doesn’t randomly talk about things he or she doesn’t know about. We want to portray normal people that know what they are saying (ok, sometimes maybe not) and have a goal in what they are doing.
So do your research! If you are playing a doctor or a nurse, look up the words you don’t understand, go on youtube or ask around. You can even call a hospital or a private practice and find out what your part is talking about. If you’re supposed to play a lawyer call a law firm or ask a friend if he 0r she can help you out. When I had to play a cop I just called the nearest police station and got referred to people who could answer my questions. Don’t hesitate in doing this! Nobody will be mad at you; in contrary: some are amused and excited that you’re interested in their job! There are so many ways to getting your answers. There’s only one way that’s not an option: NOT DOING YOUR RESEARCH!
Once you’ve understood what you’re saying, you can carve out the words better, you know what opinion you have towards the words you’re saying.
Annie Grindlay, the acting coach says something I can really relate to when tackling a scene:
“I don’t want to talk about lines, I want to call them words. I don’t want to talk about beats, objectives, obstacles, I want to call it “the problem”. I don’t want to talk about “the scene”, I want to talk about “the conversation” you and your scene partner are having. I don’t want to refer to you as the role, but a normal person.”
What does this mean?
You are a normal person with a problem having a conversation saying words – that’s all.”
So better know what you are talking about, because it’s your words you’re using as the person you are portraying in this very moment!
Once you’ve understood what you are saying, you got to learn the lines (or in Annie’s case “the words”). As most of the Casting Directors want you to be sticking to the given text you should learn the words you’re supposed to be saying by heart.
Here are some ways to learn lines:
1) The old-school way: You can learn lines by reading one sentence after the other and repeating.
2) A lot of actors including me are recording the scene partner’s lines via phone and replay them several times. There are some useful apps that help you with that.
3) Another way of remembering lines that I found useful when you have a text that is not so connected: THE MIND CASTLE. It’s an interesting technique where you work with pictures and your imagination to get your lines memorized.
FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS:
Let’s say you’ve learned your lines and you are pretty sure about them but still you are afraid that you will mess them up. Here’s the thing: You did your job, now live in the moment. That means first and foremost LISTEN TO YOUR PARTNER. If you don’t listen you will probably struggle with lines. If you listen, you can organically react to what he/she is saying and then the words will just flow – trust me on that! Let go of your fear of messing it up! You are an actor. You are here to play a person authentically, so instead of being an actor that is worrying about his/her lines, be the person in the film or play that you are supposed to be right now! Good luck!