10 Tried and True Line Memorization Techniques

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

February 27, 2017

Having a hard time memorizing your lines? Below are 10 techniques that will help you get off-book for your big performance. Whether it’s Shakespeare, Mamet, O’Neill, or Simon, you’ll be off-book in no time. Want an infographic so you can download the image to your phone for future reference? Click here.

1. Record yourself.

You memorize songs by listening and singing along. You can do the same with your lines! Record cue lines at regular volume and your own lines at a whisper. Play them back and respond to your cues. Your line “whispers” will help you along.

2. Take a nap!

Researchers from the University of Lubeck say that napping sends memories in the hippocampus to the neocortex, the place where more permanent memories are stored. Run your lines and take a short nap afterward!

3. Go for a stroll.

Take a walk while you run your lines. Moving around will make your brain more active and open to retaining information. It will also simulate the movement of walking around onstage.

4. Use a mnemonic device.

Memorizing blindy can be very stressful. Write down the first letter of every word in your lines. Using this mnemonic device for memory recall will give you a small clue for every word of every line.

5. Write it down!

Many actors are kinesthetic learners, which means they learn by doing a physical action. Instead of reciting lines out loud, try writing them down over and over in a notebook or on loose leaf paper.

6. Hide your lines.

Cover your line and the line above it with a piece of paper. That way, you’ll have to remember your cue line in addition to your own. You’ll be ultra prepared!

7. Mark your blocking.

If you’re memorizing your lines after you’ve blocked your scenes, walk through the blocking while you memorize. This will help you associate your lines with your movement and placement on stage.

8. Use flashcards.

Flashcards are good for more than just science and math class! Write your cue lines on one side and your own lines of the other. With this method, you can study your lines by yourself or with someone else.

9. Go emotionally limp.

Recite your lines with a deadpan voice, and run through them as quickly as you can without mistakes. Know the words as they are written. This allows you to concentrate more on intention, emotion, and reaction when you are performing the scene.

Ashleigh Gardner received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College and her Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Masters Degree in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright, an actor, and PerformerStuff.com’s Editor.