Tag Archives: acting

Memorizing My Lines

In all of my performance classes, without fail, I’ve had to memorize lines at some point or another.

This year, in Voice class, I had to memorize an edited version of JFK’s “We go to the moon” speech.  I was the one who edited it, and it came down to about a little over a page of text.

And I memorized it, fluidly, in about 3 days.  Not bad.

So, here’s how I normally go about memorizing my lines:

  1. If there is an original recording of the speech, or lines in question, avoid it at all costs.  Do not taint your performance with someone else’s interpretation.
  2. Understand the text.  This is the most important part.  What am I saying?  Why am I saying it?  Who am I saying it to?  Why do they care?  Why do I care?  What is causing me to speak?
  3. Examine the text for clues.  What is the key word, or idea in each sentence?  Look for rhetorical devices, like metaphor, repetition, etc.
  4. Break the text into “argument” sections.  These are usually just paragraphs.
  5. Record myself speaking the lines, without any “acting” – just speaking them normally, and adding the appropriate pauses and breaks for punctuation.
  6. Break that recording up into the argument sections, and put the individual files on my MP3 player in speaking order
  7. While I’m walking in between classes, play the sections.  Listen to myself, pretending I’m the audience.  Ponder how to deliver what I’m hearing.  Ponder how to deliver any rhetorical devices.
  8. Start to speak the lines with the recording.  For me, this is the kinesthetic learning bit.  My mouth and lips learn the “dance” of the speech, so that if I happen to forget a line, my mouth and lips know where to go for the next line, which may remind me what my next line is (understanding the logical structure of the argument also helps to pull out of forgotten lines – if I need to get from A to C, of course I need B…)
  9. Repeat repeat repeat.  Keep playing the MP3 player, and speaking the lines to myself.  Go section by section.
  10. Play the MP3 player even when I’m working on other things, so that it’s playing in the background.
  11. Sleep (without the MP3 player playing).  It’s amazing how, in the morning, all the stuff that I’ve been repeating in my ears and with my mouth is still there, and comes faster and naturally.
  12. Now I’m ready to try to rehearse this thing.  If I have scene partners, I get together with them and just give it a shot.  If I’m doing a solo performance (like with the JFK speech), I try delivering it aloud to an audience of friends.
  13. Practice practice practice.  Rehearse.  Don’t get stuck in a delivery pattern.  I try new things:  I dance the speech, yell the speech, whisper the speech, seduce with the speech.  I get playful.  I put the story of the speech at higher priority than my performance; what is absolutely necessary is that the message/story gets across.  The “acting” is secondary.

And that’s how I do it.  Nothing special, and it works for me.

Some things I’ve learned from Movement and Voice class…

At the University College Drama Program, if you’re taking a Performance course, then you’re taking Voice and Movement.  They go hand in hand.  This is my third year taking Performance at the UCDP, and so this is also my third year with Voice and Movement.

I’ve learned a lot over the past 3 years in V/M.  Though they’re really two separate courses, there is plenty of overlap.  One of the most interesting things about these courses is their similarity to physiotherapy.  In these classes, we’re challenged to become more articulate with muscles that most people take for granted, or don’t even know they have.

So how do you get students to discover new muscles?  This is the challenge I didn’t understand two years ago – the challenge that the instructor has in guiding students to these areas of the body/brain.  Every student is different, and each could have their own way of understanding the mechanical workings of their own bodies – it’s really hard to tell.

So how did they do it?

Metaphors, believe it or not.  Images and metaphors.  I remember thinking that these classes were really…kind of strange, with all of the speaking in metaphors and images…

“Now, imagine that your soft pallate is like one of those automatic-pop-up tents….now POP it open!”

“Imagine more space in your hip flexor…breathe into that space…”

It might sound spacey, or floaty, or like nonsense, but believe it or not, this stuff works.

Probably the best example was in my voice class this year, when the instructor was getting us to find ways of getting our voice over obstructions in our mouths.  In this case, our obstruction was our own tongues – we had placed the tip of our tongue against the lower portion of our bottom teeth, and were pushing the middle of our tongue out of our mouths.

Now try to get sound out.  It might sound like you’re talking into a tin can.

The instructor then got us to try and “arc” our voices out of our mouths – and here’s where the really interesting part came in – he got us to arc our arms forward at the same time.  And it worked.

He said that there are many ways of communicating with the brain, and that one of them – that is often overlooked by academics – is through the body.  It’s called kinesthetic learning.  By arcing our arms away from our body, we were reinforcing the feeling of what he wanted us to do with our voices.

And in doing this, I actually discovered new muscles in my throat.  No joke.  They don’t move much, and they’re very subtle, but they’re there, and they affect sound, and those are what he was trying to get us to find.


Open Auditions for Toronto Student Production

Some buddies of mine are holding auditions for a  student production that they’re putting on called The Imbalance of Life here in Toronto at UofT.

Fellow UCDP students Mike Clarke and Tom Davis are holding auditions on the following dates:

Wednesday, Feb 11:  2PM-4PM, 7:30PM – 9PM  (TOMORROW!)

Thursday, Feb 12: 6PM-10PM

I know it’s short notice, but I just found out myself.

Anyhow, email trinity.dramatic.society@gmail.com if you’re interested in getting a time slot.  And they’re also looking for crew as well as cast, so if you’re technically inclined, and want to get involved, send them an email.