Memory is to an actor what a scalpel is to a heart surgeon–a non-negotiable element of the craft. Whether you’ve got a few lines playing Reporter # 3 or Hamlet’s over 1,500 lines, your brain’s capacity to store information is arguably the most important (and sometimes under-appreciated) tool in your shed. Here are some easy things you can start doing today to give your mind-sponge the edge it needs when it comes to memorizing lines.
1. EAT FISH
While the old adage that fish have a 3 second memory might be false, it is true that fish like salmon come jam-packed with Omega-3 fatty acids.These natural oils help to keep your brain cells healthy, happy, and if consumed regularly can even help combat naturally occurring cognitive decline as we age. Sounds like a win-win.
2. USE YOUR PHONE
One of the most frustrating things that can happen to any actor is missing a cue. It’s great to run lines with a friend to help you learn the flow of dialogue, but if you don’t have a nearby partner try recording the other character’s lines on your phone. Just be sure to leave enough time for your character’s responses. For an added challenge try recording just the last word or two before your character speaks. There are also some great apps like ColdRead and Scene Pal that can help with your lines, but hey I’m old school.
3. GO TO SLEEP
You read that correctly. According to a study by SleepFoundation.org, resting immediately after learning something new (in our case lines) helps your brain make sense of all the information you’ve fed it during the day. And do your best to get a full night’s rest, otherwise you might not be doing yourself any favors when you pull that script out the next day.
“Not sleeping or getting enough sleep can lower your learning abilities by as much as 40%.” –dANIELLE PACHECO
4. KNOW YOUR CHARACTER
It’s not enough to learn lines just for the sake of producing an automated response after hearing a predetermined stimulus. If you find yourself constantly losing your next line you might not be focusing on one of your character’s most important aspects: motivation. Try asking yourself, “What would my character say next?” Often you’ll find the response fits right in with whatever is happening in the scene or situation. So don’t think so much.
5. MOVE THAT BODY
Muscle memory is like a superpower. Think about it: you complete a physical task and whatever impulse you’ve linked to that movement is automatically initiated. Don’t memorize lines in front of a fireplace while nursing a cup of Earl Grey. Get on your feet and move!