How to Learn Your Acting Lines—Quick and Easy Tips

Updated on November 13, 2019
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew is a drama teacher with over ten years of experience. He has a teaching degree from Huddersfield University in the UK.

Never stop enjoying those acting lines no matter how discouraged you get!
Never stop enjoying those acting lines no matter how discouraged you get! | Source

These tips and exercises will help build vital confidence and understanding for those who face an audition or are nervous about their role in a play.

Unite Action With Speech as Soon as Possible.

You should make notes about gestures, emotions, interactions and plot during the read-through progressions. I would recommend standing up, walking a little, and making a gesture within dialogue.

What to Remember When Rehearsing Without The Script

Keep the script handy as you gradually leave the safety of the written lines behind. If your friend or colleague can help by being a 'prompt' who that fills in your words if you forget then so much the better.

Build your self confidence step-by-step. Keep your script and your friend close by, but try as much as possible to be freestanding. Get into character with physical exercises and warm ups. Focus on a particular favourite line of yours and hook onto any emotion that evokes.

Procedure for Learning a Monologue

Find a Quiet Space

  • Skim-read through whole monologue.
  • Make notes if necessary.
  • Full-read through whole monologue.

Break to Reflect

  • Start with small chunks, read aloud, repeat the lines to yourself (or a colleague or friend)
  • Build into bigger chunks, read aloud, repeat the lines to yourself.
  • Learn small chunks by looking away after reading. Repeat to embed.
  • Learn bigger chunks, build on by looking away after reading. Repeat to embed.

Break to Reflect

  • Trial runs through whole monologue without script (best held by colleague or friend)

Cramming—Learning Your Lines in a Hurry

If you are in a hurry to learn your lines you'll have to cramming is always an option when you have no other choice. The best way to do this is to create a strategy, and then immerse yourself in your lines. Forget about characterisation until the last few rehearsals. All your energy must go into the lines.

Rough Guide To Cramming

Take it step by step, line by line, and have a colleague or friend with you. Spend the first hour as follows:

  • 25 minutes - get straight into the dialogue. Read from script with friend up to end of Act 1.
  • 5 minute feedback.
  • 25 minutes - read up to end of Act 2 or suitable place.
  • 5 minute feedback.

Continue this pattern of learning for three hours with a break of up to 10 minutes at the end of each hour. Give yourself breathing space with a full hour for lunch or a meal and then get back to the work. It's important to keep your calories up. Cram between snacks if you have to!

Build up your learning day after day. You'll have to decide how many hours a day you spend cramming and judge it as your performance date gets closer.

Continue to learn backstage if needs be. Many of my performers have done this over the years when filling in for sick or absent people. It's surprising how much you can memorize when you have to!

Use Pictures and Images

Some actors learn better and faster when they can picture a scene or create a visual that allows them to bring the words to life. It's as if the image helps embed the lines.

Maintain a Good Fitness Level

You want to give yourself the best chance of success right? The best thing you can do is to get into a training regime some weeks or months before by keeping a healthy diet and getting solid deep sleep each night. Use your common sense, and fully commit. Keep as healthy as you can and work out in proportion to the size of your project.

Build up Memory Muscle in Your Brain

Research has shown that memory acts like a muscle, and if it's underused then it will get soft and not work as efficiently. You can help keep the memory fresh by keeping the brain toned. Simple yet challenging exercises can help maintain what's known as procedural know-how which, with practice, can become an automatic way of recalling what's been learnt.

  • Look at objects in a room, turn away, try to recall.
  • Study a painting, close your eyes, and describe the contents.
  • Put 10 objects on a tray, cover them, and then try to name them without looking!
  • Look at the first 5 book titles on a bookshelf, look away, and then try to recall them.
  • Read labels on bottles and containers, close your eyes, and remember what's on them.
  • Recall what you had to eat yesterday.

© 2012 Andrew Spacey


Submit a Comment
  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    7 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thank you vocalcoach. I'm always thrilled when students who start off lacking a bit of confidence are able to build up momentum and learn their lines - surprising themselves most of all! The skills they display, the trust - so enriching.

    It's great to have you visit, appreciate it.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    An outstanding tutorial for actors of all levels! Clear, well presented and very helpful. I am sharing this with my own students as well as HubPages followers and Facebook.

    When the student is ready - the teacher will appear...and he has!

    Voting up and across and ready to read your next hub.


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