How long does it take you to learn lines?

  • User Deleted

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    I'm busy cramming lines to stand in for an actor who can't make a performance this Monday; which made me wonder - how long does it take people to learn lines?

    • 19th Jul 2009
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  • Jonathan Goodwin

    Actor

    Panic can be a magnificent incentive! I appeared once in a play when the leading lady had to drop out due to illness. A stand-in was found the afternoon of the performance, and she went through with the performance, book in hand. The audience, however, appreciated the fact that she had stepped into the breach and that the show had to go on.

    As to your question, well, it generally depends on the length and complexity of the lines to be learned. If you've a photographic memory, you are quids in. Break a leg for tomorrow's performance!

    • 12th Jul 2009
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  • Nathan Head

    Actor

    I've learned lines in a very short space of time in the past, but that has generally been for productions where i am working with or for friends. it has been more relaxed and less pressure.

    Other jobs I have always given myself as long as possible to learn them. but as said above, it depends on the length and so on.

    • 12th Jul 2009
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    I find it harder than I used to, I think that's age though!

    One tip but not unique...however, I find it the very best for me: Once I have learnt the lines...I play the other lines into a tape, but reading my own lines very quietly. Great for practice...and if you turn down the volume....you can't hear your own lines at all.....but if you get stuck for a prompt turn UP the volume and you can just about hear your lines too. If that makes sense! I then put it on CD and play everywhere I can.

    On the day....relax as much as you can...and if you start to drift just listen carefully to the other actors.

    "Hmmmm!"...anyone knowing me and or has worked with me will no doubt accuse me of do as I say not as I do!!

    You have a tough call...but we all wish you good luck.

    • 12th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    Some years ago ... my week off from a long running series.... phone call from Director, 8 am: can I get my ass down for Producers run, scheduled at 10 am: I lived in Cheshire. Burnt rubber, and duly arrived on time, ( those were the days ). After run, was approached by Director, handed the 100 page script. and told to take over the other Leads part ... I had exactly 18 hours to make ready. Now that's when the adrenaline kicks in: a kind of organised panic takes over ( an oxymoron if ever I heard one ). The 18 hours went in a blur, but, I'm happy to say, all went sufficiently well ... how I managed it, I still don't know .. but I got a great kick out of the Director coming up and saying " if anybody could do it, I knew you could ".

    So ... I know what you are going through

    ..... having trod the path .. You WILL do it, the brain is capable if, you can control the nerves.

    Best of luck old son !!!!.

    • 12th Jul 2009
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  • Nathan Head

    Actor

    hey Mark! i do the same thing!

    it's a very handy tip!

    for a play i was in last year, i would have my dictaphone in my pocket with earphones in, learning my lines on the walk to the station/rehearsal room. :-)

    • 12th Jul 2009
    • 5
  • User Deleted

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    All well and good Fellas ... until the action kicks in. Multi-tasking, it's more modern name. Director wants you to pour a gin and tonic, during your lines.

    The number of times I've seen half a bottle of gin poured, as the actor tries manfully to remember his dialogue, is without number.

    I think we all have our little ways of remembering ... I know that I always break up speeches in deference to action .. or even allied to action, that way there is no such thing as a long speech, the bane, it seems, of a lot of actors lives.

    • 12th Jul 2009
    • 6
  • User Deleted

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    I find that when it's written well, it's easier to learn. When it's not written well I sometimes struggle.

    I'm generally able to learn lines quickly and due to time contraints in the past have had no choice, so have kind of gotten used to learning them quickly now as a result. Some of my friends find it harder. One friend of mine learns lines while throwing and catching a ball. Then when he can still throw it and catch it without looking at script. So dropping the ball doesn't intefere with his dialogue. That's when he knows he has got it down. I have yet to try that one though, but it seems to work for him! ;o)

    • 12th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    Sophie .... what's this word 'gotten' ?,

    • 12th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    Thanks for pointing that out Allan. English is not my first language but yeah should have spotted that one. Combination of not proof reading before hitting send and speed typing. Sophia ;o)

    • 12th Jul 2009
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    I like to learn by throwing balls around, and generally moving about - it seems to free up my mental and my physical faculties simultaneously, and that helps words to sink in. I really find it difficult in contrast to pick anything up by reading lines to myself quietly in a corner, as many actors do.

    It was once suggested to me that the main reason you fail to remember a line is actually because you fail to have engaged with it emotionally, so forgetting tells you something about where your performance is potentially lacking - which is certainly an interesting theory, if nothing else.

    I do find doing lines last thing at night (if you can take it) does seem to miraculously cement them better the next morning...

    I agree with the principle that you haven't learnt them solidly until you can do something entirely unrelated, and not trip up over your words/ pause for thought etc...

    I also believe that you never really get to know and *understand* them until you have played the part several times on stage, and you begin to see how they actually *work*; prior to this, of course, knowing them solidly enough that they can delivered accurately is a good enough start!

    In screen, everything is different - because you should more or less be coming to the table with the delivery clear in your head, learnt in tandem with the lines. But for stage rehearsal, best to learn the lines with minimum emphasis on *how* they should be played, and maximum emphasis on learning them so lucidly and coherently that you can play them any way the director asks for...

    • 12th Jul 2009
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ...There are various techniques to suit

    & I've tried the lot! The best one for me is the dictaphone system that's been mentioned; I record the lines then simply keep playing them back until memorized.

    I was in a film recently in 103 of the 105 scenes ! I learned the first weeks

    stuff then had to do it from the call sheet dished out for the next day's filming! It then got complicated when the call sheet schedules were changed around! There were times when a paragraph of text needed to be learned 45 mins before shooting! Without the dictaphone I would have been up tin pan alley wihout a kipper!

    ..It's interesting how once you've got the character sorted,you learn the lines a lot faster.

    • 13th Jul 2009
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  • Nigel Peever

    Actor

    Yep I agree with Mark record all the lines with gaps then you learn the cues too. I have a slight variation in that I leave the gap followed by my lines full volume so that I don't paraphrase.

    I also agree with the "well written" comment some lines are easier to learn than others, e.g. repetitive lines with variations are irritating (which one is this? stuff) The detective always has the harder job than the suspects because he has to ask the questions. etc

    • 14th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    I also do the Dictaphone thing, very useful but I tend to have someone else read the lines either to me or to the Dictaphone, I find it easier to listen to someone else's voice, plus it helps me focus on the meaning and the flow of a scene which often helps the lines make more sense. But that's probably just me!

    J x

    • 14th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    Yeah, I use the dictaphone & gap method, seems to work. I actually try to mimic the other actor when recording his / her lines - pretty funny results at times, but it helps.

    After reading some of the above comments I then had a go at delivering my lines whilst doing other stuff (I'm not sure my girlfriend believed playing solitaire waspart of my method, though she seemed to accept my tidying the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, etc!). Really helped identify those sections that needed more work.

    Performed last night, and it seemed to go well. Had three pints of Guiness afterwards, feel ropey today!

    • 14th Jul 2009
    • 14
  • User Deleted

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    Well done Ed. .... One thing for sure though, it aint the Liffey Water that made you feel ropey ... it's the aftermath of the adrenaline.

    • 14th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    i use the technique with the dictaphone, and i am still shocking. i am horrendous at learning lines, and fair much better on improvised projects. but when i do have to learn them, i struggle!!

    wrong business i hear you cry .... believe me its a thought that has crossed my mind more than once!!

    • 15th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    I think it's best not to see it as so many lines or pages but to make sense of what you are saying-use your own words first to establish the structure of the speech/scene.I usually highlight my lines so that I have a mental picture of them.I also find that looking in the mirror,walking around or doing other tasks help.It's also good to get up really early when there are no distractions.Good luck to you.

    • 15th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    Allan - re the adrenaline: that makes sense, they do say adrenaline is brown. No wonder I was feeling sh*%%y!

    • 15th Jul 2009
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  • User Deleted

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    Hah .. what yer needed Ed, my boy, was a coupla more pints down yers .. that's when the adreneline turns into all the lovely colours of the rainbow .. an' yer couldn't give a toss about learnin' lines ......

    • 15th Jul 2009
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