Here are some things that work for me when learning the text of a play. Some of them are painfully obvious, but I keep forgetting them anyway. If you find them useful, fantastic:
- Always have the script around.
- Stay off Facebook. Instead of checking FB/email/news, check the script. (It’s probably more interesting, anyway.)
- Use the Paper Trick from Barry Edelstein’s Thinking Shakespeare: cover your script with a sheet of paper, speak your first line, then reveal it and confirm accuracy. Repeat with each and every line.
- This is hand-in-glove with the Paper Trick: when I consistently struggle with a line, it’s usually because I don’t yet entirely know WHY I’m saying it. So, figuring out WHY is crucial… Are you replying to someone? Did you just have a brilliant idea? Is there an ACTION that you’re using with the line? What are you trying to DO to the other person, etc. Again, basic obvious acting stuff. But combine these questions with the Paper Trick and don’t reveal the next line until you’ve answered them for yourself. Always ask: WHY am I choosing THESE particular words, at THIS particular time, with these particular people?
- Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Just make certain you’re repeating the right words.
- Review with a friend: ideally while doing something else like driving (be careful) or folding laundry (be really careful)… disrupting your brain forces you to think differently and react spontaneously to unusual stimuli… like that bicycle.
- Slow down. There’s a common phrase in music schools: “The fastest way to learn something is to learn it slowly.” It’s also the SUREST way to learn something.
- Go backward. I love this one: start at the end of a scene or monologue and work each beat in reverse. I don’t mean reversing the words, just the thoughts. The killer feature of this trick is that it tends to answer questions like WHY you’re saying something! The other advantage is that the end of a scene/monologue doesn’t get short shrift.