The Reason to Thoroughly Learn Your Lines is So You Can Forget Them 

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  • The Reason to Thoroughly Learn Your Lines is So You Can Forget Them 

    Once the audience believes you’re reciting from the script in your head, you’re dead!

    (By Jim Webb)

    (Photo: Cottonbro | Pexels)

    The worst kind of acting is acting that seems all too scripted. Which is ironic since we, as actors, work from a script. Literally everything we do is based strictly, or loosely, on a script.

  • We might adlib at times. Sometimes we have entire scenes that are improvised. But even in those cases, our actions are based, at least in part, on a script.

    So, how does an actor whose entire existence is based on a script, not appear to be scripted? One answer is to know the script so well that your words and actions are as natural to you as riding a bicycle.

    That means, learning your lines so well that you can effortlessly recall them. That also means, learning the lines of the other characters so that you don’t have to wait for your cue line before you begin speaking. And that means learning the stage directions and the blocking of the scene.

  • It also means, pretending to not know what your character will say or do next, even though you know full well what comes next. Even though you know, you must convince the audience that you have no idea what your next words are.

    Your words and actions should seem like they are just as much of a surprise to you, as they are to the audience. That’s the actor’s great illusion: convincing the audience that the puppets – the actors – come with no strings attached.


    It’s very important for me to know my lines; know them so well that I don’t have to think about them. Because if I don’t know my lines, I really don’t know what I’m doing.

    (Christopher Walken)


    Once the audience believes you’re reciting from the script in your head, you’re dead. You’ve broken the illusion.

    One of the best ways to maintain the illusion is to learn the script forwards and backwards, so that you don’t have to rely on it. The words can just seep from your soul, as if they were your own.

    And as you slowly say your lines, the audience is treated to one of the most enjoyable illusions ever invented: an actor portraying a real human being under imaginary circumstances.


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