Info Page - Tips on Learning Lines and Rehearsing a Scene
In the case of duologues or group scenes, begin by either underlining your lines or marking them with a highlighter pen. If you are doing a solo scene this will not be necessary since all the lines are yours, but you may wish to mark any stage directions.
Get used to rehearsing with a pencil in your hand (or stuck behind your ear or in a pocket), so that you can note down any movements that are worked out in rehearsal (this is known as “blocking”), or any other instructions the Director may give you, such as particular words to emphasise or where you need to be particularly careful about diction, etc. The pencil should be one with an eraser on the end as sometimes ideas are tried and then rejected or changed so you will need to change the markings on your script.
How you actually learn your lines is up to you. Different people find different methods useful. Some people record them onto a tape and listen to it whilst they are in the car or doing other things around the house. If you have a lot of lines to learn, you will probably find it easier to chop the text up into small blocks and aim to learn a fairly small block at a time, rather than trying to learn large chunks at one sitting. When you are fairly confident of the first block, go on to learn the next one. If you have someone at home to help by testing you on your lines, that will be very useful. If not, perhaps you can find a friend to come round and help. Most people like to be asked and usually quite enjoy it.
It is important to learn your lines accurately. Substituting different words which you might consider amount to the same thing (called “paraphrasing”) just will not do. For one thing, the playwright has worked extremely hard to find just exactly the right word or phrase which effectively conveys what he or she wishes to communicate to the audience. Your job is to interpret the text, not to change it to your own version. Also, if you are entering your performance into an examination or a festival, the examiner or adjudicator will have the script in front of them. If you go off script they will notice and dock marks. Your degree of accuracy when learning your lines could make the difference between a pass and a fail, a merit and a pass, a distinction and a merit, or whether you win a prize in a festival.
Please try to read the whole play or the book if it is an adapted scene. You cannot really understand the thoughts and feelings of the character you are portraying if you don’t know how he or she came to be in whatever situation is being played out in the scene. If you are taking an examination the examiner will question you about the story and the characters and expect you to be able to demonstrate a good understanding of the play or book as a whole.
Now get learning – and “break a leg”!