Have you ever found yourself riding the momentum of intention and emotion in your monologue work—only to come to a screeching halt as your mind grasps unsuccessfully for the next line? You’re not alone! Plenty of actors struggle with memorization. But there are a number of strategies you can use to commit your dialogue to memory and truly free yourself from the page.
My mantra is, “We learn by doing, we get better by practicing.” So, ready to get to work? Below are five approaches to help you memorize your next monologue—try them out and see which ones work best for you.
1. Connect with it.
There are countless books focused on monologues and websites with extensive libraries of monologues to peruse, including Backstage’s Monologuer! Take the time to dive into these and find a monologue you connect with. Learning and exploring new material is of course fun, but the pull of a piece that resonates with you on a higher level will make locking down your dialogue an easier mountain to climb. You identify with the intentions, you feel the emotions, and you can relate to the conflict. This immediate connection will give you a head start in learning your lines.
2. Read it aloud.
Auditory linking is another helpful piece of the memorization puzzle. In addition to having the visual memory from seeing the words on the page, you now also have gifted yourself the memory of hearing your dialogue spoken aloud.
3. Break it up.
Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to learn it all at once. Work on it in smaller segments. Go do something fun! Have a snack. Have a dance party. You get the idea. Then come back to it and work on it some more.
4. Try using a mnemonic device.
Write down the first letter of each word in each of your lines. For example, M-T-F-B-W-Y. Can you guess this famous movie quote? This is a great technique for helping you jog your memory and recall your dialogue. “May the Force be with you” is the line. Did you identify it? Now try it out on your next monologue!
5. Get visual.
Print out copies of your monologue and hang a page up on the bathroom sink. Stick one on the fridge. Have it saved on your phone or tablet for when you are commuting on the train, waiting for an appointment or for a friend who is habitually late. You get the point.
Part of your work as an actor includes learning as many different strategies for learning dialogue and getting off-book as quickly as you can. This gives you a strong foundation of techniques to be able to determine which one or which combination of techniques works best for you individually to free yourself from the page.
Now go rock that monologue. May the Force be with you.
*This post was originally published on June 10, 2019. It has since been updated.
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