Medea…and they want to know ‘how you remembered all those lines?’ This used to give me an internal eye roll moment – I can remember my tight lipped assertion that ‘the easiest thing to do was remember lines’. A couple of light reads over the script before rehearsal, a few days rehearsing, and ping, the lines were in my head and I was ready to play. These days the grey matter is less permeable; the lines don’t stick as easily, and require hard graft to embed them in the memory banks.
I am off to the Fortune in Dunedin to do a brand spanking two hander by Ellie Smith, called One Perfect Moment. It’s the story of a mother and daughter on a globe trotting holiday together, their relationship and escapades. 50% of the lines are mine. If it’s not my turn its my turn next.
I am applying a different strategy to line learning this time – one I gleaned from Sir Ian McKellen, in a forum at Toi Whakaari. When asked THE QUESTION, he said he learnt his lines by reading the script, 60-100 times. The benefit of this substantial investment is that you really get the flow of the story, of what’s going on for the characters, and their relationships. Miraculously, random phrases start to stick in you head. I can’t claim 100 or even 60, but I reckon I am at 20 or 30 readings. I am committed to learning 4 pages a day before rehearsal (number of pages of script divided by available days).
I take my script with me everywhere. I learn the lines on the bike at the gym, as I garden, cook, wash dishes and travel. I am integrating them in an active way, into my body. I find new rhythms and insights with different background activities. I mark up the script, and note where what the character wants changes – this helps me hang the lines on the character’s drive – ‘motivation’.
At the same time, I am really aware of not fixing interpretations – I want to be available to play with my fellow actor, to discover in rehearsal, and stay responsive as we perform – Miesner technique has actors learn in a monotone – I am not doing that, rather I start to hear my character’s voice in the rhythms and sentence structures, and this opens up a delta of possibilities for me, to be navigated in rehearsal.
My friend Miranda Harcourt always says that you should truly learn your lines, ‘by heart’. So that they are intuitively there, inside you, pumping around your body. No ‘actor nano-pause’ searching.
I am getting there, line by line. Thinking positively helps as well!