A photographic memory, a photographic memory! My kingdom for a photographic memory!
Everyone always asks “how do you remember all of those lines?” Now there are many different answers to that question and I suppose an actor may use a variety of different methods throughout his/her career.
Tom Walton, who plays Clarence in the play, has an interesting method. He writes down the first letter of each word on to a sheet of paper and then carries this considerably smaller and more manageable “mini-script” with him wherever he goes. It’s a two-fold process. First, the meticulous act of going through and writing each letter helps to solidify it in the head, and second, the letter is a great mnemonic device (very helpful when memorizing Shakespearean verse).
Grant Byington, who plays Stanley in the play (to avoid confusion our director,Barry Kyle, refers to him as Stanley Grant, and I’m Richard Grant) has an application on his I-pad called Line Learner. He record his speeches with his cues and then can listen to it over and over again, starting and stopping as needed to work a particular line or passage.
As I start my journey into middle age, my current method is to panic, perseverate, and to run my lines ad nauseum. Maybe not the best method but I’m sticking with what I know.
The problem is that there are just so many. I tried last night, to run everything I had thus far (I still don’t have act five down) and it took me 55 min! It’s hard to find 55 free minutes for anyone in this day and age, but trying to run a small theatre company while chasing two small children around all day makes for a unique challenge.
I try to spend an hour in the morning learning new lines. I then through out the day check in with the lines I have down, solidifying and committing them to a longer term memory, then I re-visit the new lines for an hour or so after rehearsal. Usually it’s a jumbled mess, and I get very depressed, but I’ve found if I give them one last look just before bed, sleep on it, then run them again first thing in the morning, they’re usually still there.
Interestingly enough, considering I’m still not completely off book, I’m not too worried. With these well known roles, so many of these lines are familiar that you kind of know the part already. I have “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” memorized and I haven’t even got there yet. Plus he says it twice so there’s two more lines down!
PS- the great irony of it all is that we work so hard to get these lines down and then after a show they all go away. Part of the ephemeral beauty of theatre. It only lives in its brief time, and then it’s gone…