Anthony Hopkins once said, “Once you know [the script] so well that you can improvise and make it real, it’s easy. You can’t pretend to know it—it’s impossible to and I couldn’t do it.” 

If there is one skill actors simply must learn to develop, it’s their ability to memorize lines. One day they’re given several jam-packed pages of text to learn within two months; other times, they are required to nail what is on the page within 12 hours—or less! Some thespians have their own tried-and-true styles of memorizing lines, but for those who are on the lookout for memorization tips, here are a few to consider. 


Memorize It from the Top 

This technique involves mastering the first sentence before incorporating the second, and only moving on to include the third line once lines one and two are memorized. Love Actually’s Bill Nighy is among the many performers who rely on this approach. He describes his process this way: 

“You have your breakfast at 9:00, you go into the livingroom at 10:00. You start with the first line; you say it 18 times. Then you attach it to the second line, and then you say both of them 19 times. And you continue through the play. Then you stop at 1:00 and have your lunch, resume at 2:00. And by 4:00, your brain goes and then you can have the rest of the day off. And you do that without the phone on, and you do that for a week.” 


A Strand of First Letters

 Actress Lauren Tothero shares a tip to memorize lines which she insists “will change your life.” Indeed, it helped her learn a 15-minute monologue, word-perfect. After reading over her lines a few times, Tothero takes out a pen and piece of paper and writes down just the first letter of each word, including spacing, punctuation, and capitalizations. So, for example, “Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” ends up looking like this: “R, R! W a t R?” Then she tries to read back the lines using the first-letter clues. “This has been a total game-changer in how fast I can get off book,” Tothero insists. 


Mind Palace 

Memory expert Ron White encourages actors to use a technique called Mind Palace, a practice that dates back thousands of years. Even Shakespeare is said to have used the method in the Globe Theatre in London. It involves actors visualizing relevant objects in strategic places tucked within their own minds. 

First, close your eyes and picture your home; imagine entering through the front door and proceeding on a specific route throughout the entire home. It is important to establish an order to your wandering—such as roaming clockwise through each room—to keep things moving in a reliable, chronological order. 

From there, familiarize yourself with the script (“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”) and select one of the passage’s key words. “World” can be visualized as a globe, so picture a globe in the entryway. Next, mentally place a painting of an elaborate stage on your wall to represent “stage,” and just beyond it, visualize men and women waiting in line to go on a merry-go-round that basketball players are riding (“men and women are merely players”). Some people swear by this technique. 


For Auditory Learners 

Make a recording of your lines on a tape recorder, cell phone, or an app such as Dialog Master Pro or Rehearsal Pro. Then listen to the lines repeatedly throughout the course of your day whether exercising, driving, or doing chores. To promote fresh deliveries of those lines when it counts the most, it helps to simply speak the lines into the recording device; it is important to not drill into your mind a single artistic interpretation of the material. 


For Visual Learners

Print out several copies of your lines and post them in strategic places around the house. Actress Belgica Paola Rodriguez likes to put one printout into a ziplock bag and hang it in the shower. She also posts the lines on her bathroom mirror, so she can conveniently keep working on the material when she is getting ready for work. 

Other techniques include handwriting the text and practicing with a partner. Also remember to take breaks; research shows that both sleep and exercise have a beneficial impact on memorization. 

Learning lines takes time and dedication. Although some people seem to have a knack with memory skills while others struggle a bit more, it all boils down to putting in the required effort.