Well, we are officially off-book for Act One! Woot woot! With less than a month until showtime this is a really good thing. Another good thing? All of the music has been learned and we’ve run Act 1 twice all the way through now.
With 2 rehearsals, we all had a very busy weekend. And it was a very productive weekend at that. I am most proud of how much blocking was covered on Saturday. Not only did we run all of Act 1 with music and any learned choreography, but we also blocked 5 out of 7 scenes in Act 2. That’s right, we only have 2 scenes that haven’t been touched yet. Our kids did sing through the big celebration number at the end though, so that almost makes up for those 2 scenes.
Sunday night, as the Act 1 off-book date, we ran Act 1 with music and choreography again. This time without scripts. This is a hard thing to do. Scripts become safety nets (especially if you write in all your blocking notes – as you should be doing) and giving them up can be nerve racking. And memorization is tricky!
So, without further ado, here are my tricks for memorization:
1) Repeat, repeat, repeat. It doesn’t matter how or where you do this, but it is imperative that you repeat your lines over and over again to commit them to memory. In the past, I’ve done this in the car, in the shower, and silently in my head while doing other tasks. I’ve also practiced my lines silently by typing them out and then correcting what I got wrong later. This method is a little better for longer lines and speeches, but if you’re bored during study hall and have access to a computer/iPad, it’s not a bad idea.
2) Step number one only helps you with your lines, and unfortunately, that is not enough. How do you know when to come in with your memorized lines? So now you need to practice with someone else, or use the Shakespeare method. I’ll get to the latter in a moment. Practicing with someone else is really helpful. I find it helpful to practice with someone not in the play with me so that they can be on book and correct me when I get even one word wrong. Tell this person up front how much help you want when you get stuck. Also let them know if you they should tell you immediately when you make a mistake, or if they should wait until the end of a section or scene before telling you. Of course, it’s also helpful to run lines with your fellow actors, but if you’re all trying to memorize your lines, no one can be on book for you, so this is something that should be done to help keep your lines, not something that should be done to help you memorize them.
3) Okay, the Shakespeare method, which is my unofficial name for making cue scripts for yourself. This consists of having your lines written (or typed) with one or 2 lines that precede each of yours. For example, if your lines are, “Hey, you! Watch out” and, “Yeah, I guess that makes sense” your cue script would look like this:
Rufus: Why did the chicken cross the street? Let’s find out! (starts to cross street)
Me: Hey, you! Watch out.
_______________________________________________________________________(underscore line - in case it doesn't show up in your email)
Barbara: Don’t you think it would be easier to just carry what you can hold and come back for the rest later?
Me: Yeah, I guess that makes sense
All the lines that you don’t say (except for your cue) are represented by the line and you only need to include the scenes with your lines. This, of course, will not help with your blocking, but it’s a good way to practice and memorize your lines if you don’t have anyone to help you. There are several apps these days that can help you with memorization with cues so that you don’t have to do this, but it’s worked for centuries, so why not give it a try?
4) So far we’ve only talked about your lines, but knowing your blocking with your lines is really helpful. For that I suggest knowing your lines and adding in the blocking as you practice them. The blocking can be in your head if you aren’t able to move around (like if you’re in the car), or it can be in a smaller space, like your bedroom. Think of your blocking as you’re practicing and learning your lines and then occasionally double check your script to make sure you’re right. Hopefully, muscle memory will take over and not only will your movements/blocking become second nature, but having the blocking down might even help you remember your lines in turn.
5) Lyrics and choreography – I’ve already talked about these, so I’m combining them into one recap. Practice is key for both. Listening to the music on the website is also key for both. When you’re listening to a song you like on the radio (or Spotify) you sing it over and over and soon, you can not only sing along with it, but probably sing a good portion, if not all of it, on your own. So why not do the same with the “Doo Wop” music? Listen to it a lot, sing along to it, and then once you have a good handle on it, try singing it without the vocals. The first time you do this you may need your script to help you along, but if you continue doing this, very soon, you won’t need your script at all! For choreography, just like blocking this can be done in your head, but if you’re still working on committing songs to memory, why not move while singing? I mean, you’re already listening to the music and you’re going to have to sing and dance at the same time on stage so you might as well start now.
Okay, those are some tips and tricks. Maybe you have one of your own that works. Feel free to share it so that everyone can benefit from it. After all, theater is a team sport.
See you Saturday,