There’s a relatively new online product out that was created to help actors learns lines. Just click on over to MemorizeShakespeare.com and see what the buzz is about.
The whole idea behind this method is that learning by ear the most effective way to remember text, just like the way you learn song lyrics or another language. The learning is entirely audio. There’s no text to read so that you don’t memorize the page layout rather than the text, you instantly know how to pronounce words, the rhythm of the text, and you don’t have to worry about hurting your arm with the weight of the complete works in your hand. You can even download your cues to practice with once you learn your lines.
Sounds pretty good, right? Before going any further let me take this opportunity to invite you to try it for yourself. You can download their sample and learn Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. Although there are plenty of helpful tips out there to help actors learn lines, most experienced actors have a method that works for them after years of experimenting. This one might work for you, it might not.
The advantages I mentioned above sound good and it’s definitely better than nothing. But for someone who is serious about succeeding in acting Shakespeare’s text this method is not the alpha and omega of learning lines.
There is a fair level of inflexibility with recorded text. In any given production, lines may be cut. With ScenePartner, each cue is a single track. But sometimes pieces of lines are cut. A few lines in the middle of a speech may be removed, words are different depending on the source, and directors may even alter words. Punctuation is different in various editions which can alter phrasing and meaning and the recorded version might not correspond perfectly.
Students beware. You might be new to acting Shakespeare and glad to find a resource that tells you how to pronounce the words and memorize the text easier, but do you know what all the words mean? I would recommend not learning any lines until you have discovered what the difficult or unfamiliar words mean. You can’t act words you don’t know. Please take the time to figure out what you’re saying first, no matter what method of memorization you use.
If actors were to do their homework to find definitions, do scansion, play with the imagery in the text, and make the words their own so that the words aren’t merely being recited, this resource may be a good addition (not substitute) to the methods they employ to learn lines.
From $12-24 per album for lines and another $12-24 for cues (price varies per character), it’s not too much of a hole in your wallet for this help, and if it works for you – by all means, take advantage of this resource!
The long term investment of a good reference books and a digital audio recorder make for a much cheaper alternative if you plan to memorize a lot of Shakespeare.