A question I get asked frequently is: "Should my child memorize lines for their audition?” Here’s a general rule of thumb: For the first audition, the performers should be very familiar with the material, only glancing down at the sides for reference. For the callback and for any taping audition, they MUST have lines memorized. This will ensure the performer is connecting with the reader and not the paper. This is important as it demonstrates to the casting director or director that your child is truly a professional and on top of his or her game in a very competitive industry.
Reading and acting are completely different. Someone may be a great reader but a so-so actor or vice versa. If reading is getting in the way of acting, then memorizing lines may be what your child needs to do in order to have a successful audition. One of the most challenging things for young performers —especially first and second graders - is having a natural read when auditioning. Since these young ones are still relatively new readers, they often get stuck on words and the reading becomes unnatural. If they memorize the lines this can take the task of reading away and they can concentrate on being truthful.
One of the caveats of having lines memorized is that the acting goes out the window if lines are not secured in the brain. The actor will be trying to remember the next line instead of being in the moment and listening to the reader.
There are also scenarios such as this: It is Wednesday afternoon, and your child just got an audition for a television pilot. There are four scenes on nine pages and you were told it must be memorized by Friday. Sound familiar? Don’t panic! Here are some tips to help you keep your sanity while helping your child memorize the lines.
1. Highlight the character’s lines. This will allow your child to quickly locate the appropriate line when glancing down at the paper if it is still needed in the audition.
2. Repeat the lines. Have your child read the lines with someone out loud over and over again. Remind them to memorize the lines only, not the cadence and inflection. They need to discover something new each time they read the lines and say them as if they are spoken for the first time, each time.
3. Break the lines down into smaller pieces. Don’t have your child tackle the entire script all at once. Break the script down into small sections and repeat, repeat, repeat until the lines are ingrained.
4. Work on lines before going to sleep. Studies have shown that studying lines right before bed can have a big impact on recall. Be sure to have your child review them again in the morning to help lock them into memory.
Remember that memorizing lines is only one tool for your child to use in an audition. Remind your child that connecting with the reader is more important than the words they say and if they don’t get the line exactly as written, it is perfectly okay. Making the scene their own with specific choices as well as being able to listen and take direction is what will help them get the attention they need and ultimately land the job.