Teacher Tip | How to Get Your Actors to Learn Their Lines and Cues While Performing

Especially when teaching children, getting your actors to learn their lines and cues can be a problem. In a rehearsal with a full class of students, there often isn’t time to sit down and go through lines with individuals. You send the scripts home but you still have actors coming back without their lines learned or not knowing when their lines are supposed to be spoken. How can you get around this and help students learn their lines throughout the process?


We’ve all felt like doing this with a script when we’re getting nowhere…
via GIPHY

The Right Way to Drill

There are a number of ways to help your actors learn their lines, but the most effective is often repetition. However, no matter how many hours you may spend drilling lines with a child, they still may not know when to speak. It’s so common for a child to know their lines perfectly and still consistently struggle with their cues. I’ve spent many hours trying to refresh on cue lines and communicating with parents to no avail. One of the main stumbling blocks I encountered as a director was enforcing cues… until I learned to drill correctly!

'The true art of memory is the art of attention.' - Samuel Johnson Click To Tweet

‘But what is the correct way?’ I hear you ask. You need to learn lines and cues in a sequence. By drilling the lines in a sequence, you’re enforcing exactly when they should be spoken. Here is an example of how to block a five-line scene in this way:

Line 1 (learn):

  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • The student repeats it again.

Line 2 (learn):

  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • The student repeats it again.

Now students repeat their lines alone in the following sequence. If you need to remind them, run the above learning drill once more for their line.

Drill:

  • Line 1
  • Line 2
  • Line 1
  • Line 2

Line 3 (learn):

  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • The student repeats it again.

Drill:

  • Line 2
  • Line 3
  • Line 2
  • Line 3
  • Line 1
  • Line 2
  • Line 3

Line 4 (learn):

  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • The student repeats it again.

Drill:

  • Line 3
  • Line 4
  • Line 3
  • Line 4
  • Line 2
  • Line 3
  • Line 4

Line 5 (learn):

  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • You say it.
  • The student repeats it.
  • The student repeats it again.

Drill:

  • Line 4
  • Line 5
  • Line 4
  • Line 5
  • Line 1
  • Line 2
  • Line 3
  • Line 4
  • Line 5
  • Line 1
  • Line 2
  • Line 3
  • Line 4
  • Line 5

After learning section one (five lines) repeat the process for section two (a further five or six lines). Then review section one and section two together, twice. Continue to build in this way but be careful not to do too many sections in one rehearsal as they’re more likely to forget for the following week.

Building Week-to-Week

Silly Fish founder, Rebecca reviewing lines and cues with the Prague Youth Theatre Juniors.
Silly Fish founder, Rebecca reviewing lines with the Prague Youth Theatre Juniors.

So you’ve blocked a scene of the show. How can you continue to progress week-to-week without forgetting previous work?

At the start of each class, before beginning a new scene, sit your class down and review the previous week’s line sequence without the blocking. Once you’ve given the class a small reminder of their lines and cues, run through the previous week’s scene on the stage, including blocking. After a quick review, begin working on the next section. Try to leave enough time at the end of class to review both scenes together.

This method slows down the blocking process slightly but ultimately speeds up the entire process as you hopefully shouldn’t need to reblock any scenes that students have completely forgotten. It takes a little schedule planning but is well worth the effort!

You may also be interested in:

Teacher Tip – Five Tips For Learning Lines With Young Actors Who Can’t Read

Teacher Tip – How to Direct Text Using Actions

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