Excellent article in today’s NY Times, about the difficulty of cramming other people’s words into your brain, and making them come out as though you had just thought of them.

Learning lines

I never heard of having a prompter sitting in the first row, and mouthing your lines to you, as apparently Matthew Broderick has availed himself of in the opening performances of Starry Messenger. Or having a tiny speaker in your ear, as apparently Angela Lansbury did during her recent foray into Blithe Spirit.  She says that’s to be expected if you’re 84.  Poor Mr. Matt Mulhern just got himself fired from the Hartford Stage Company for pasting a few errant lines into his hat, and then referring to them out of dire necessity. Then there’s my ex, who has thrown her hands in the air, and just reads the damn thing, in her discourse about her grandmother in Nightingale.

Me, I’ve always had terrible trouble learning lines. I started out as a BBC radio actor, and reading the script became the normal way to do it.  Even now, I scan the page into my head, and still read it. The scanning process takes a while. During my days of weekly rep, I was fast.  Now, a rate of an ASA of about 6, if I’m lucky.

There’s the method approach. First get the character, next the thoughts, the feelings in sync. and the words will undoubtedly come. Maybe.  Maybe not the author’s words, but perhaps something even better(?)

But there will always be blocks, words or phrases that refuse to jump into place.  Then trickery is used, links from pictures, initials, numbers, anything that works.

There are some freaks who are blessed with a magic brain, that remembers and hangs on to everything in a flash, no problem. And that’s just not fair.