Basic Tips for Memorizing Speeches, Skits, and Plays

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From time to time you will be required to memorize lines for a play, a speech, or a skit of some kind. For some students this will come easily, but others may experience anxiety at the thought of memorizing lines.

The first task is to separate out any anxiety about speaking in front of others and deal with that apart from the actual memorization process. Realize that memorizing is one source of concern, and speaking to a group is another. Focus on one issue at a time.

Just knowing this will ease some of your worry and give you more of a sense of control. We worry about things when they feel out of our control.

Memorizing Lines

The best single advice for memorizing anything is to study in a way that appeals to as many senses as you can. By seeing, hearing, feeling, and even smelling your material, you reinforce it in your brain.

There are several ways to reinforce information through your senses. Your best bet is to combine three of these techniques. You'll find that some techniques are appropriate for your specific assignment and others are not.

Memorizing With Sight

Visual prompts act as a great tool for reinforcing information and committing them to memory.

  1. Use flash cards. Put all your prompts on one side and your lines on the other.
  2. Draw a series of pictures that represent your speech or your lines. Remember picture stories from preschool? Be very creative and think of a picture story to go along with your lines. After you've created your picture story, go back and say your lines as you look at the pictures.
  3. Say your lines in front of a mirror and move your face or your arms a special way to emphasize specific words or passages.
  4. If your lines come in the form of a script, cover over other actors' lines with strips of sticky note. This makes your own lines stand out on the page. Read them over several times.
  5. Visualize other actors' faces saying your cues and follow with your own lines that follow the cues.
  6. Use your smart phone to video yourself saying your lines and watch it. Then repeat if necessary.

Memorizing With Feeling

Feelings can be internal (emotional) or external (tactile). Either type of experience will reinforce your information.

  1. Write out your lines. The act of writing the words provides very strong reinforcement.
  2. Carry your script or speech with you at all times and read the full text when you get a chance to get a strong emotional "feel" for it.
  3. Get to know your character. Understand why you say and do what you do.
  4. Act out your lines as you say them, even if this is an unemotional speech. You can so this in front of a mirror and exaggerate your words with dramatic gestures. Of course, you don't want to do this during your actual speech, but you will be thinking about it.
  5. Try memorizing backward, from end to start. This separates the emotion from the words. Then read the text from start to finish, with feeling. This technique reinforces the emotional aspect.
  6. Learn to think like your character (get a feel for him or her). This can save you if you forget your lines on stage. Simply think like the character and say what he would say as close to the real lines as possible.

Memorizing With Sound

Sound is a very effective tool for memorization. There are a few different ways to incorporate sound into your memorization skills.

  1. Read the script and record the lines of the other performers and leave the microphone off as you read your own lines. This leaves blank air space for your lines. Go back and practice saying your own lines at the appropriate times.
  2. Record your lines with exaggerated vocal expressions. You may even want to yell your words. Exaggerations leave big imprints in your brain.
  3. Record the entire play or performance during a rehearsal.
  4. Carry your recorder with you and listen to it as often as you can.
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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "Basic Tips for Memorizing Speeches, Skits, and Plays." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 26). Basic Tips for Memorizing Speeches, Skits, and Plays. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "Basic Tips for Memorizing Speeches, Skits, and Plays." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 8, 2023).