Three or four weeks ago in my Acting in London class, we had a class session on how to memorize lines. Basically the trick is say your lines out loud, push yourself to memorize one line further than you thought you knew, say your lines as different characters, say them in different pitches of voice, say them with the lights on and then with the lights off, say them with your cheek on the floor (how cheeky!), and say them how you would if were a phone sex line operator. We did all of these things to memorize the Tommy Knocker rhyme.
The week after that, my Acting in London instructor brought in a scene. We did a cold read through. The scene did not have defined characters, instead at every dash, a new person could speak the line. Because we are all actors, we were all fighting for each opportunity to speak. The lines we said in class were assigned to us. We took those lines home to memorize. That was a bit difficult for me, but having an ensemble to play off of and lines that responded to the previous line mitigated my difficulties. The lines seemed to fit with the previous cue. It was also only a scene, 3 pages.
Currently, I am having a lot of trouble memorizing my lines for my Performing Shakespeare class! For this class, we will be putting on a show. This show would be a collection of our favorite, most daring and influential Shakespeare pieces. We each had to choose two or three monologues that we felt passionately about, that spoke about our beliefs, and liked the verse. I chose one of Emilia’s monologues from Othello where she is angrily ranting that it is a husband’s fault if their wives are unhappy because husbands (primarily hers since he is one of the biggest, worst villains in Shakespeare history--Iago) are cruel, abusive, peevishly jealous, restricting cheaters. I liked this piece, not only because she’s awesome and hates men, but also because somewhere during her angry rant, she has a brief line or two about equality. This is one of the only moments where Shakespeare mentions equality between men and women. Back then women were not allowed to perform in his plays, this made the thought of equality seem like a joke back then. However, Shakespeare is a badass, ahead of his time. Emilia, in Act IV, says “Let husbands know their wives have sense like them: they see and smell and have their palates both for sweet and sour, as husbands have.” Not only do I agree that men suck, but also my inner feminist drew me to one of the only lines depicting equality in Shakespeare’s works. I am also currently very proud of myself because I just quoted Emilia without having to look at my script! This means that I successfully memorized Emilia’s monologue!
My second piece is much harder to memorize! I chose one of Rosalind’s monologues from As You Like It. I liked this piece because it contrasts Emilia’s. Rosalind, in Act III, is playing a man. She is comically trying to persuade Phoebe that she is not beautiful, no one wants to go to bed with her with the lights on anyway, so she should just sell herself to Silvius now while he is chasing after her. This monologue is incredibly difficult to memorize because there are so many puns, weird negatives, Shakespeare does not say things I would normally hear them said or say them myself, and the rhythm has to keep in meter.
I was sitting in the kitchen with my ever so kind flat mate Elieen. She was running lines with me and it was incredibly frustrating. I would start my monologue and I would have the right idea but the words out of order, I would just flat out not know what comes next, or not know how to start the next line. The number of times I kept calling line was so numerous, it was sad. For those of you that don’t know, calling line is a term you use when you would like the person with the script to provide you with the beginning to the next line. I felt incredibly frustrated that it was taking me so long to absorb the ins and outs of the monologue.
I asked myself why this was so hard? Olin has taught me problem solving, innovative design, the uses of technology, how to stimulate my creativity, how to fight to the death for classes you want to take next semester, how to be a good team member, how to learn, what recycled food in the dining hall tastes like, but never ever memorization. Memorization is not one of the skills Olin teaches its students. The only thing I have to memorize at Olin is the 3 digit combination to my mail box and I failed to memorize even that! I just leave my mailbox open and whoever wants to take my mail, can have it! I don’t really need it anyway! But no one really takes my mail because it’s boring mail and the honor code exists.
I find it so interesting that I’m struggling with this. I guess this is the part of my curriculum here that is very important to theatre majors, but will not be important to me when I go back to Olin. However, I guess it’s nice to know that if I ever need to memorize anything, I know how to do it…by pretending I have a phone sex hotline!