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Do Actors Have to Memorize Lines for an Audition?

August 4, 2017 0 Comments

Do Actors Have to Memorize Lines for an Audition?
By Aaron Marcus

Written for BackStage

Whether or not an actor has to memorize lines for an audition is a question I get asked all the time. It’s a pretty simple and straightforward one, but the answer can be complicated.

If you’re told that the casting director needs all of the actors off-book for the audition, then the answer is easy: memorize your sides.

But you’ll find that most of the time, it’s not mandatory for actors to have their lines memorized for the initial read.

Is there really an advantage to having your lines memorized for the audition? Does being off-book impress casting directors and give you a greater chance of booking the role? No. Casting directors realize you will learn your lines before the callback or shoot. So being a quick study and knowing your lines for the initial audition doesn’t give you a leg up over other actors.

If you can learn your lines and be really solid for the audition then absolutely memorize them. But you don’t get any extra points.

What is important during an audition is having the ability to say your lines in a fluent, interesting, unique, conversational way. If you’re not fully off-book for the audition, there are techniques that will allow you to consistently look at the reader or other actor during your read and periodically glance at your sides to grab a few words.

Some actors try and show off their memorization skills by not even having the sides in their hands when auditioning. If someone can pull that off, good for them. Even if I have things memorized, I always have the sides in my hand as a safety net. Even when you think you have everything memorized, there’s always the chance something happens to cause a moment of forgetfulness. Or maybe your brain takes a bit too long to find the word it’s looking for, causing a bump in the read.

Without the sides easily available, your audition will come to a screeching halt. That’s not a good way to impress industry professionals.

Another less obvious reason why it’s not necessarily great to have your lines memorized is that if you’re auditioning off-book, the casting director may think that your preparation is complete and your read is as good as it gets.

The reality is that quite often, we receive lines the day/night before or the morning of an audition. That does not give us a tremendous amount of time to prepare. But if you give a great read and refer to the sides periodically, they will think the audition was amazing and recognize how much better it will be once it is fully committed to memory.

So don’t stress out if your lines are not committed to memory for an audition. Be incredibly familiar with the lines, but feel free to use your sides when needed.

You can learn more about memorizing your lines by watching this video:


About the Author:

Aaron Marcus has been a full-time actor and commercial model for over 30 years. His new book, How to Become a Successful Actor and Model is an Amazon Best Seller. Aaron has given his seminar: "Book the Job" over 600 times spanning 3 continents. He also offers online workshops. Aaron saves 5 days each month to give private on-line coaching sessions.

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