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Adventures In Acting - Lines!

Updated: Jun 2

This month's collection of acting-related thoughts and feelings:


Afghan Girl
The iconic cover of the 1969 Beatles' album "Abbey Road," The four band members—George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon—walking across a zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios in London.

"When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not."

Mark Twain - Writer of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"


Lines - In Acting:

"Know your lines and to your own lines be true" - Thomas Shakespeare (Brother of William)


Those funny little shapes of language that make the words, that make the sentences, that make the dialogue that make the "story".

The premeditated noises that are supposed to become our own spontaneous expressions of thought/feeling.

The most common point of wonder when a non actor greets you after seeing your work "how do you remember all those lines?!"

and the truth is.....

We just have to!

After many, many years of experimentation with methods and techniques and sheer brute force, here are some learnings that I have found:

Find a playful way to get the lines into your brainbox!

From years of running classes where actors are introduced to text for the first time and noticing the intense anxiety and infinite negative self talk around what that piece of white paper with black ink on represents to them, some things seem quite clear to me about ones attitude to a script.

No amount of anxiety is useful in the actual act of learning lines.

This might sound obvious but treating the text like a test that needs passing is only preparing you to seek some external idea of perfection and fear of messing it up.

It seems to me, that self esteem, may be indirectly linked, to ones innate ability, to accurately and efficiently, rely on ones own memory.


At the extreme end of the spectrum the actor has to be fearful enough of humiliating themselves in order to properly learn lines and then confident enough in their preparation to get up on that stage or in front of that camera with the feeling that "I got this".

While this may be true on some sub conscious level I stand by the idea that we can find creative ways to enhance memory retention by enjoying the process of taking in all that new information.

We all have preferences in the way we like to learn.

Unfortunately the schooling system is convinced we all learn by sitting still all day and copying from old text books or old people (in my experience).

My personal preference is to get the lines in my own handwriting as soon as possible and then to write them out in a sort of code that consists of the first letter of each word so this speech from William Shakespeare's play "Hamlet," Act 3, Scene 2:

"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc'd it to you, trippingly on the tongue.

But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as live the town crier spoke my lines".



No grammar, no iambic pentameter, no drama!

Looks quite strange but suits me just fine, seems more manageable to me in a way.

If you are unsure about your best learning styles, or even what type of learning styles exist, there is an excellent online test that helps to determine whether you you should use

Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Kinesthetic learning.

You can take the VARK test online here.

Some actors talk about the way they learn lines in interviews:

Repeatedly reading seems to help Sir Anthony Hopkins:

"I learn the text so deeply that I think it has some chemical effect in my brain... Once you know it so well that you can improvise and make it real, it’s easy"

Sarah Paulson suggests combining physical Kinaeshetic activity with line memorization:

“If you can do all your lines while making dinner, you probably know them pretty well”​

Helen Mirren shares a step-by-step guide for memorizing lines which includes Kinesthetic Visual and Auditory learning.

"Learn the words, walk around with the script, listen to recordings, and visualize the scenes"

Find your own unique way of learning that doesn't fill you with pure dread.

There is a difference (I believe) in the "drilling" of lines where we are engaging a more academic part of our brain, perhaps the left hemisphere, and the experience of what Sanford Meisner calls "Living truthfully under the imaginary circumstances" .

One is potentially more heady and the other more below the neck, but they don't have to be mutually exclusive in my humble but extremely well thought out opinion.

Good luck my line learning Lions!

Stay Playful People!


The in person experience:

Here at Adventures in Acting HQ we have been running a Screen Acting workshop which gives actors a course with filmed scenes and unedited material at the end.

We will be using some Meisner based exercises to establish relationships and pairings for bespoke scenes which could be beneficial material for your showreel.

Scenes written by Mark AC Brown based on the exercises we run in the first weekend of the workshop, then the scenes are filmed by the excellent Kieran Coyle on the last day.

Next course will be in July.

To join the waiting list please email:


What's my motivation?

This month's scene is from the critically acclaimed horror-thriller film "Get out" by Jordan peele released in 2017.

Chosen by the BIFA and Social World Film Festival award winning composer Jack Arnold.

Jack is a very talented producer of beautiful work and superb musician.

You would have heard Jack's work if you watched the recent Lewis Capaldi documentary "How I'm Feeling Now".

Having worked with Paul Dano and Thomas Turgoose ("War and peace" and "Scouting Book for Boys") Jack's IMDB page is like a royal scroll of excellence.

Have a look for yourself here

Jack says about the scene:

"The scene is a brilliant, simple portrayal of a separation from reality that many people, myself included, who have suffered mental illness have experienced; that the eyes really are a sort of window on the world and that one can become very aware of them as some kind of boundary.

Add in the context of the rest of the film and alienation of black people in American society (in this case, not the usual cross section of white society) and it forms part of a compelling exploration of identity that I found to be quite original."

For context:

The hypnosis scene occurs early in the film, setting the tone for the psychological horror that follows.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is a young African American man visiting the family of his white girlfriend, Rose.

Despite his initial apprehensions, he finds himself at the Armitage family estate, where he encounters Rose's seemingly liberal and welcoming parents, Dean and Missy (Catherine Keener).

Missy uses a teacup and spoon to create a rhythmic sound that induces a trance.

Chris becomes immobilised and is sent into the "Sunken Place," a dark, void-like state where he remains conscious but unable to move or speak.

Click on the video link below and then check my short interpretation underneath:

This scene is a mesmerising showcase of acting and film making in every way.

The scene is beautifully disturbing and could almost be a short film in itself but how it fits into the tone of the whole piece is simply stunning.

Both actors turn in wonderfully nuanced work here so we can talk about what they are both doing.

To save time and to stay slightly mischievous Daniel Kaluuya will be simply called "Dan" from here on in and Catherine Keener will be referred to as "Cath".

We are immediately made aware of who is in charge in this scene.

Cath has that Lady Macbeth like energy, almost maternal and yet brutal too.

Her eyes say "trust in me" like "Jungle Book's" snake ("Kaa") character.

Dan is struggling here, right from the start.

Writhing around in his chair, shallow breathing and acting like he doesn't know where to look.

The snake metaphor stands, as the python (although not being a boa constrictor) seems to squeeze the oxygen from Dan in just a glance, leaving him almost speechless and motionless.

The way that Dan switches from clearly uncomfortable to a brain dead like state of relaxation is so well observed.

Sidenote: Dan apparently prepared for the role researching the effect of hypnosis on victims of childhood trauma and PTSD.

Cath is smart enough to know that with the repetitive stirring of the tea cup and the passive aggressive line of questioning there is enough haunting behaviour happening without having to push the intimidation at all.

Let that be a lesson to us all, we often serve the story better by not pushing for some idea or interpretation of what the audience need to know/feel.

Know don't show!

Notice the noises that Dan is making, these are extremely hard to fake.

The most vulnerable, messy, snotty humanity is pouring out of Dan here, It really takes a lot to get to this place consistently take after take, a true actor who has honed his craft.

There is a moment in this scene where Cath sees how trapped Dan is and changes gear, the pretend friend mask has slipped away and a sinister smile appears as she asks Dan to "sink".

The delight on her face is almost orgasmic, the twinkle in the eye and drop in voice on that second "sink" tells us exactly how she feels about getting him under her spell.

We see how Dan has been blasted back into his past trauma and has begun picking at the cotton filled leather seat he is sat on.

For a deep dive into the films under current themes of racial oppression, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism do look at the Feminist Guide to "Get Out" article and scroll down to the "Hypnosis" and "Cotton Chair" sections.

The first 2 minutes of this scene really are a masterclass is the nuanced art of simplicity in our work.

Dan's eyes seem to portray every detail of his past, present and unfortunate future, whilst Cath's controlled and nuanced performance of Missy going from friend to enemy in this short scene is quite a a roller coaster.

After that epic and intense 2 minutes the film making takes us on this immersive journey into the "sunken place" where we are left knowing, in no uncertain terms, that these people are not as they first appear to be.

Excellence all round really.

Keep it simple people!


Have a short scene you want to see analysed simply?

Click below to send link to scene:


Any acting related news or questions email me:

Thanks for your attention - stay playful people.



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