Actors’ Memory Secrets
Actors & The Laws of Memory
I sat at this Broadway Theater and saw an impossible one-man show. Impossible
because the actor recited his lines for 90 minutes without making one (1) memory mistake.
Can you imagine you-or-me reciting Shakespeare from memory without
reading off a prompting screen? We have come to accept as commonplace
actors who were high school dropouts or C students in college, possessing
eidectic imagery – photographic memory.
Except they don’t have photographic memory at all, nor did they did beat themselves up megapolis cheats to memorize their lines by rote practice.
Q. What do actors know about memory that can help their audience
improve learning in school and career? What can an ordinary actor (not a superstar) teach you and me about cognition and memory retention and retrieval?
Actors focus on getting the meaning of their words (script-lines), not memorizing
the specific words. How does a student memorize the Gettysburg Address?
He/she rereads it about 100 times, speaks the text out loud repetitively, and agonizes
over it for a week. The next day they lose half their recall and start again.
An actor focuses on his/her moment-to-moment feelings and physical reactions
(face and body) to what the text means. An actor looks for the ‘intentions and objectives behind the lines, not the words themselves.
Who Says So
Helga and Tony Noice, professors at Elmhurst College and Indiana State University,
and published by the journal for the Association for Psychological Science, 1.25.06
They teach that acting is not pretending, it is being real on stage. When a great actor
threatens the women in the scene with a gun, he is feeling the real emotions of trying to intimidate the other actor.
His face, hands, heartbeat react to real feelings not make-believe. The actor’s job is the affect the other actor, the audience and him/herself. An actor must be master
of the mental-movies of imagination going on in their brain. If he/she produces the mental-imagery, the emotion follows. Acting is living the lines, not pretending.
Another Acting Secret
Study your lines as if you were going to teach the information and knowledge in them to your kid or best friend. Not the words, but what is behind the words, the
ideas and the purpose of the ideas. Can you explain the meaning of your lines,
so another human can clearly and easily understand the ideas?
Students who study text with the goal of teaching it to a kid or business associate,
using mental imagery (imagination) to convey meaning to another, produce up to
40% higher memory retention. Teaching is good for the instructor as well as the
If you have such a deep understanding of your dialogue you can instruct another,
you do not have to memorize because you have internalized the meaning of the text.
Beats in a Script
Actors take their dialogue and divide (chunk) it into a number of logically linked
“beats’ (intentions or objectives) in relation (reaction) to the other actor in the scene. The actor feels the intentions of the other person.
Acting is really reacting to another actor on stage or one you are mentally visualizing. The words (lines) come automatically from the actor’s mental experience of reacting to the other person’s intention. You read his/her face
and body language and your lines flow like honey.
When the actor is ‘actively experiencing’ the scene, the audience finds him/her
real and convincing. The actor is as real as life, not acting, and we are living the
scene on stage with them.
Senior Citizen Cognitive Decline
Teaching Seniors the tricks of actors appears to improve learning and memory.
It reduces cognitive decline and improves cognitive (thinking) reserve, and their quality of life.
A four-week program showed improved word-recall and problem-solving abilities. Scientific research using a control upheld significant improvement. Their improvement lasted four-months when a renewal class was required.
Memory is significantly related to Mental-Imagery and Association of new ideas
with old knowledge in long-term storage. Link your memory with emotion, action and perception (understanding, meaning).
Lines learned while engaged in walking across the stage during your
scene, are recalled up to 80% greater, than learning lines by rote (repetition).
Physical (body language) movements make leaning easier. Later, in delivering
your lines, the actor does not have to walk across the stage, the clash of clans hack download lines are on auto-pilot.
Instead of rereading your dialogue one-hundred-and-one times in a row,
there is a simply strategy of cognitive-mapping.
Reading your text three (3) times, first very fast (skimming) for main ideas and meaning, second, scanning slowly for specific details, and third, very slowly (snailing) as an final review of the key ideas and language.
There is a system to Skim-Scan-Screen that makes test-taking a breeze, and helps
double long-term memory. Ask us how.
We suggest it is a valuable skill for students and executives to read-and-remember
three (3) books, articles and reports in the time others can hardly finish one.
The 20-Minute Hour can improve cooking fever hack no survey your career path. Ask us how.
copyright © 2008
H. Bernard Wechsler
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