We are in the third week of rehearsals for my modern day adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and it’s all kicked off already! Parents angry, kids crying (or doing a cracking job of pretending to) because ‘they can’t learn their lines’. I refuse to see this as a negative and instead I am offering my top tips on helping your child learn lines! I can promise you, if you do as suggested below, they will be off book in no time! These tips come with 20 years’ experience as a performer and acting coach. They also come as the mother of an 8 year old child that claims he wants to be the next James Bond but doesn’t ‘like’ learning his lines either. I have no idea where he gets that from!
1) Both child and parent need to accept that you have to learn them. An integral part of drama is performing in plays and learning lines. Yes, it’s boring, for you and for them. You all have a million other things to do rather than learn lines for a play. It’s only a little play, it’s the taking part that’s important! WRONG! Well at my school anyway. Just accept you have to help them learn the lines and crack on and find the time. Acceptance about things we don’t want to do but have to do makes it so much easier. Also you are teaching your child a valuable lesson. Hard work pays off! The buzz your child will get from knowing their lines, feeling supremely confident on stage, wowing the audience and their peers, shining like a star….. this ONLY happens if they know their lines. It doesn’t happen if they are floundering about and stood terrified hoping and praying they will ‘get away with it’. It also doesn’t happen if you let them ‘give up’ drama class because they haven’t learnt them and they can’t be bothered. Any drama school worth its salt will agree.
2) Be proud of the script. Get a nice file to put it in. Help them highlight their lines, put stickers on the pages they have lines. Get them to show friends and relatives how hard they are working on it. Make sure they know how proud you are of them for working so hard. It’s not easy acting – many of my mums and dads wouldn’t be able to come close to the work their kids are doing, so celebrate their work. They also need their script and a pencil at every rehearsal. So they can write down directions as well. It’s impossible to remember where you are supposed to come on and go off stage, so please do encourage them to keep notes.
3) It’s absolutely pointless trying to learn lines the night or two nights before rehearsals/class. You need to be doing 10 minutes a day starting the day directly after rehearsal or even that night. 2 days before class, your child will be panicking and under pressure to memorise them which makes it impossible. When you come to me and say ‘they can’t do it’ – that’s because you started too late and the part of the brain they need to use has shut down. A little bit every day, and you’ll be thrilled to see that towards the end of the week, after 4 or 5 nights doing 10 minutes a day – they know them! You can’t learn lines under pressure! Trust me!
4) I cannot speak highly enough of the line learner app! It’s amazing! There is line learner lite – which is free and allows up to 10 lines or the main app which is £2.99. Leo loves it and last week knew all his lines by Friday using it. Failing that they will need you to sit with them and read in the other roles. Which is handy as I have had 2 drop out already – so I might need you as an understudy!The line learner app is so much better though – no pressure and they can relax while thay are learning.
5) Bribery. I find this method works in all areas of parenting. Leo has guitar lessons. They cost me £16 a week and he needs to practice else it’s a waste of money. He doesn’t want to – who would? Classical guitar or mincraft? It’s a no brainer for an 8-year-old. Throw a treat or £1 into the mix and he is all over that guitar faster than Sharon knocking back a sherry during the ad break at X Factor.
Break a leg!