Noice’s first and most surprising discovery is that most actors don’t memorize their lines in the traditional sense at all. Rather, they begin by reading the script over and over again, looking for what they call the “throughline” — the causal chain that leads one event in the play to topple into the next and the next. “Almost every line of the script is mined for clues as to the characters, situations, or relationships,” Noice writes, commenting on the method practiced by the actors she interviewed.They are searching for the intentions of the play’s characters: why they do what they do, and especially, why they say what they say. Actors pay minute attention to every snatch of dialogue because each word offers a hint of the speaker’s motivations and desires. As they engage in this “micro-level” processing of the material, Noice notes, memorization of the lines just happens: “At no time did the actors attempt to memorize the words directly, but rather tried to discern why the character would use those particular words to express that particular thought.”
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
How to learn history: history as theater
Via @kdwashburn, I got a link to a Time article, "What Actors Can Teach us About Memory and Learning," from which I got this quote:
Substitute "historian" for "actor," and "history" for "play" or "script," and I think you'll have pretty good advice on how to study, learn, and (shudder!) memorize history.