Every actor has his or her own method for learning their lines and I think it must be the most asked question from those not in the world of theatre; "how on earth do you remember all those lines?! I couldn't do it!!" Well in fact you probably could, you just haven't had the need or reason to do so. The way non theatricals seem to hold this skill in such high esteem does sometimes make me feel like I possess some kind of superpower. The truth is, it's simply part of the job. Unless you want to spend your entire career improvising, every actor knows they are going to have to study their script and cram in the authors words at some point.
For me personally, I like to read the script a number of times to simply familiarise myself with its structure before I start to actually "learn" the lines. I will take a section each day and learn a line or small section at a time, building it up more and more until a whole scene is memorised. night time is my preferred time for reading a script, apparently it is absorbed more? For me though the real learning doesn't really start until you're in rehearsal. When you're up on your feet, interacting with the other actors reading their lines, putting in stage directions and getting a feel for the pace of the piece. This is where everything seems to slot into place for me, and where the lines are solidified.
Other people wont even go into rehearsals unless they have every word and punctuation mark memorised. Others read the script the day they get it and wont look at it again until rehearsals start where as some lucky so and so's can read a script two or three times from start to finish and virtually remember the whole thing. During the rehearsal process however, things are inevitably going to change. Lines may be added, taken away or moved and of course you're going to need to learn your stage directions, your personal prop list and of course your exits and entrances, so a little bit of flexibility when it comes to line learning is always useful I find.
Of course with this being a panto, convention goes out of the window anyway. The audience want to see actors forgetting their lines, dropping a prop or tripping on stage. They rejoice in seeing the actors sharing a laugh or two during Snow whites death scene. it makes them feel a part of the experience, something that they have seen that no other audience has... it's no wonder that some directors will include a "false corpse" - personally though I think the real thing is a lot funnier as it takes the actors by surprise. And actors have a knack, I'm sure you wont be surprised to learn, of turning the smallest little blip into a massive affair... "Oh my God, I can't believe that just happened - you said that, then I said this... then the stage caved it!?!" You'll probably here the same story retold at least twelve times before your next show - but that's all part of the fun.
So what about 2012/2013?! Well the script for Aladdin is really exciting. There's a lot for me to look forward too... not least the doughnuts at the meet and greet on Monday. It's an Yvonne Arnaud tradition that seems to go down well with everyone. What group of people aren't brought together by a cuppa and a sugary ring?! [see... the panto gags are creeping in already!]
So it all begins on Monday. For the cast that'll be it - our lives for the next two months become solely Pantomime - and for me that's never a bad thing!! I've already booked tickets to three other pantomimes for my days off.... "it's research darling!" I am a self confessed Panto Geek!! For now though, I'm going to my penultimate shift at "the day job" - it may not be as much fun as being on stage but it certainly keeps me out of trouble and affords me the lifestyle I live and enjoy.