There is No Excuse for Not Knowing Your Lines


A lot of things need to come together for a show to be ready for opening night. The sets need to be built, costumes need to be sewn and tickets need to be sold. But before any show can be ready for a live audience, lines need to be learned. 

There is nothing that ranks higher on my theatre pet peeve list than performers who fail to learn their lines on a timely basis. And before you assume that this happens the most with amateur productions, I've seen plenty of Equity rehearsals comes to standstill due to line difficulty. 

It perplexes me whenever a performer, who has had ample time to memorize their lines, has yet to do so leading up to opening night and sometimes even after that. What is the excuse for that? 

The truth is, there is none. 

As an actor, one of our main focuses is learning our lines in a timely fashion that allows time to connect with the characters and the material. I've seen some actors who do this flawlessly and others who fail miserably. I have been involved with shows where actors knew their lines before rehearsals even started and others who were still on book on opening night. 

And worse yet, I've seen directors who are more forgiving than they should be when lines are a problem. 

Whenever I'm directing a show, one of the first dates my actors are made aware of, is when they need to be off book. I usually put that date in big bold highlighted letters on the schedule. I like to have it be in the middle of the rehearsal period to give actors enough time to memorize and enough time to work off book before we head into tech week. I'm not saying this is a perfect system but it's seemed to work well for me. 

But by emphasizing when the off-book date is for my actors, it helps remove excuses if they don't have their lines down. It is also very unlikely I will ever cast someone again who has massive line issues. I know a lot of directors who feel the same. Many might feel differently but I am willing to sacrifice a potentially brilliant performance due to what I know will be an unbearable rehearsal process. 

As the show is coming together, everyone else is doing their job. If the design crew makes sure they get the lights and set ready by a certain date, actors need to do their part by learning their lines on time.