To Memorize or Not: Is That Still The Question?

I know what you're thinking, “To memorize or not? Is this really a question?” Well, whether you are experienced in auditioning or totally brand new, I think it's always good to get a refresher on how to approach the simple basics.

In fact, you’d be surprised by the amount of questions I get as a coach on whether or not to go into an audition memorized. Everyone has a different level of proficiency when it comes to memorizing in a short amount of time, and if you're not given a lot of time, it can stir up feelings of frustration and doubt. Who wants that right before a big audition?

So, the best course of action is to hone the skill of quickly becoming familiar with the material and understanding what's underneath the words on the page. Quite often in an audition, it's not as important to get every single line down verbatim as long as you know what you're connecting to and the deeper sense of the words.

Here are four quick tips on how to best memorize and prepare for an audition.

1. Make Memorization a Must.

You should set the goal to always be memorized!  There are exceptions to the rule, but you should always take the opportunity to be memorized. You better believe there will be someone else going into that room who is more memorized than you, and you want the most competitive edge you can get.

The best way to memorize is repetition, so commit yourself to at least 30 - 60 minutes to just drill. Enlist a friend to help. Offer to buy them coffee or take them to lunch in exchange for running lines with you. Record the scene and listen to it over and over, or try the app Rehearsal Pro.  I know it’s monotonous, but the best way to memorize is through still good ole’ repetition. And once you’re more familiar with the words you have to say, it will be easier to start adding in the nuances of your performance.

2. Keep Sides by your Side.

Always go into your audition with your sides, and hold them in your hand.  If it’s a song try printing out the lyrics to the song in large print so that you can read them easily and quickly and rehearse with those so you’re not fumbling to read them the day of. I’ve seen many singers go into an audition with the sheet music fumbling to find the line, but if you know the song all you really need is the lyrics. Print them out in a Word document, and hold those in your hand so that you have quick access to them in case you need them. The same goes for a monologue.

3. Turn The Pressure Off.

No one in the room is expecting you to have this completely memorized, so that is why actually having your audition memorized makes you more impressive. But like I said before, there will always be somebody else who's a little bit more prepared than you, so don't let the pressure to be perfect be the reason why you don’t book the job.

Use the old Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. To have the courage to change the things you can means memorize, memorize, memorize, and accept that whether or not you book the job is beyond your control after that.

4. You Need A Live Audience. 

Don't just practice your audition by yourself alone in your room; do it in front of other people. You need to be prepared for organic reactions, the presence of eyes on you, or the energetic shifts of a full room. That may mean you have to enroll in a class for a while to find a willing audience. Or maybe that means you just need to practice in front of somebody you love and trust. Either way, do NOT let the first time you perform this material in front of other people be in the audition room.

If you follow these four tips, you will be one step above other people in the room, I promise you. One thing I've witnessed by being a reader in audition rooms is that the people who come in prepared are respected and remembered in a way that the people who come in and think they're going to wing it on their charm do not. So, don't allow your personality to be the only thing you're relying on. Come in prepared knowing that you've done everything you can to make this role your best role that you can play. And then when you’re finished, let go of the rest.

What part of memorization do you struggle with the most? Do you have any other tips that have worked for you? Let me know how you prepare for an audition in the comments below.