Want to know how to memorize a monologue fast?
Should you do it word by word?
Or is there a form of “compression” that allows you to memorize any monologue much, much faster?
The answer is yes.
And once you have this technique under your belt, all that stress and anxiety around your auditions will permanently melt away.
So if you’re ready to impress every casting agent in the industry for the rest of your career, lights, camera…
… all you have to do is turn this knowledge into action.
So let’s get started.
How to Memorize a Monologue Quickly in 8 Steps
Most trainings on monologue memorization talk about breaking the piece down and emotionally connecting with the piece.
That’s all fine and dandy.
But the real magic happens when you have a robust mnemonic strategy that goes beyond your standard memory techniques.
The ultimate of these strategies is called a Memory Palace. When using it, you’ll automatically break the monologue down into manageable parts.
But to use the technique, you need to actually have a Memory Palace, so let’s start with this crucial step.
Step One: Choose A Suitable Memory Palace
In case you’re new to the Memory Palace technique, it’s simple to grasp. All you do is select a familiar location, create a mental journey through it and then lay breadcrumbs that help you recall what you want to remember.
For example, to remember my TEDx Talk, I chose the apartment I was living in and used the surrounding neighborhood. It was the perfect size for just over thirteen minutes of material.
To rapidly create a Memory Palace without turning it into an epic task, I suggest you draw a floor plan based on the location you choose. Keep in mind the amount of material you need to memorize.
For a four page monologue, I needed one apartment and the sidewalk space along a couple of short streets.
If it helps your imagination, you can pick a location that is thematically related to the topic of your monologue. For example, if it’s about health, you could choose a hospital or a spa. If you’re reciting the speech of a criminal, you could choose the area around a police station, etc.
Step Two: Assign “Magnetic” Associations
When using a Memory Palace, we want to use as few associations as possible for the maximum amount of words without sacrificing accuracy.
To show you how this is done, let’s take an example from Shakespeare. This is the opening of Hamlet’s famous monologue:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d.
In the pictured example, a swan and a bumblebee are placed on the walls of a standard living room.
Why a swan?
Using the pegword method, each number from 0-9 can be given a simple image. For words like “to” a swan is perfect because it looks a bit like the number 2.
As for the “bee,” when we want to remember “to be or not to be,” this insect sounds identical to “be.” To get the rest of the phrase, you can imagine the swan tying the bee up in knots, which would give you the word “not.”
Carrying on, move to the next station in the Memory Palace and place an association that helps you remember the words.
In this next example, I’ve taken the character Quincy and imposed a giant question mark on the Memory Palace station. Quincy is not only a character who is inquisitive, but his name starts with a Q to drive home the words in this line of the monologue.
The goal is to have your images match the sounds of the words as closely as possible.
Step Three: Focus On Keywords
In the beginning, some people will need an association for each and every word in their monologue (the, but, and, if, etc.)
That’s okay, but you want to move away from this reliance as quickly as possible.
Take an example from Shakespeare:
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
What would you say are the keywords in this phrase? For me, they are:
To compress these, we can use the link and story method within the Memory Palace.
Using your imagination, imagine a story told in graffiti on the wall of a Memory Palace. Your heart breaks, spilling Thousand Island salad dressing all over a horse. The horse goes “neigh” is response and shoots lightning bolts from his hooves, shocking some “flesh” on the barbeque.
This story encodes the keywords in the entire line, and connects with a keyword in the following line.
It may take a bit of practice, but once you’ve got the hang of things, this technique is incredibly fast.
Step Four: Recall Rehearsal
Think of your Memory Palaces as theatre stages and your associations as actors. You’re the director.
In order to get the best out of your players, you need them to rehearse their lines. Memory techniques are the same way when it comes to establishing long term recall.
The beauty is that with these techniques, we can minimize the amount of repetition required and avoid the perils of rote repetition.
To perform effective Recall Rehearsal, go over all of your associations in a linear manner by decoding the images you laid out in the Memory Palace.
For bonus points, run them backwards as well. This will help you improve your recall and reduce the amount of repetition required.
This process words because you’re using active recall, which essentially causes your brain to make stronger connections, faster.
As I discuss in this video, I also like to recall my memorized monologues in different orders to make the memorization process go even faster:
Step Five: The Power of Writing
Even before you feel fully confident in hour associations, I recommend you start writing your monologue out from memory by hand.
Yes, you can type it if you’re a computer fan, but I don’t feel that you’ll get the same benefits. But if you have time, definitely do both.
Writing by hand is organic, uses more muscles and more of your eyes due to the hand-eye coordination that is not necessarily engaged by typing.
How many times should you write it out? This is a personal preference. I wrote my TEDx Talk by hand three times for good measure, and one time I wrote it out backwards from memory.
Step Six: Speak Your Monologue
I’m a believer in memorizing the text of a monologue simply as text. I don’t worry too much about its meaning or the emotions involved because all of that can be considered from within memory later.
In fact, it’s when speaking the material from memory that you really start to observe what your monologue is really all about.
As you practice speaking it, try different kinds of presentation:
- By yourself in front of a mirror
- Audio recording
- Video recording
- While walking around
I did all of these things for my TEDx Talk. Walking around was especially powerful, and these days people talk with earbuds in everywhere you go. No one notices what you’re doing.
As you practice reciting your monologue, layer in the emotions and gestures you want to come through in your recitation.
Step Seven: Rest and Reflect
It’s very important to not overwork yourself. There’s a process called diffuse thinking that helps consolidate our memories, and it only works when we stop applying effort to the learning task.
You can get enough rest by going to bed early, hanging out with friends, reading something unrelated, or even using memory techniques for a different outcome. For example, you might want to memorize the lines of a play you’re just interested in, but not responsible for performing.
As you turn your attention away from the goal of memorizing the monologue, you’ll probably find that ideas about it flash into your mind.
Keep a notebook handy so that you can capture these ideas. Many will be useful for enhancing your performance.
Step Eight: Deep Relaxation
Many actors are already well-versed in relaxing themselves and entering the performance space with total confidence.
For those who aren’t, I highly recommend the following:
- Morning Tai Chi or Qigong routines
- Meditation (ideally with a memory component)
- Breathing exercises
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Kirtan kriya
As an added bonus, using the memory techniques for long form monologue memorization will itself create a meditative effect. Passage memorization is deeply rewarding.
Memorizing Monologues Is Fast And Easy
As you can see, it’s fun to create Memory Palaces and populate them with associations.
You don’t have to stress over each and every word, but if you find that you want to in the beginning, you now have the pegword method to help you come up with associations.
The final step is to get to your auditions, earn the roles and wow audiences around the world.
And if you need more help, get my FREE Memory Improvement Kit:
You’ll learn more about the Memory Palace technique and how to create powerful associations that propel the target lines from your monologue into your mind.
So what do you say?
Are you ready to get out there and start memorizing your monologue?
Let me know in the comments what you’re working on and happy memorizing!