Thursday, March 03, 2011


Memory. For some, the famous song from Cats will come to mind. Others will think of computer storage and speed. And still others will wonder if they are losing theirs.

Most of us are forgetful from time to time. The other day, I’d made a tasty lunch but didn’t realize I’d left it in the fridge until I was en route. Some of us don’t recall we’ve left our keys or cell phones (I prevent that from happening by leaving things in the same place.) Some appliances, like coffee makers and irons, turn off automatically so we don’t have to worry if we’ve left them on.

Years ago I learned writing down everything I need to do was much easier than trying to keep it all in my head. Occasionally I'll open my Day-Timer (yes, I still prefer the paper to the electronic calendar, which IMO requires too much typing and I already do quite enough of that) and see things I’ve written but don’t remember until that moment.

Sometimes I think my brain is like a computer. Some info is quickly retrieved. To find other bits, my mind has to search through folders. The other day I ran into someone at an event. I thought he looked familiar, but couldn’t quite place how I knew him. He reminded me, but it took a couple of minutes until I retrieved those memories and details fell into place.

Actors need another kind of memory: the ability to quickly learn and retain copy/dialogue. This week I had a live industrial (usually means some kind of presentation at a big meeting) I was told was non-speaking. When I got there, a few of us were going to have lines. I volunteered because I’m a quick study. The director read all the lines from his phone, but I’m a visual learner. I asked if he'd email the script to my phone, which he did. We ran through the scene a few times, and the three of us were great. But not everyone is comfortable with on the spot memorization and performance.

I’ve also had the experience, as I’m sure most actors have, where I know I had it down in the car or waiting area, but somehow the pressure of being in front of auditioners sucks the script right out of my head. Actors also need to remember any choices they’ve made…words to emphasize, gestures, facial expressions, when to pause, where to look, anything the auditioners added at the last minute, etc. Getting thrown off and asking to start over (like many auditionees on American Idol) can be embarrassing.

For longer auditions, I use an ear prompter. (I record the copy onto a small tape recorder, then play it back through a newscaster-like earphone during the audition.) But if they ask me to do it slower or faster, or if they’ve changed the amount of copy, adjusting on the fly can be a nerve-wracking challenge. Ah, the joys of the voiceover audition, where you can read from the script and don't have to worry about what you look like.

How do you remember things?

A few sites on the topic:


Memory Improvement Tips

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