Learn your lines

If you have to learn your lines, it is good to understand what makes a script interesting enough to become a play or a movie.

It helps you to learn your lines when you understand the reason for his behaviour. An example: A man sits in his workshop, busy with an invention of wheels and springs. You ask him what the gadget is, what it is meant to do. He looks at you confidingly and whispers: "I really don't know." Another man rushes down the street, panting for breath. You intercept him and ask where he is going. He gasps: "How should I know where I'm going? I am on my way." Your reaction -- and ours, and the world's -- is that these two men are a little mad. Every sensible invention must have a purpose, every planned sprint a destination.

Yet, fantastic as it seems, this simple necessity has not made itself felt to any extent in the theater. Reams of paper bear miles of writing -- all of it without any point at all. There is much feverish activity, a great deal of get-up-and-go, but no one seems to know where he is going. Everything has a purpose, or premise. Every second of our life has its own premise, whether or not we are conscious of it at the time. That premise may be as simple as breathing or as complex as a vital emotional decision, but it is always there. We may not succeed in proving each tiny premise, but that in no way alters the fact that there was one we meant to prove. Our attempt to cross the room may be impeded by an unobserved footstool, but our premise existed nevertheless.

Ferdinand Brunetière demands a "goal" in the play to start with. This is premise. John Howard Lawson: "The root-idea is the beginning of the process." He means premise. Professor Brander Matthews: "A play needs to have a theme." It must be the premise. Professor George Pierce Baker, quoting Dumas the Younger: "How can you tell what road to take unless you know where you are going?" The premise will show you the road. They all mean one thing: you must have a premise for your play. Let us examine a few plays and see whether they have premises. Romeo and Juliet The play starts with a deadly feud between two families, the Capulets and the Montagues. The Montagues have a son, Romeo, and the Capulets a daughter, Juliet. The youngsters' love for each other is so great that they forget the traditional hate between their two families. Juliet's parents try to force her to marry Count Paris, and, unwilling to do this, she goes to the good friar, her friend, for advice. He tells her to take a strong sleeping draught on the eve of her wedding which will make her seemingly dead for forty-two hours. Juliet follows his advice. Everyone thinks her dead. This starts the onrushing tragedy for the two lovers. Romeo, believing Juliet really dead, drinks poison and dies beside her. When Juliet awakens and finds Romeo dead, without hesitation she decides to unite with him in death. This play obviously deals with love. But there are many kinds of love. No doubt this was a great love, since the two lovers not only defied family tradition and hate, but threw away life to unite in death. The premise, then, as we see it is: "Great love defies even death."

Egri tells us a lot about premises and how to prepare a role. Everything you need to know about the purpose of every line in a script, every character, you can find it in Egri’s book. Want to know more? Read his book, it can be ordered by clicking above.I think it is a really important book for everyone who wants to understand the script he is reading.

Reading the script

To create your role you'll need a good script. The writer needs to understand human behaviour and apply this to his work. Only than it is possible for an actor to turn the pages into a lively character.

One of the few truly helpful books on fiction writing is "The art of creative writing" by Lajos Egri. His book is also interesting for actors, because it helps you to figure out why your character behaves like he does.That is why we recommend this book:


“A weak character cannot carry the burden of protracted conflict in a play. He cannot support a play. We are forced, then, to discard such a character as a protagonist. There is no sport if there is no competition; there is no play if there is no conflict. Without counterpoint there is no harmony. The dramatist needs not only characters who are willing to put up a fight for their convictions. He needs characters who have the strength, the stamina, to carry this fight to its logical conclusion.

We may start with a weak man who gathers strength as he goes along; we may start with a strong man who weakens through conflict, but even as he weakens he must have the stamina to bear his humiliation.”

Lajos Egri