I am awful at memorizing. I really am. It takes me a LONG time to memorize something. And, having been an actor since I was in the second grade, you’d think it would be easier by now. But, it isn’t. For some people, it comes naturally, but me—it’s excruciating.
Why am I telling you all this? Here’s the deal. I often get questions from churches that do a Family Experience regarding the necessity of their actors and storytellers to “memorize their lines” for their weekly, monthly, or special event-based Family Experiences. My answer—
Yes. Memorize them. ‘Nuff said.
Now, I can give you all of the “performance” reasons why this should be done: you can connect with the other characters on stage easier, the pace of the show is usually quicker and snappier, it frees you up to have more fun on stage when you really know your lines (the more fun you have, the more fun your viewers have), and when you come in with lines memorized, it gives you more rehearsal time to discover some new things you (as a group) may want to add or change to your production.
But here’s the MAIN reason, in my opinion (others may disagree):
When you have a script in your hand or you are constantly glancing at a screen that is placed on the side of the stage or down in front, the people who are watching can see that. And, when they see that (at least, when I see that) they wonder why this 35- to 60-minute environment, the one we’ve told them is such a valuable experience for their family to have, isn’t valuable enough that the people doing it aren’t even prepared. Plus, when you constantly look away from other actors and from the people attending you lose a connection with them.
Now, this isn’t your heart. This isn’t your actor’s hearts either. I know we all do this thing because we are passionate about reaching families with this amazing environment we have created, and like me, some of us are really bad at memorizing.
BUT, think about it this way: What if musicians/singers showed up not having rehearsed or knowing their music/lyrics? What if the pastor READ his entire sermon, fumbling from time to time to find his place? Would it bother you? Would you make comments about it afterward verses actually talking about the songs or sermons themselves?
It would make you uncomfortable. It would make you think, Wow. He’s not prepared. Maybe this really isn’t all that important. That’s a bit of hyperbole, but not much.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You WILL mess up. You WILL forget your lines. But, when everybody else has taken the time to memorize, there’s nothing to worry about. You got each other’s backs, and, if I’m honest, when things do go badly, and when everyone is prepared and ready, those instances can turn into the most magical moments. The shared experience we create for families becomes a shared experience between the cast, kids and parents because we all get to experience prepared people maneuvering their way back to the story. Pick each other up. Have fun.
The opportunity you have on stage to make a lasting impression is just as powerful as a preacher’s sermon, a singer’s lyrics, a worship leader’s music, a dancer’s steps. You may be doing outrageous “non-serious” things, but believe me, what you do is extremely serious. Extremely powerful. Extremely memorable to the families that walk in that door. If you want them to spend 35-60 minutes of their precious time to watch, you need to sacrifice your own time to be sure you know what you are going to say when you’re in front of them.
“To memorize or not to memorize.” It’s really not even a question.