Back into the "Uh, Artie?" mailbag.

Uh, Artie?

I am wondering if you have any advice for how to memorize a script.

I have about eight typed pages, double spaced, of material to memorize so that I can narrate an elephant training demo at the local zoo. I know the content pretty well and could probably narrate the demo right now if I could speak freely and just say what I know.

But the zoo is a highly professional place and requires that I learn the script word for word. Then I have to audition in front of my program supervisor as I narrate to a video.

I find this nerve wracking. I can speak well in front of an audience, and can memorize things, but struggle to do both at the same time. But, I definitely want to give this a shot.

So – any advice?

— Marie Goes To The Zoo

Dear Marie,

Advice? Sure. Stay away from the north side of a southbound pachyderm.

Oh, you mean about memorizing?

Personally, I fear the need to memorize a script. And I'm just starting to memorize the sides for Felix in The Odd Couple. Egad.

Last year, when I was memorizing for Our Town, my friend John Huston taught me a great trick. It works especially well for memorizing speeches, monologues, soliloquies, and probably elephant patter. (I'm not so sure about dialogue.) John had learned this trick from a teacher of his, but I can't remember — Oh, Irony, How Cruel of You! — the teacher's name.

Here's the trick:

Separate the long text into segments.

Assign each segment a different room in your home. If your home is small, assign each segment a different wall. (You have four walls, I do hope.)

Memorize each segment in its assigned room (or facing its wall). Visually connect each segment of words to what you are looking at. Pick out a focal point. Let that be the image for that segment. Hopefully, a relevant connection can be made. Like: "That's the window of my living room. That's where my elephant might poke her head out the window for a snack on the bushes." — for the segment about feeding time at the zoo.

Always practice moving from room to room in the order of the segments, never varying your path. The path is the sequence and part of your memorization.

When you are reciting for an audition or eventual audience, you can remember your path through your home.

"Memory is visual," said John, if I'm remembering correctly. "So it's helpful to connect the memorized words to a consistent image."

Hope that helps,

— Artie