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As a child, I never had trouble memorizing lines. Maybe because my brain was so young and sponge-like, or maybe because acting was just fun – I was relaxed and didn’t see it as anything other than something I loved to do. But once I started making a living at it, being off-book became more of a challenge. I always knew my lines, but nerves would sometimes get in the way. I’ve been fine most of my career – I’ve been in dozens of TV series and films – but there’s always been this silent shame I carry around with me: “I’m not good at memorizing lines.”
I had been obsessed for years with finding a hypnotist to help me out. I figure it is a brain/fear thing, something that needs to be retrained and unlocked. I’ve actually tried hypnosis before – when I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I spent a lot of money on multiple sessions with a hypnotherapist who made specialized recordings (on cassette tape!). Although they were really helpful those couple of months, I found that when I stopped listening to them (they did get boring) I went right back into my binge-ing. The combination of that failure (plus seeing “Get Out”) made me skeptical.
But then I interviewed Susan Orlean for a podcast and she told me that hypnosis cured her fear of flying, and got her to eat fruit again. So I decided the time had come to officially indulge this curiosity – I googled “hypnosis for actors.”
Lo and behold, there is an entire series geared for actors. And the greatest part is that it’s done by Jessica Porter, who wrote The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics. This book was like my bible for 6 months, when I was dabbling in that diet. She also collaborated with Alicia Silverstone on The Kind Diet and is an actress herself. And yes, a hypnotist as well!
There is an e-book, Unlock Your Power: A Guide to Self-Hypnosis for Actors. Just like the macrobiotic book, I found it super easy to read (took less than a day) – funny, informative, and clear. She explains what hypnosis is, how it works, and how it can help your acting work. You can use the script she provides in the book to record sessions, or you can purchase the pre-recorded audio on her site (a la carte or all together in a package).
So far, since my issue is with memorization, I’ve been doing the Hypnosis for Learning Lines recording. Jessica recommends 30 days straight – I’ve done a week so far. It basically feels like meditation except more focused. I love it because it’s a great way to get relaxed and do something for myself, but also feel like I’m “doing work” and improving. I’ve already been working on rehearsing daily with sides/scripts for my classes with John Rosenfeld Studios (highly recommend – if you do go, let them know I sent you!) and have started to see a difference.
But of course in actual auditions, nerves get in the way. She has recordings for audition anxiety too. So if you see me in the waiting room with headphones on, that’s just me hypnotizing myself.