Some actors find it very freeing to get “off book” as quickly as possible. Others keep the script in their hands as long as they can throughout the rehearsal process. Everyone has their own method that works for them. Children often have a hard time digging their head out of the script if it is in front of them. And because they are sponges, constantly lapping up new information, they often find memorization fairly easy. Some learn by rote, repeating the lines over and over again until they “stick.”
The danger in rote memorization is comprehension. I used to teach kindergarten and listening to the children sing the national anthem was quite hysterical! They would substitute “made up words” for the actual ones and carry on. They probably didn’t even know they were doing it! As cute as they were, they had no idea what they were singing.
The same holds true for the child actor. It often doesn’t occur to adults that a child has not grasped the meaning or concept of the line or kids monologue he/she is delivering. Helping them to break down the lines and understand them goes a long way toward their ability to memorize and to the quality of their performance. The goal is not to have them merely recite their lines. They need to know why they are speaking in the first place. There’s an old cliché where an actor asks: “What’s my motivation?” It’s a cliché for a reason. It is a necessary question that every actor, no matter how young, must answer. Why does my character say that? Is he angry, frustrated, happy, giddy? What makes him feel that way? Why did she answer that way? Why does she start every sentence with “why?” A script is like a road map with clues along the way. If you pay attention, it will give you the answers you need. Blindly memorizing a script does not an actor make. Help your child read the road map and she’ll be well on her way to touching an audience with her magical performance.