To be or not to… Um. Let me think… But no, there is no time to stop and think, there’s an audience watching, waiting, judging! Luckily, you’d already read Stagemilk’s handy article on what to do when you blank. So let’s dive in. Here is what to do when you forget your lines…
First thing’s first, don’t stress out. Acting is life, right? You are allowed to pause. Your thoughts are allowed to be organic. Relaxing will let you reset, recompose, and soldier on within a split second. Meanwhile, The Blank will throw a tantrum. The Blank wants you to notice it. Do not, under any circumstances, give The Blank what it wants. It is a toddler throwing a hissy fit in a supermarket, and nothing bad will happen if you calmly observe until it blows over.
A bit of a harsh truth to drop on you here: there is nothing you can do to go back and make The Blank disappear. The only way to avoid a blank is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, until your performance is second nature. When preparation isn’t an option, or the turn around between being cast and opening night is 24 hours, a quick reset is the best you can hope for. Breathe and stay in it, and then continue.
You might be able to pass off The Blank in a natural way. You might simply cycle to neutral and pick up right where you left off, leaving a brief, but professional, moment of suspension. Do whichever you feel more comfortable with, and make that decision now. The less time you spend in The Blank deciding your course of action, the more disruptive it will be to the scene. By automating and repeating your Blank Plan, you can alleviate the chaos that consumes you in those stressful few seconds, as well as making it a practiced reaction that will become faster and faster each time you use it.
The only way to avoid a blank is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, until your performance is second nature.
Another point to keep in mind is that The Blank is harder on your scene partner than it is on you. They have no control over the situation. As they’re in a state of reaction, they’re not entirely sure that you’ve dropped a line until you’ve fully boarded the train to Blank Town. It will help both of you if you can focus on helping them out of this Blank. As soon as you’ve readjusted the focus of the problem to outside of yourself, it becomes like one of Declan Donnelan’s Targets. Problems are difficult to see, let alone solve, when they reside inside of us, but stepping back and putting a little distance between you and the issue gives you clarity and full visibility of the situation. Instead of making The Blank all about you, frame it as though it’s your scene partner’s problem that you can solve. Once you have given yourself some distance and an actionable objective, it is far simpler to see a solution.
The performer in us is naturally worried about the audience, wondering if they’ve noticed, or if they’ll think you’re a bad actor. Try not to indulge in these thoughts while you’re in the scene. Not only does it take up precious time, but audiences tend to be more lenient with Blanks than they are with boring acting. If you can pick up the scene professionally and continue to give a confident performance, no one will be talking about The Blank in the foyer. If you make it super obvious and apologise for it for the rest of your performance because you were so shaken that you’ve thrown your whole game off, then the audience wont be so forgiving.
Blanks aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Many casting directors, producers and teachers talk about forgetting lines being a gift. It is a chance to break out of the mechanical acting you are trapped in. Especially in an audition situation, forgetting your lines and having to think in the moment can be exciting. Thinking on your feet and improvising brings the scene to life. Once you understand that blanking isn’t the end of the world, you can relax. Remember an audition isn’t a memory test. of course preparation is important, but if you forget a line it might just land you the role.
To wrap all this up, just breathe, relax, and trust that it will come to you.