Ah, the memories of memorization | AspenTimes.com

Ah, the memories of memorization

Barry Smith

I have to memorize an hour’s worth of dialogue. In a few weeks I’ll be performing a one-man show, and apparently I’m expected to memorize it … 30 pages in all! There are no cue cards, nobody off stage whispering lines to me, no writing it on my arm.People ask, “Wow, how DO you do that?” which seems like as good an excuse as any to write a column about it. Which you are reading now. Remember?I don’t mean to brag, but when I set my mind to it, I have an amazing memory and laser-like focus. I’d like to share my memorization techniques with you now, just in case you ever find yourself with the daunting task of remembering an hour’s worth of dialogue, or a phone number, or the name of the person you woke up next to, or whatever.I’ll use a real life example of how I work: I find a quiet place in my house, sitting in a comfortable, but not TOO comfortable (nap alert!) chair. Both feet are on the floor to ground me, and I’m sitting up straight. I take a deep breath, script in hand, and I read page one, line one, out loud: “So, one day I was at the library.”Good. I put the script down and go upstairs to check my e-mail. Nothing. Well, nothing to speak of – a few different offers to buy cheap online prescription drugs. I check it again just in case.Back downstairs I put the kettle on, as a hot beverage comforts me while doing this intense mental exercise. While waiting for the kettle to boil, I lean against the counter staring at a fork. Forks are trippy, aren’t they? I mean, whoever thought of forks? That’s one cool invention that the Chinese can’t take credit for.I pick up my script and sit in a DIFFERENT chair – something about that other one was all wrong. I take my shoes off. Then my socks. Now I feel free, ready to get to work.”So, one day I was at the library.”I stand on the chair – because I’m unconventional and I like to shake things up – and I read from the script again.”So, one day I was at the library.”I can see the top of the bookshelf from here. It’s embarrassingly dusty. I get a wet rag from the kitchen, wipe down the bookshelf, the tops of a few lamps and the kitchen floor. I eat a banana – potassium is good for the memory. After a few bites of banana I try to say my line without looking at my script, and I come up with, “So, one day potassium is good for the memory.” It’s getting there.I go outside. Sometimes I need the expansiveness of nature to help me focus. I go back inside, as I’ve forgotten my script. It’s on the floor where I left it, but page one is missing. That’s weird. A half-hour later I finally find it – on top of the bookshelf. I sit back down in my original chair, breathe deeply and read: “So, one day I was at the library.”I need to be able to SEE this line – I close my eyes and I visualize an old-fashioned sewing machine (“so”) next to the sun with the number 1 in it (“one day” … clever, huh?) – I see myself walking through the door of the library, taking the new Vanity Fair from the shelf, sitting in one of those big, comfortable chairs and slowly drifting off to sleep. I slowly drift off to sleep. I wake up on the floor, two hours later, my face against my script. The first paragraph is now illegible, as my drool has smeared it. Inkjet printer.Back to the computer, where I check my e-mail again. Nothing. I open the file that contains the script, contemplate printing out a new page one, but instead I pick up a fine-point Sharpie and write, “So, one day I was at the library” on my arm. I write small, because I have 30 pages to go.Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com

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