Michael Murray


Actor, writer and teacher, Michael Murray was born in Stepney, East London. He trained for the stage at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Under his Equity name, Michael worked for many years as an actor and voice-over artist. His career also encompassed teaching, writing and directing. Michael is a Drama in Education specialist and holds an advanced qualification in the teaching of drama, the A.D.B. (Ed) and has an M.A. in Education. He now writes full-time and hopes to publish his next novel, 'Leefdale', later this year.
Michael is the author of
Magnificent Britain (2012)
Julia's Room (2012)
Learning Lines? A Practical Guide for Drama Students and Aspiring Actors. (2014)
A Single To Filey (A DCI Tony Forward Novel) (2015)

Smashwords Interview

Why did you write "Learning Lines? A Practical Guide for Drama Students and Aspiring Actors"?
Once the casting process has been completed and they know which role they're playing, inexperienced actors will usually pick up the script, turn straight to their character's first entrance, count all their lines, read them aloud, practise how to say them and try to commit them to memory.

Yet this is an inefficient way of learning lines and will not help you to deliver them effectively in performance.

Professional actors do not begin by "learning" lines: that comes at the end of the process. Professional actors commence work on their role by interrogating the play or script. You must learn to think of the script as a set of directions: sometimes these directions are obvious but often they are not and have to be hunted out or inferred because they are not confined to just the scenes in which your character appears. When you have these directions in your possession you can use them to navigate your character through the script's performance and keep him on course to the end.

It is a form of intellectual and emotional orienteering.

The professional actor acquires the lines after a process of much study and preparation during which he will make himself aware of all the dramatic elements that the writer has employed in her creation of the script. The actor will then use his knowledge of these elements to enhance the creation of his role and for the benefit of the audience. As he begins to study and create his role the actor deconstructs and analyses what the writer has created and in the process of breaking it down into its various elements he comes to understand it more clearly, discovers what his character's relationship with the other characters is and what his functions are within the context of the whole work.

To achieve this you need a set of analytical tools. These tools are the elements of drama: the structural concepts the playwright or screenwriter uses to form and bring into being her play or script.

Once you have acquired a knowledge and understanding of these elements, when studying the script you will do the obverse of what the writer does and deconstruct her seamless creation into its component parts; then you will use what you have discovered to re-assemble them and integrate them into your performance.

Many people will tell you this but they very often fail to tell you how to go about it.

After three terms at R.A.D.A. I'd been trained by excellent directors and drama teachers who had given me important insights into play analysis but nothing like a comprehensive approach to it.

Then, I read An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavsky, the great Russian actor, director and teacher. It was a revelation. At last I felt I had discovered a comprehensive system for studying and understanding plays from the perspective of an actor and I began to apply what I had learnt to my performances. I immediately read Stanislavsky's other works: Building a Character and Creating a Role which were also equally instructive. I am sure that reading these seminal texts enabled me to pass all of the R.A.D.A. Tests including the crucial Restoration Test and maintain my place in the Academy.

Three years after I graduated from R.A.D.A. I went to the University of Birmingham to train to become a teacher of Drama and English and was taught to deconstruct novels and plays by the brilliant English lecturer Barry Maybury.

In the many years since then I have spent much of my time studying acting techniques, play construction, screenwriting and approaches to script analysis from the perspective of the actor, the director and the writer. I hope that my discoveries, which I've explained in Learning Lines? A Practical Guide for Drama Students and Aspiring Actors, will help you to create a role and learn your lines too.
Can you tell us more about learning lines?
I first started acting at the age of eighteen and I am now in my sixties. I have been a professional actor and a drama teacher and I have written plays and directed them. For nearly fifty years I have been studying roles and learning lines. I have also had the privilege of watching others doing the same thing. In my book Learning Lines? A Practical Guide for Drama Students and Aspiring Actors I will share with you some of the techniques that have allowed me to step out on stage or set without fear of forgetting my character's words.

There are some well-meaning people - usually not actors - who will promise you painless shortcuts to knowing your lines. Be intensely suspicious of such people. Take it from me: hard wiring the lines authentically into your body and soul requires graft and cannot be done easily. It requires huge amounts of work and effort. If you are not prepared to give an absolute commitment to attaining command and mastery of your role, no matter how large or small it is, you might as well give up now. Without intense application you will never become an accomplished performer.

In April 1966 I had been a student of acting at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for barely a week. We were rehearsing scenes from J. B. Priestley's Music at Night for the first of our student "Tests": these were hoops that we had to successfully leap through every six weeks in order to maintain our place at the Academy. The scenes were being directed by the imperiously condescending, awesomely knowledgeable (and to me perfectly terrifying) drama tutor, Mary Duff.

During the course of the rehearsal Miss Duff suddenly began to reflect aloud on the learning of lines. She explained that she often sat on the tube watching people who had a play text in their hand whom she presumed to be either drama students or amateur actors. She described how they would look at the book, and then close their eyes as they attempted to commit their lines to memory. "Completely wrong," she said, "you do not learn lines: you study a part."

If you are an actor, knowing your lines thoroughly is essential. That might seem like a statement of the obvious but when I talk of knowing the lines I mean knowing them inside out and backwards and having an absolute understanding of why your character says them. When studying a script inexperienced actors will concentrate only on their own lines but experienced actors will study everyone's dialogue as well as the dramatic elements that the writer has employed in the creation of the text. Understanding these elements enables professional actors to enhance the playing of their own roles. Learning lines unthinkingly by rote without understanding their context is never enough. You must understand and know the lines so well that you are able to recall them automatically and without hesitation even when in front of an audience of a thousand people; in a film or television studio full of equipment and a million distractions; or on location surrounded by many curious and excited members of the public. To do this you need to have absorbed the lines deeply into your being: into every nerve and sinew; into every cell. "Get those lines into your gut," as a director once told me. And unless you have got the lines into your gut you will never be in a position to forget about them and allow inspiration, that shy and elusive but transforming element to enter into your performance. For inspiration only appears when your preparation is based on a sound technique; when your mind and feelings are so relaxed you can throw yourself unselfconsciously into your performance and act completely in the moment: in other words, not act but be! And how can you do that if you are not absolutely certain of what you are going to say next?

In Learning Lines? A Practical Guide for Drama Students and Aspiring Actors I introduce you to the dramatic elements that writers use to structure a script and move an audience; show you how to read a script for various purposes such as creating a character and analysing your character's scenes; explain to you how to divide a role into its units and objectives; reveal some of the psychological elements involved in the memorisation process and consider their implications for learning lines; demonstrate for you how to make a start on learning a role. Finally, I provide you with techniques, exercises and tips that will embed your lines securely in your memory.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Michael Murray online


Learning Lines? A Practical Guide for Drama Students and Aspiring Actors
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 83,850. Language: English. Published: October 24, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Performing arts
If you've ever thought there must be a more stimulating and effective way of learning lines than simply rote-learning, then this is the book for you. If you're an aspiring actor or drama student the book will be particularly useful but it should also interest those who intend to write and direct and readers who are interested in literature and the drama.

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