Ok, here's the good news… finally!
Turns out learning your lines is really not so hard after all! I started writing and performing one woman shows in the last six years, and all you have to do to learn your lines is put the time in. That’s really it. My first show was about 50 minutes. My next one 75. This current one is about 70, now that I've trimmed it a bunch. And I've been able to learn them, no problem with the following system. I promise you, just put in the time, and you'll be able to do it.
Step 0: Complete your script. Stop making changes to your script. When you commit to your script, your brain will commit it to memory.
Step 1: Read your script over and over again. I like to do it in the bath tub or while going for a walk.
Step 2: Break it up into chunks. For example, the first page.
Step 3: Read a paragraph over and over again. Put the paper down and say it without looking. Keep doing that.
Step 4: Take a break. Your brain needs time to rest and relax.
Step 5: Stage your show. Once you know where you’re going to be and what you’re going to do when you say what line, suddenly, your body starts to put two and two together and you know what to say just by where you move next!
Step 6: Get a friend to hold the script while you do your thing. Repeat until complete.
When I really have to get a script down, I hire someone to sit with me to rehearse. Invite three friends over three different times during the day, make them some popcorn. They’ll be happy to just get to enjoy you entertaining them! Sometimes just an hour at a time. It’s hard to do a solo show over and over again hour after hour—because it’s not just a verbal event—it’s an emotional journey you’re taking yourself on, if you’re doing it right. So it’s an emotionally intense thing you may be unconsciously processing still, each time you work on the show! Get support.
It was about ten years ago that I was listening to a podcast of Tim Ferris at South by Southwest. That was the day I realized I didn’t have to do it all on my own—the day I realized I could get help in the areas that were not my strong suit, so I could become successful—and focus on—the areas I really love. I realized I was so rich. I could actually live the live I want to live, just by getting other people to help me do the hard parts. Ok, you get the idea. Go!
Also important to keep your brain in good shape. Take stretch breaks, drink plenty of water, eat lots of protein and good fats and veggies, and stay away from carbs and dairy while you're doing this. Carbs will fog you up.
Stay tuned for the next step, which is about really rehearsing your show, beyond just getting your lines down.