Forget your lines?

By Kolby King

Situation:  You're on stage ... in the middle of your script and suddenly ... you go blank.  You forget your line.  What do you do?  What can you do?

Solution:  Don't panic.  Your natural desire will be to freeze.  Don't go silent.  Don't say, "Oh no!  I forgot my line."  That's honest, but it's not very professional.  Don't say, "Ahhhh...I knew I should have practiced more."  Or, "Whoops, I forgot where I was."

Sometimes when you forget a line you can just skip over it or pass on to the next joke without sacrificing the theme or the quality of the script.  If so, then continue forward.  Remember, the audience doesn't know your script, and they don't know when you've forgotten a line, so the best solution is to keep it going without missing a beat.

But if you can't, then turn to an alternative.  Ad-lib.  To ad-lib means to keep talking, making the dialogue up as you go.  The audience will never know that you made a mistake, and, as you talk, you allow yourself time to remember your line and return to your original dialogue.

Another option is to have your figure interrupt you and say:
F: Hey, let's sing a song.
V: But we were talking.
F: Yeah, but I want to sing.  Please?  Please?
V: Well, okay, but let's make it quick.

(Following a short song) you can bring the conversation back to the original dialogue without anyone knowing you departed from it.

Most of all, if you forget your lines, keep talking: if silence falls, the audience will really know you made a mistake.  And don't let you figure go limp: keep him moving and don't let him die.  After all, it's not his fault.

Of course, rather than covering a mistake, the best method is avoiding making them.  It's the first and last rule of ventriloquism: practice, practice, practice.
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Condensed from chapter 16, Ventriloquism Made Easy, copyright 1997, Dover Publications.


  1. One problem I sometimes have is when I'm working with 2 characters. I'm deep into the script and for some unknown reason the one character starts talking in the other character's voice. As soon as I realize that, I have the other character ask why he(she) is talking like him(her) and the character with the wrong voice says he(she) doesn't know why then the other character says, "I bet Wilma has a hand in this!" This not only gives me an out but also gets the audience thinking this was staged and the older members of the audience also get the double meaning in the hand line.

  2. When this happens, I let the puppet abuse me: "I know my lines, why don't you know yours?? [Then, to the audience] Does anyone out there know how to do goldarn ventriloquism? Cuz after this show, I'm available!"