Here’s an acting exercise everyone enjoys no matter the grade or skill level.
What is tableau, you ask?
- Tableau, a frozen stage picture like a living photograph, is one of the most useful and important components of theatre. Tableau became most popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- The word is French in origin and means “living picture”. Generally, actors dress in costumes and pose in a static position. The actors do not speak or move throughout the duration of the tableau.
- Tableau is an effective tool for a director. Humans are visual thinkers. Tableau is a real time snapshot of a moment in a play or musical. It helps the audience member remember the production as it enfolds.
Why should I teach or learn about it?
- Tableau is an easy theater component for students to study. Learners of all ages can perform tableau because it requires no speaking or extra ability other than simple movement.
- Tableau requires no speaking or memorized lines. The actors merely demonstrate a moment in time.
I used to teach for a home school enrichment program in Longmont, Colorado. I saw 200 different students in three days. It was a crazy experience because I was extremely busy, but it was a good one too!
In one day I’d teach every grade level from second through twelfth. One time I taught all of them about tableau.
That was an amazing experience. Just imagine….
- the youngest were a bit timid, but enjoyed themselves
- the upper elementary LOVED it–they are fearless at that age
- middle school kids enjoyed it although they were a little hesitant
- high school kids LOVED it as much as upper elementary–WHAT?
- even parents enjoy it given half a chance!
After my students do the first exercise, it is time to switch it up. We add a bit of dialogue, well one sentence for each character in the tableau to say at will. Improvisation used in this manner is super.
An Acting Exercise Everyone Enjoys
Tableau shouldn’t be limited to drama class.
It can be used in other classes such as a literature class. The students present tableaux of several scenes in a story or book.
Or a Social Studies and/or history class uses tableau to remember significant moments in history. (Think Washington crossing the Potomac–that sort of thing. The signing of the Paris Peace treaty to end WWII, etc. )
How about in art class? Students could view a particular painting and re-enact it through tableau. (Seurat’s Sunday in the Park with George is an excellent example.)
In a vocal music class, a choir to strike tableau demonstrating different moments in a musical piece. It could be metaphorical or literal, that would depend upon the teacher and her needs.
Obviously, the uses are nearly endless. I’m sure you can see this is a super teaching method.
Shoot, you could even use it in P.E. class to demonstrate certain moves in a game–what is allowed on the court, what isn’t, etc.
Wow, I’m on a roll, huh?
I have several tableau exercises on my Teacherspayteachers.com store. Check them out here:
Holiday theme— Tableau Holiday Theme
Thanksgiving theme—Tableau Thanksgiving Theme
Halloween theme—Tableau Halloween Theme
Each product is a comprehensive lesson(s), about 55 minutes in length.
- the reasons to teach tableau
- the history of tableau
- teacher’s script
- a character list or activities of the particular theme
- links to alternative activity for inspiration
- sculpture example
- evaluation and alternative activities
Here are a few reviews by some teachers who have purchased them:
“Awesome way to learn drama! Love this resource!”
“Such a useful and engaging resource! I love how it was so easy to implement and use. Thank you!”
These are time tested by an award winning veteran drama teacher of 38 years.
I encourage you to teach tableau to your students. You’ll be glad you did.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net