Tableau or Stage Picture


This is a foundational aspect of my program. I use it as the basis for multiple activities through the course of the year, both with beginners to English as well as advanced drama students. I first learned this technique as an acting student at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, when we were asked to create multiple stage pictures, or tableaux, retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet.

There will be multiple entries using the basics of Tableaux creation following this one. The possibilities are endless and indeed can form the structure of an entire program in using drama to teach English. But first let’s start at the beginning with the first steps.

To introduce it to students, as you will see in the video, we begin with a location. In the video I am eliciting other names for location. The students offer the following: setting, environment, destination, direction, where, there, here, target. Now this class has worked with this concept before, of creating a statue, or frozen picture of an action through our game of freeze tag (which I recommend as the first introduction to tableaux creation). But in this case we specify the location: the park. A student comes to the center and creates a pose. Then I ask someone to complete the image by creating another pose in relationship to the first. In this example the first student is running and the second then shows someone timing them, by looking at their wrist. Multiple possibilities of eliciting vocabulary are possible here (thought bubbles, dialogue etc. can grow out of this, which you will see in later entries). In the beginning I call on students to tell me what they see.

Then I asked for another student to create a new pose of someone doing an action at the park. And then after that was established we asked someone to do something in relationship to the first pose.

The next step was to use other locations. This one had groups rehearse a specific location. For this exercise I assigned each group a location and they had three minutes to prepare a tableau and then they presented them to the class.

This was the classes first experience with creating a tableau based on a location. In the next posting you will see how we followed up with it: letting students in groups create lists of locations (both real and imaginary) and then creating a group tableau, or stage picture, of that location. We also incorporated a more academic type of questioning— “make a claim about what you see and provide evidence”. This provided some very positive support for the work they are doing in their writing class using claim, evidence and analysis. But that is for the next posting—coming soon.