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Six Characters in Search of A Play Part 2: Tableau Revelations

Teachers' Rating:
  1 rating


October 2011
Harvey Sadis is a retired K-5 drama teacher from Seattle, WA and a recipient of the Washington State Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence

Plays/Scenes Covered
A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1.2, 3.1
What's On for Today and Why

Students will learn techniques for staging a scene, including the use of tableau, stance, stage movements, and voice. Students will develop an understanding of the character traits and motivations of the "Rude Mechanicals." Students will develop an understanding of scenes involving the Athens laborers in terms of background, plot, and conflict.
This lesson should take one 90 minute class period, but may be divided or extended into two shorter sessions.

What You Need

Folger edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

Large sheets of butcher paper with grid -- Names of characters along the vertical axis and traits and motivation along the horizontal axis.

Copies of the Midsummer Mechanicals Playlet

Copies of Background Pyramus and Thisbe

Background Pyramus and Thisbe
Midsummer Mechanicals Playlet
What To Do

Warm Up -- Intro to Tableau(x) Activities:

Definition: A tableau(x) is a frozen picture of people in motion.

  • Sculpting: Divide students into pairs by counting off by #1 and #2: #1 acts as the sculptor, #2 acts as the clay. The first "sculpts" the second into an image of someone greeting the other or entering. When all of the statues have been formed, all of the #1 sculptors will cross to the other side of the room and observe their work. 
  •  Ask students for feedback: What do they see? Discuss what the "statue" thinks about the person s/he is greeting? What would make a stronger picture?
  •  Next  the #2 sculptors take their turn sculpting the #1s, this time in an image of someone leaving. Again the sculptors observe each other's work and discuss what they see. This time ask the class to give feedback both as the sculptor and the clay or sculptee.
  • Slide Show Tableau(x): (optional)
    Identify important plot points in a fairy tale or any story the class has been working on, and create a sequence of tableau slides that illustrate the story.

Main Lesson

  •  Pass out "Rude Mechanicals" scripts. Read 1.2 aloud, with each student reading each character's lines in turn. At this point they will not take on a role of their own. The goal is to do a quick read and become familiar with each character's behavior and motivation. 
  •  Ask students what they noticed. 
  • Divide students into groups of six to develop a tableau that will demonstrate their understanding of each character and the action they portray in 1.1. One of the students may utter a line or two of text that will set the tableau into "motion".
  • After some rehearsal time, ask each group to show their tableau to the rest of the class. Tell the students that they should pay careful attention to what each character says and imagine what their body language and movements might convey.
  • Have students return to their groups. On butcher paper grid have students write down their observations and thoughts about each character's traits (How do they act?) and motivation (Why do they act that way?).
  • Ask students to describe and demonstrate the imagined body language of each of the characters and how they might move about the stage to convey their trait and motivation. If similar traits emerge, cite those.

How Did It Go?
  • Were students able to discuss the personalities of these characters and how they act?
  • Were students able to infer why they might act the way they do?

Extending the Lesson:

When retelling the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, connect it to the forbidden love between Hermia and Lysander and the central plot of Romeo & Juliet, which Shakespeare is believed to have written within the same year.


Note: 1.2 of the play only 4 of the 6 characters' traits are revealed. Doing the same tableau(x) activity with 3.1 will present more revelations.


If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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  Common Core State Standards

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