The Art of Tableau

The curtains rise, the lights blaze on, you freeze in place and without saying a word, your body tells the story. If you were an actor or actress participating in a tableau this may be your experience. A tableau is a theatrical technique where all the actor(esse)s on the stage freeze in place to emphasize a point or tell a story. The positions the actors take are arranged in order to give this point it’s strongest effect.

Out and about:
Hadley Hooper’s Tableau at the Denver Art Museum is Hooper’s interpretation of a tableau. Her expressive and detailed drawings of animals illustrate their own stories as they are frozen in time. What those stories are, is up to us as viewers to decide.

Your turn:
When you visit the Denver Art Museum head to the second floor to the landing between the second and third floor. This exhibit runs through August 20, 2017, and you can find out more information at the Denver Art Museums website.
When you find Tableau, spend a good amount of time looking at the various drawings. You can notice the different animals and objects and the patterns and designs therein. Some questions you can think about are:
-Are the animals realistic looking or are they simplified or cartoonish?
-Is what the animals are doing normal animal behavior?
-What sorts of activities are they doing?
-Are these animals friends
-What kind of relationship do you think they have?
-What story can you tell about these drawings?
-How can you or someone-else be a part of that story

As you ponder these questions, you can develop a story together that you might like to tell about this art. Once you have come up with a story, you can position your bodies around the art work in a way that best tells your story. Freeze in a place for a few seconds to a minutes. You can also draw the following ideas from a hat, and create a tableau from these ideas. If your children are shy and don’t want to freeze in place, bring a few small stuffed animals with you to the museum and arrange them in the space so that they can tell the stories with their bodies. All in all have fun with this, and be sure not to do anything that can damage or cause harm to the artwork.

Tableau Ideas:
You are going for a swim when you meet a whale
You are lost at sea when you meet friendly animals
Going for a swing
Hiding from someone
Talking to the moon
Eating an imaginary picnic
Having a moonlight dance party

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