Effective Usage Of Tableaux And Monologues

Sometimes it’s fun to take a break from covering current events in order to showcase a much older piece that doesn’t have anything to do with heavy subject matter.  Take this brief, high school commentary from either 1992 or 1993, for instance.  Entitled "Effective Usage Of Tableaux And Monologues", it was an assignment for Grade 12 Drama Class.
For a while now, I’ve been going back and forth about whether it should be posted or not.  Today, I made my final decision:  it should be seen.  It’s really too bad that my high school movie reviews weren’t nearly as interesting as this.  But what can you do?  What’s done is done, as The Toronto Sun Editorial Board would say.
Tableaux, or tableaux vivant, to use the complete term, is, according to Wikipedia, "French for ‘living picture’".  In that same article, one learns that its roots are in 1840s photography.  Later on, it become part of the stage world and even filmmakers like D.W. Griffith and Derek Jarman used the technique in some of their movies.  Basically, when you use tableaux you’re creating an image of stillness.  Everything in the scene – props, scenery, even the actors – has to be frozen, so to speak.  There must be no movement whatsoever.
A monologue is a speech made by one individual during a drama of some kind.  This particular technique is as old as opera and lives on today on the Broadway stage, the off-Broadway stage and even in films and on Television.  A stand-up comedian telling jokes and funny stories is also an example of someone delivering a monologue to the audience.
This essay was page 30 in my Drama book, the last assignment to be read.  My teacher, Mr. Micallef, loved it.  He scribbled in pencil the following remark:  "Excellent viewpoint".  Speaking of my Drama book, we had to turn it in for a complete evaluation.  I decided that it would be best to have everything typed.  Any assignments that were missed due to illness (most likely the result of stress from being on the Student Council) were re-done specifically for the book evaluation.  In a rare moment of bravado, I walked into the classroom, plopped my binder on Mr. Micallef’s desk and told him that he should just give it a perfect mark right now.  Why waste any time?  He laughed, not taking me seriously at all.
As Arnold would say, "Big mistake!"  He noted in pencil on this same essay the following:  "AN EXCELLENT BOOK!  IN FACT It’s the BEST I’ve ever seen!  Keep it up[!]"  I received 50/50.  It was a rare moment of joy in a year loaded with depression.
The question put forth to me today is WHEN IS TABLEAUX AND A MONOLOGUE USED EFFECTIVELY?  Well, this is a somewhat incomplete question but I will answer it to the best of my abilities.  There are many ways to use both Tableaux and Monologues successfully in either a skit or a play.
Let’s begin with a group skit.  The best way to open it is to allow the premiere actor to say his/her lines first.  After he/she has concluded his/her first utterances of speech, the whole group should "freeze" in order to show the audience that this will not be a predictable sketch.  Always attempt something unique with your group or the audience will become restless and rather bored.  If more than one Tableau is required in the sketch, mix them up in order to make the audience unexpectant of your next move.
The best spot to enter a brief Monologue is near the climax of the skit.  Listening to a person’s intimate thoughts before he/she makes an important decision enlightens the audience and if the direction is correct, the tension will gradually build with every word spoken.
Now, let’s talk about using Tableaux and Monologues in a lengthy production.  A Monologue would be most stylishly used if the lead character would share his/her thoughts at the beginning and end of the play.  The audience will notice how much this character has grown, learned or changed during the time span of this production.  As for using Tableaux, I would suggest it to be performed during a confrontation sequence.  Just before the hero or the villain dies, for instance, the two combatants should pause momentarily in order to cause a frenzy in the audience’s critical minds.  Afterwards, one combatant wins and the tension has ceased.  The audiences is thrilled with the production.
Now, my suggestions for effective uses of Monologues and Tableaux may not necessarily work for every group who attempts them.  But, if enough attention and effort is used in either a skit or a play, the audience will be pleased with the result.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 19, 2007
1:46 a.m.
Published in: on March 19, 2007 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  

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