TABLEAUX VIVANT                                    



By the Ensemble Street Players

Living Tableaux at the Seattle Art Museum

May, 1970





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From "The Memoirs, Chapter Three" -



            I remembered that Dale had used a device which he called a “tableau vivant,” or living picture, in the staging of the Gertrude Stein we did, “Mother of Us All,” and which, he said, had been a Victorian parlor diversion, often quite elaborate, in which family and friends would recreate famous paintings, say, or ancient Greek urns or such, and hold the pose during, usually, a slowly revealing lighting scheme and some musical accompaniment.

            I got interested and read some more about this little known sub-genre of the theater and we talked about portraying not a frozen moment over time, but completely acting every moment in real time, the moment, fully alive, going on and on, in no time. 

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            There was some sort of anti-war event or exhibit that was to be held at the Seattle Museum of Art in the then-shabby relic of world’s fair days, the Seattle Center.  It was organized a short time after the killings of the four students at Kent State.  The images of the bodies had been much reproduced in the media and were instantly recognizable.








            We contacted the organizers and proposed “living sculptures” to be exhibited in the galleries during the inauguration ceremonies.  Well, they liked the idea a lot and we decided to create the four recent deaths of the students at Kent State. 

             In place of blood, bright scraps of red fabric lay over the bodies.  I believe we held the poses for about an hour.









            Many people found it a moving experience to view and we felt a strong power to communicate a dark message, a serious message, in the frozen moment.  We felt an exciting drama in the prolonging of the single action.


            We would do many more of these Victorian diversions and advertise “Living Tableaux” for many years.




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