Plot Pictures

This week I’ve got a new drama therapeutic activity for everyone, Yay! I really like this activity because it’s one of those theater games that even the kids that say they aren’t actors can participate with enthusiasm. It can also be tailored to the needs and abilities of the participants, which is great for those of us who work in healthcare! I did this activity once with participants who had limited speaking and moving abilities and they all had a blast.

What you will be doing in this activity is creating pictures with your bodies to illustrate different scenes in a story. If it’s the group’s first time doing this activity and the participants aren’t use to drama, I would recommend you start with a simple story that everyone knows, such as a nursery rhyme like Little Miss Muppet. Once your group is comfortable with the way the activity works, you can jump into creating stories of your own. For my Child Life Specialist readers, this is where you can incorporate medical play.

In order to illustrate the activity in a simple manner, I’ll be using the example story I mentioned earlier of Little Miss Muppet. To start out you will need some space for the participants to move around slightly. You don’t need a lot of space, but the more space you have, the better. Divide the participants into pairs. Take the story you want participants to tell and divide it into sections. For Miss Muppet, let’s divide it into 3 parts that can be easily portrayed as a picture (tableaux):

Tableaux 1
Little Miss Muppet sitting on her tuffet

Tableaux 2
The spider sitting beside her

Tableaux 3
Miss Muppet being frightened away.

Have each pair choose which person will be the spider and which person will be Miss Muppet. Tell the participants that they will be given a count down from 3 and when they hear freeze they must use their bodies and facial expressions to tell the part of the story as if they are pictures. Going in order, have them try each of the 3 tableaux, encouraging them to stay frozen for a few seconds for each picture.

I’ve found that it helps to first have all the participants try the activity together at once, instead of having each pair doing the tableaux one at a time in front of the group. This way participants don’t feel the pressure of having to perform in front of their peers because everyone is focused on their own tableaux. Once everyone gets the hang of the activity, you can invite pairs to show their 3 tableaux to the rest of the group.

Okay, so you’ve done a simple story with your group or your group is already very comfortable with each other and performing. If you would like, you can take it a step further and create a story about a health experience. You could do a story about a doctor’s visit to help younger children practice role playing and understanding the sequence of a health exam. For teens who have a similar diagnosis or health experience you could do a story about something they faced that was difficult, perhaps a test, or learning of their diagnosis. I would also like to point out that you don’t have to do a story about the hospital. You could have a group of teenagers who all have had a similar experience at school or at home. You can create a short story that participants can then illustrate with tableaux.

You may be wondering, ‘Why don’t I just have participants act scenes out with words and movements?’ That’s a great question and you can definitely do that, but for this activity the point is not the words and movements. By introducing the concept of tableaux first, you can use it as a spring board into acting out scenes when participants are more comfortable. Tableaux are a great first step into theater because it isn’t seen as threatening to people who are shy and embarrassed. Tableaux are also a great way to instill confidence in participants and encourage them to experiment with emotions in quick bursts on energy. I also want to note that you don’t have to have participants do it in groups of 2, you can make the groups larger if you wish, but I would recommends starting small and building on it so participants don’t feel overwhelmed.

Plot Pictures Activity Notes

Ages: 6 and up

Materials: Space for participants to be able to move their hands and feet easily

Therapeutic Value:
Medical Play (if using a health story)
Emotional Expression

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