Family Portraits and Introduction


Students will understand the ways in which theatre can be used to create a forum for discussion by creating a piece of art representing their commitment to creating a community of trust in the class, prompted by games and discussion.



Materials Needed:

Butcher Paper and Colored Markers




“Joe Egg (aka trust circle)” (From Games for Actors and Non-Actors) Ask the group to form a circle arms length apart with everyone holding their bodies upright, feet solidly planted on the ground. They lean forward towards the centre without bending at the waist or arching their backs or lifting their heels off the ground. Next, they lean outwards in the same manner, without lifting their toes. Repeat the sequence several times. Add leaning to the right and the left. Ask them to form a circle in the air with their bodies, leaning centre, left, outwards, right, and centre. Reverse. Ask a volunteer to go into the centre of the circle. Everyone tightens the circle shoulder to shoulder. The person in the centre closes her eyes and does the same leaning movements as before (crossing her arms in front of her chest), but this time she lets her body fall. Those in the circle must support her gently with their hands, making no abrupt impact, then propel her gently back to the centre where she doesn’t come to rest because she starts to fall into another direction. This can also be done in groups of three with two people on the outside and one falling back and forward.




Step One—TRANSITION: In theatre in general, but in this unit especially trust is essential. We will be sharing and listening experiences, feelings, thoughts, and opinions. When you were in the center of the circle, did you trust those around you? How did this affect your movement one way or another? What would have happened to the person in the center if we had dropped her? What are ways we can potentially drop one another/break the trust? What are ways we can build trust in this group and protect one another?


Step Two—GROUP PRACTICE: Have students divide in half and stand across from one another. One student stands between the lines. She is free to share any facts about herself. It can be very basic (ie: I am the oldest, I have two brothers, I like to ski, we have a cat, I’m allergic to chocolate etc.) and more intimate (ie: I am a leader in my family, I don’t get along with my sister, I have a difficult time trusting people, I can’t fall asleep easily at night, I dream of being a mother, etc.) The students standing across from each other are to cross to the other side every time they have in common with what the speaker shares. Allow each student who wants to be the speaker.


Step Three—DISCUSSION: Have students to sit in a circle and ask what they learned about one another. Did anyone learn anything new about themselves or one another? What is unique about you? What did you find that most of you had in common? What do you think makes people unique?


Step Four—INSTRUCTION: “Filling the Negative Space”. Ask all students to strike an interesting pose on the count of three. Pick the student with the most negative space and ask her to hold that pose while the other students may relax. Explain that the positive space in this picture is all of the space that the student occupies. Ask if there is a student who can show us where her negative space is. Ask this student if he or she can create a shape that fills her negative space.


Step Five—GROUP PRACTICE: “Family Portraits”. Divide the class into two groups. One person in the group strikes a pose and the others try to fill the person’s negative space. They have ten seconds to fill the space creating a pyramid shape with highs, middles, and lows. After practicing this a few times, give each group a title for the tableaux they will create. Choose from general/random ones first “The Happy Family, Tree, Death, Baseball, Tense, etc. Move to more specific and directed ones “Bully, Open, Closed, Gossip, and the final two—Trust, Distrust,”


Step Six—DISCUSSION: Between each of the first tableaus, discuss the pictures you see. What physical indicators of spacing, gesture, direction, body language, etc. help you to read and understand what you’re seeing? For the second set of tableaus what are the interpretations of these words. What does trust look like? What does distrust look like? After the tableaus are finished, have students sit in a circle


Step Seven—DISCUSSION: Reflecting back on our first conversation as well as the one we just had about the Tableaus, what do we want our classroom environment to look like? Can you think of anything that you might be tempted to do that could break trust? What commitment can you make to yourself and to one another to create and maintain trust in this environment? What can you personally contribute towards such an environment?


Step Eight—GROUP PRACTICE: Using the paper and markers, allow students to create a “Poster” about trust. They are allowed to use keywords, phrases, or art to convey their personal commitment to the group. Have students include their names in the poster.




How did these games help us to speak about trust in a manner different from just a general conversation? How can theatre be important in discussing difficult or important subjects? Explain that we will explore the ways in which theatre can be used for discussion and change




Students will be assessed by participation in games, discussions, and especially in the poster art project as a demonstration of their understanding.