Family Portraits

Characters are created in more ways than just what we say. This exercise proves that.


Students make a backline. Director gets a suggestion related to genre (40s gangsters, sci-fi shipmates) or to character trait (the secret family, the silly family). While the director counts down from 10 slowly, the students arrange themselves in a “family portrait” related to the suggestion. Students should look at each other and make a strong character choice within that world, freezing in a tableau at the end After the countdown, we freeze the portrait and the director states what he/she thinks the characters all are. Students then un-freeze and explain who their character actually was.


To create believable characters; to commit; to accept and forward offers; group mind; to make non-verbal, emotional/physical offers.


The emphasis should be on finding unique, believable characters within the suggestion, and contrasting or complimenting the characters being created by the other students. This should lead to discoveries within character/genre worlds beyond stereotypes. For example, the mobster family probably has a bunch of tough guys in it, but maybe they have a sweet little mother, too? Or perhaps a skinny, mathematician brother who’s not in the business? By using powers of observation instead of just speaking character choice, students can find new ways of approaching character.


Can also be a school picture, work portrait, etc.