Maybe it would simply have been a matter of taking a break, letting the kids run around for a bit and then resuming work with more concentration instead of hurrying through the tableaux and then finishing early. Okay: first lesson learned – I shouldn’t just plan breaks in theory but actually take breaks at the times I planned them! (And not go on until kids sneak off because they urgently need to go the bathroom…Oops!)
Other issues: my idea that I could put (nearly) all kids in one tableau didn’t quite work because as soon as I started giving instruction to one small group (e.g. the king and his lords) the other groups (Prospero, Ariel, Miranda or Stefano and Trinculo) would break up, start chatting or run off to play.
So what would I do differently if I had a similar workshop with a similar age group?
Definitely explain the idea of tableaux better in the beginning, and explain the whole process. Label an area the “stage” and put tape marks on the floor it or mark it otherwise. Assign an area as auditorium, with chairs to sit down on. Mark an area as changing area/props table. Talk about theatre rules before I start: 1. no running around on the “stage” 2. when you’re not needed, you can sit down and watch or when you’re not needed for a longer time go to a different room/area and play there.
Give them more time to develop their scene. Let them act it out if they want. Then they should find a moment they want to conserve as a tableau. Then they can form their tableau and I can take a picture (I got some pictures this time but all in a hurry). This, however, requires that the other kids, who are not in the scene, are either old enough to sit and watch or that someone takes care of them in the meantime. So maybe provide tasks for in between? (Painting etc.?) Or ask the carers if they can play with them in the meantime.
But how do I deal with the problem that 4 kids want to play the princess but nobody wants to play a courtier? My solution was to switch roles after each scene but I’m not sure if that is the best idea because it makes it hard to do character work if roles are switched so often…