Also called “Tableau” and “Tableau vivant“, these words describe a custom posed scene consisting of actors (either amateur or professional), often in costume with backdrops, created for entertainment purposes.
One of the most popular stage entertainments of the nineteenth century was a form of minstrel show, consisting of plays and tableaux (a mute scene or representation). Both adults and children would participate and such performances were often used to raise money for various worthy causes, such as orphanages, sick and disabled soldiers, etc.
In New Hampshire, these Tableaux seemed to be most popular around the time just preceding and after the Civil War. I have provided a few examples of NH newspaper notices of such events.
In 1864 the “Ladies of Milford,” held a ‘Levee’ at the Town Hall with proceeds going to the purchase of a flag for the Lincoln and Johnson club. Tickets were 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. [Farmer’s Cabinet, October 7, 1864, page 2]
In 1866 The Lodge of Good Templars gave a “Levee” which includes Tableaux, Charades and Music with the proceeds going toward furnishing their Hall. [Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst NH Dec 13, 1866, page 2]
In 1877 The Mission Circle, Carrier Doves, held a fair in the Amherst NH Town Hall on May 23d. During the evening they gave an entertainment consisting of Dame History’s Peep Show, Joan of Arc, Tableaux, Music &c. Refreshments of cake, coffee and ice cream. Admission was 10 cents [Farmer’s Cabinet, May 22, 1877, page 2]
In 1878 the Ladies’ Enterprise Society of Chesterfield held a levee that included ‘fine music, [and] brilliant tableaux…” [New Hampshire Sentinel, Keene NH, December 19, 1878]
Tableau vivant – Wikipedia
Tableaux Vivants, by J.H. Head, Boston, J.E. Tilton & Company, 1860 [The Project Gutenberg EBook]