Alternative approaches to the classic model of stage presence in performing arts: a review

Sarah Pini

Research output: Contribution to journalConference paperpeer-review


Stage presence in theatrical traditions is generally understood as the singular actor’s ability to enchant an audience, in what has been called the ‘classic model of presence’ (Sherman, 2016). According to such a model, presence is conceived as a prerogative of the skilled performer, resulting from intrinsic charisma and regimens of training. Whether stage presence is described as a kind of innate intensity or as skilful practice, the performer occupies a position of power, and audiences are conceived as merely receivers, without agency. Is presence an intrinsic aesthetic quality or rather is a state of mind that both audience and actors can share and experience? Some researchers have argued that the sense of stage presence emerges from interaction with the audience and the context, and that audience and performers constitute the performance event by their phenomenal co-presence (Zarrilli 2009, 2012; Fischer-Lichte, 2012), others claim equal responsibility for audience and performers in shaping the performance’s reception (Heim, 2016). Through critical analysis of the existing literature, this work proposes an ecological framework for the study of stage presence. By moving away from a classic model, it suggests possible methodological directions for a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of stage presence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalHumanity: NewMac Postgrad Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventNewMac 2017: Making a Mark - Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 17 Jul 201717 Jul 2017


  • stage presence
  • theatrical practice
  • performing arts
  • cognitive ecology
  • phenomenology of acting


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