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Personality, Presence and Projection

The Art of Performing involves three "P's": Personality, Presence and Projection. Understanding these makes it easier to understand one's work as a performer.

PERSONALITY is the combination of the thoughts, emotions, behaviors, opinions, viewpoints, decisions and genetic/biological structure that are peculiar to an individual and which define their unique nature. The broader their life experience, the more complex and interesting is their personality, as a rule. People draw their personality traits from three main sources:

1. Childhood upbringing with parents, teachers, friends and enemies. We learn behavior through mimicry.

2. Personal life experiences and the way we process these, most importantly, the decisions we make about our life experiences - consciously and unconsciously.

3. Education, formal and non-formal.

When a performer performs, it is their personality which fuels their emotion and behavior on stage. Behind a dancers movements is his/her personality, driving the movement with feeling and intention. So, having a personality that is easy to access is critical to the performer. What does it mean to have a personality that is easily accessible? The person with an accessible personality is/has:

  1. Able to express various moods and emotions

  2. Able to demonstrate various behaviors

  3. Able to adopt personality traits that are the antithesis of their own.

  4. Able to adopt a different accents

  5. Able to express all parts of their humanity, including their sexuality, their anti-social tendencies; their disagreements.

  6. Able to become someone other than themselves - an entirely new character

  7. A broad range of vocal volume. A strong, bigger-than-life personality is not afraid to project their voice with the necessary volume to reach the intended target - a skill theatrical people have because of the stage work they do. Shy people tend to speak softly at all ranges because their voice is restricted by fear.

  8. "Directorable". Throughout time, directors have said that it is easier to direct a larger-than-life personality than a smaller-than-life personality. That is because they are open books and unrestricted by social decorum. They have the freedom to think, emote and behave any way they wish to.

PRESENCE: Presence is being there comfortably in present time and space. Presence is the consciousness of “Now” and the feeling of comfort one has when being here now is not threatening. Presence brings confidence – and calm. Expressing feeling requires presence. So, the more presence you have the more powerful is your personality, emotion and projection.

Presence is what it takes to be a powerful personality and to project it fully in character, movement or voice.

The more present we are, the more we are able to give something our complete and undivided attention and intention, or projection. One of the big presence and projection killers is social skills.

Social Skills

Emotion, speech and behavior we are taught in order to keep order, comply and conform with what we should do to be safe and accepted. These are critical to getting along with people in day-to-day life. But, they are the death knoll for performing artists. Social skills dampen our freedom to be, do and project any human characteristic with “Should's” and Should Not's”. If you have trouble being the performer you would like to be, ask yourself, What social skills, or “Should's” and “Should Not’s”, do you bring on stage with you?


Stage fright is a natural reaction to being observed. The fear you feel about life and people except it is heightened on stage. Most of the time this begins with social skills learned as a child. Happily, most performers become comfortable as time passes and overcome this reaction. However, for those who are naturally repressed, shy or meek, whose personalities are driven by fear, performing can be a never-ending challenge. The emotion of fear undermines intention and expression.

What is intention?

The uncluttered, unequivocal and immediate decision for something to be. Intention is an outflow of energy. It prompts action.

PROJECTION- Projection is thought, emotion or behavior with Intention. Thought, emotion or action without clarity and intention is random and meaningless. It is communication without a point, chaotic feelings or action/behavior without direction.

Intention behind expression and behavior that is clear and meaningful is succinct, to the point and impactful. Active - not Reactive. A thought or emotion is conceived (not triggered) and then – through intention – it is expressed outwardly to others. It comes out in the volume of one’s voice, the intensity of one’s emotion, as seen in the face and the power of one's movements. It takes an accessible personality and clear, strong Presence to Project. Emotional impediments which inhibit projection are:

  • Shyness

  • Insecurity

  • Self-hatred

  • Social Decorum

  • Guilt or Regret


You are a spiritual being. Your thoughts and emotions are projections of you. You store them in your memory in a linear pattern. Reactive thoughts and emotions are triggered by internal and external occurrences, and they prompt past behavior to be repeated in the present. They are like a hurricane and you are the eye in the middle of its fury. The more present you are, the easier it is to remain in the eye and to access the emotions you harbor; to be pro-active or active in your management and expression of them, instead of reactive.

In our day-to-day activities we make every effort to push unwanted thoughts, emotions and behaviors back- to suppress them and ignore them; to make them go away. But, as a performer you want these emotions, thoughts and behaviors to come to the forefront and be accessible to you when you perform. But, not in your daily personal life. But, performers are constantly putting themselves in the hurricane of emotions and reactive emotion which, if they cannot manage them, can make them eccentric, the class clown, the misfit and/or the insane. Hence, the enormous amount of alcoholism, drug addiction and divorce in the performing arts.People are taught to conform and behave well from childhood. Artists do the opposite.

So, while the hurricane of emotional accessibility is needed to be a great performer, without stop gaps, these can take over ones life. But, for those whose restraints dominate their lives, check in on yourself and see if one of these is stopping you from performing your best:

  • fear of getting too much or too little attention from another

  • not being good enough

  • problems and anxieties

  • fear of people

  • self-invalidation

  • social decorum

  • Insecurity

  • Emotional set points

To Be or Not to Be

Performers have a conundrum: They have to be present and able to express themselves, to demonstrate their emotions and a variety of behaviors without letting them them or take over their lives. So, how do we get and stay in touch with our past emotions, thoughts and behaviors and remain normal, sane socially acceptable human beings? By learning how to be present and separate from them – like living in the eye of a hurricane. I use meditation and the natural world. I get away from people and life as I know and live it, and find peace and harmony with nature. I meditate every morning and before a show. I put myself in the eye of the hurricane and pull out the emotions I need to have the larger-then-life personality I need to perform, then center myself in the present with meditation and in nature.

To perform is to present an act of entertainment or art to another or others for their pleasure and inspiration. To perform one needs an accessible personality, the ability to be present and the ability to project their personality in performance with power and authenticity. These are the three “P’s” of performing: Personality, Presence and Projection. They enhance your performing skills and your life skills so that you can be or not whatever you want!

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