A Strange Proximity : Stage Presence, Failure, and the Ethics of Attention book cover
1st Edition

A Strange Proximity
Stage Presence, Failure, and the Ethics of Attention

ISBN 9781138907775
Published April 12, 2016 by Routledge
200 Pages

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Book Description

What happens in the relationship between audience and performer? What

choices are made in the space of performance about how we attend to


A Strange Proximity examines stage presence as key to thinking about

performance and ethics. It is the first phenomenological account of ethics

generated from, rather than applied to, contemporary theatrical productions.

The ethical possibilities of the stage, argues Jon Foley Sherman, rest not

so much in its objects—the performers and the show itself—as in the “how”

of attending to others. A Strange Proximity is a unique perspective on the

implications of attention in performance.

Table of Contents

List of Figures



1. May I Have Your Attention

2. Mimicry and the Urgency of Differences

3. A Unique Phenomenon of Distance

4. Disorienting

5. The Ground of Ethical Failure



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Jon Foley Sherman is a teacher, scholar, performer, and director. He is co-editor of Performance and Phenomenology (Routledge 2015), and his articles have apeared in Performance Research, New Theatre Quarterly, and Theatre Topics. An award-winning actor and deviser, he has performed in Chicago, New York, Switzerland, and Washington, DC.


"A powerful meditation on performance, attention, and the ethical claims inherent in both. Foley Sherman, who wears the mantle scholar-performer as well as anyone, is a master at navigating the difficult terrains of performance theory, phenomenology, and the work of philosophers such as Jacques Rancière. His insights into how we attend to others and why this matters to performance are provocative and deeply original. As a study of theater’s elusive "presence" and all that comprises it, this book stands with the best work in contemporary performance analysis. As a demonstration of how phenomenology can illuminate theater’s 'strange proximities,' it is unrivaled." Stanton B. Garner, Jr., University of Tennessee

"Jon Foley Sherman's book is not only a must-read for any scholar interested in a rich and provocative approach to the poetics of perception, but also a necessary book for any practitioner in the field of theatre who is willing to question the deepest roots of his or her existence as an artist and as a human being." Thomas Prattki, Founder and Director, London International School of Performing Arts

"An illuminating and rigorous exploration of how a phenomenology inspired in equal measure by the writing of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the teaching of Jacques Lecoq might offer a description of the practice of theatre as a paradigmatic mode of social perception. The ethics of attention Foley Sherman elaborates here invites us to enrich our experience of theatre by attending to how it unfolds between us as a source of both trouble and wonder. It is a thoughtful, personal, and original contribution to performance philosophy." Nicholas Ridout, Professor of Theatre, Department of Drama, Queen Mary University of London