We did it! SNE is now online.

Photo of young man enjoying learning online

Re-frame how you coach and facilitate forever with Strategic Narrative Embodiment – Trans formative facilitation for organisations

Now available online and the first component is free!

Everything is changing so fast, but people struggle to adapt. This course will re-frame your reality and change how you help people shift. With models and tools from narrative strategy and applied improvisation, you can throw away old scripts and hone the skills that unlock your genius and the genius of your clients.

The steps are easy:

  1. Try the free online modules first,
  2. If it works for you, sign up for the live training sessions, online or in person.
  3. Practise and hone the tools in class and in your work
  4. Get certified


  1. Change the world for good!

More details about the course here

The SNE course is a home grown, truly South African product – designed for our context Made with our people and for our future.
The course is accredited with the University of the Witwatersrand as a short course and you will receive your Wits certificate of competence

Sneak peek:

Send me an email right now to be one of the first to sign up.

The first 12 people will get a R500 discount
for the paid component of the course.

Pig catching on 1 March: How to connect across gender, race and generation gaps

Flying pig

You are invited to catch flying pigs with us

In-person pig catching in Johannesburg

Topic: How to connect across gender, race and generation gaps
Date: Friday 1 March
Time:  7:30 am – 10:00 am
Place:  Floor 21, University Corner, above Wits Art Museum, Corner of Jan Smuts and Jorissen, Braamfontein (parking can be booked 8 days in advance)
Facilitators: Tshego Khutsoane, Petro Janse van Vuuren, Les Nkosi, Palesa Xulu
Cost: R280
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by Wed 27 Feb to petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za (unless you want parking, then let me know as soon as possible)

Live online pig catching in a Zoom room

Topic: How to connect across gender, race and generation gaps
Date: Friday 1 March
Time:  2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Place:  In Zoom room with ID: 2828282259
Facilitators: Petro Janse van Vuuren
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by Wed 27 Feb to petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za

More about the topic

I am tired of people not hearing each other, not sitting down to listen and connect on the level that can bring healing to rifts and wounds. So, Les, Tshego, and I sat down and decided to experiment with stories that might cross these rifts. We are still experimenting, and we are having fun doing it. Come join us and let’s find our way to each other through our stories.

What does it mean to catch flying pigs? Look at this : https://prezi.com/jxgstjc_ckmx/about-pig-catching/

‘Trash, Boer and Brat’ and ‘Through the Eye of a Doughnut’

Two Story shows at the Stellenbosch Woordfees 6-7 March.

Trash, Boer and Brat

The work invites you into stories we tell about how we were moved by fellow South Africans. It plays with dominant and habitual narratives, disrupts boundaries, challenges stereotypes and hopes to move you. It may upset your sense of political correctness and we apologise if it doesn’t.

Where: Pulp Cinema, Neelsie, Stellenbosch
When: Wed 6 March, 13h00-12h00 and Thu 7 March at 11h00-12h00
Tickets: R60
Tickets at computicket, the door, and the Woordfees office: +27 (0) 87 238 2078 or adminfees@sun.ac.za

Director-facilitator:           Tshego Khutsoane
Performer-facilitators:      Petro Janse van Vuuren, Les Nkosi and Palesa Xulu

Through the eye of a doughnut

Stories shatter stereotypes, open us up and move us towards one another. Let me tell you about the year I was the only white student  in Goldfields residence, or the first time I took a local taxi in Johannesburg, or the day I was unmasked as a bigot by a worker from Idas Valley…oh…and about the doughnut.

Where: Pulp Cinema, Neelsie, Stellenbosch
When: Wed 6 March, 15h00-16h00 and Thu 7 March at 13h00-14h00
Tickets: R60
Tickets at computicket, the door, and the Woordfees office: +27 (0) 87 238 2078 or adminfees@sun.ac.za    :

Director:         Tshego Khutsoane
Story teller:    Petro Janse van Vuuren

Whose bed can you hide under?

I was travelling home from a dinner with some friends. Zola*, my taxi driver, strikes up a conversation. Like many drivers he goes for politics. He chooses the classic opening line: “Eish, the country is going down the drain…”
“Really?” I say. This driver looks unusually concerned.
“Yes, there is racism everywhere. And they say the foreigners are taking our jobs.”
“That is not how it works,” I counter. “It is not like there are only so many jobs and only a few people can have them. In a healthy country there are enough jobs for everyone. If the country grows, the amount of jobs will grow and there will be enough for us all.”
He thinks for a while and says: “I did not think I would meet someone like you tonight.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you not afraid to be here with the black government and the politics?”
His question reminds me of another taxi driver on another day – one who looked and talked more like me. His name was Arno. Like other drivers, he also talked politics and it was me who asked him the question: “What do you say about some politicians wanting to drive us into the ocean?”
He answered with a defiant smile: “Hulle moet maar probeer [Let them try].”
This is not my response to Zola. Instead I answer truthfully: “Yes, I am, sometimes, but…” We have stopped in front of my house by now and I wish to end the conversation on a lighter note, “… don’t worry. My friend Bheki* said I can hide under his bed when they come for me.”
Zola does not yet unlock the car doors and I see the conversation is not over. I wait patiently to hear what is on his mind.
As he unlocks the door he says: “You can come hide under my bed too.”

*All names changed

Thus and other stories at the Stellenbosch Woordfees

Seriously, though,

·         how are the tensions among races, genders and generations in your organisation?

·         will your people hide each other under their beds in a pinch?

·         want support to work through difficult conversations?

·         need help understanding one another?

We are here to support you.

1.    Book us to perform our interactive theatre piece “Trash, Boer and Brat” at your event.

2.    Book a workshop and let us help you work through sticky matters so you can get on with your job.

3.    Come train in the tools and techniques to do it yourself.




What happened to the SNE Essentials course for coaches and facilitators?

It has undergone a metamorphosis.

Instead of being a regular face to face course sign up for and pitch in person at some venue you spend hours looking for. This course is being turned into an online experience consisting of four components, the first of which is free of charge. Here are the components:

  • Component 1: Introduction to Strategic Narrative Embodiment – self paced online component that is free of charge – 6 Modules, 3 weeks.
  • Component 2:  STORI Strategy –  1 self paced online module plus three 90 min live online sessions where you learn and practice the the STORI design model for change – R 3 000 ($300 for non-Africans)
  • Component 3:  Applied Improvisation –  1 self paced online module plus three 90 min live online sessions where you learn and practice applied improvisation exercises for learning to be innovative and agile – R 3 000 ($300 for non-Africans)
  • Component 4: 1 final 90 min online session plus assignment and assessment for certification, also R 3 000.($300 for non-Africans)

The free self paced component will go live in April and the fee baring line online components will happen in September and October. You will have a choice of Wednesdays 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm or the repeat on Saturdays 9:30 am to 11:00 am. a minimum of 6 people must sign up for any of these times for it to be a viable group.

The first 12 people to complete the self paced module will receive R 1 500 ($150) discount on the rest of the course = R 7 500 instead of the full R 9 000 PLUS an extra R 500 ($50) as a bonus.

Send me an interest email now, and you will be the firs to get notified when it goes live!

You will receive a Wits University certificate of competence on completion of the course.

Exercise: Land disputes


  • To practice non verbal negotiation skills.
  • To interrogate the relationship between words and body language
  • To elicit conversation about the principles of negotiation, collaboration and team work.
  • To brainstorm and practice solutions to group conflicts
  • To explore the underlying motivations of conflict


Two teams on opposite sides negotiate their claim on land using gibberish.

Time: 10-20 min

Group size: 6-30


The facilitator divides the participants arbitrarily into 2 groups. Each group lines up on opposite sides of an open space. The facilitator explains that the space represents a strip of land that lies between the occupied land of two communities. On the land grow beautiful big trees. One community wants the land so they can preserve the trees, the other wants it so they can cut them down and use them.

The groups decide which community they represent and why they either want to preserve or use the trees. They can preserve it for instance because the trees mark sacred graves, or are sacred themselves or because the community wants to conserve the environment for future generations etc. The other group may want to use the trees for shelter against fierce winds, or for fuel against cold winterss or to sell for a profit. The groups negotiate their reasons amongst themselves in gibberish as a practise round.

Next the facilitator asks them to pick a negotiator that will meet the negotiator of the other group in the middle of the open space. Selected negotiators are instructed to meet each other and begin the negotiations in gibberish. The rest of the community is asked to support their negotiators in gesture and sound where presumed fitting. Negotiations cease when either side gives up, or when the facilitator feels it has done what it can for now. Or, when it becomes too fiolent.

Once the first round has been debriefed, participants may go a second and third round until the game has achieved what it can for the moment.

Debriefing questions:

  • What was this like for the negotiators?
  • What was it like for the group members?
  • What was intersting? Perplexing? Hopeful?
  • Where did it go wrong? What might be the reasons?
  • What worked? Why do you think this happened?
  • What would you do differently? More of? Less of?
  • Would you like to try again?
  • Did you experience or observe any stereotypical genderist/agist/racist feelings or behaviour during any part of the game play? What do you think caused this? (Our experience is that the absence of language levels the playing field to a large degree and that stereotypical behaviour decrease the more participants genuinely seek agreement.)


  1. For an extra kick you may introduce an element of tension by inventing a reason why there is a time urgency to conclude negotiations: E.g. winter storms are brewing and the tree users must  build their shelters before it strikes, but the other group believes the crisis is exactly what is needed to find other solutions since no threat should interfere with the principles of conservation/ sacred tradition etc.
  2. Ask participants to pair up with some from the opposite team. LEt them discuss what in the game play made them feel closer to, or further from, agreement. After some moments of discussion, ;et the, return to their teams and discuss what they had learned. Play another round where they impliment their discoveries.

Online adaptation

In the absence of spatial orientation in the online room, we suggest that you change the scenario to fit the context. E.g. Participants are all part of a production company who has landed their first major TV series. The stakes are high. They need to make a reality show with a certain family. One part of the team believes they should work with the family as natural as possible and not interfere with how they appear on screen. The other side believes that some performance training is needed, and that hair and make-up alterations are essential to present the family in a certain way for entertainment purposes. The team must come to an agreement before they pitch their concept to the client. Introduce tension by suggesting that they client is waiting in the next room for their concept presentation.

This adaptation works because the gestures can center around the face and hair which is most visible in the screen. It is limiting because it does not really relate to the survival of a community or the environment to the same extent as does the land conversation, but it is still very effective.

Online improvisation and embodiment in Paris

Petro and Christian at the Applied Improv Network conference in Paris 2018

Petro Janse van Vuuren and Christian F. Freisleben have been working together since 2015. Based on a steadily deepening friendship they explore possibilities how to use methods and the mindset of Applied Improvisation also in Online-Rooms. Petro invited Christian to her flying pig-sessions. “When pigs fly” is a figure of speech that says something is completely impossible, even unthinkable. For example: “Can people really change for good?” “Yes, when pigs fly.” For Petro and Christian a flying pig is the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients, students, participants…

As academic at Drama for Life, University of the Witwatersrand school of Arts, Petro contributed her research, findings and experiences with Strategic Narrative Embodiment SNE). This is an Applied Theatre methodology that has been developed for application in leadership and organisation development contexts (you can find more background information here).

Christian added his know-how as a teacher and trainer using Applied Improvisation, as a expert on the didactics of higher education and blended learning e. g. out of his work at the University of Applied Sciences St. Pölten.

Petro and Christian offered various Online-Workshops with participants from all over the world and evolved a process combining Applied Improv, SNE and the embodiment of the flying pig. 2015 was also the year in which Christian started with the work on his doctoral thesis on using Applied Improvisation in the field of higher education online and offline. Petro and Christian realised during the year 2016, that they have embarked on a journey of action research. They started to look more closely at their didactic designs, recordings of various sessions and of reflections of participants in order to critically evolve their processes and record their discoveries.

Findings of this journey can be found online here http://www.playingmantis.net/applied-improvisation-exercises/. Together they wrote a paper and presented it online at the 9th International Drama in Education Research Institute (IDIERI, 2 – 9 July 2018, Auckland New Zealand). In addition they facilitated a 90 minute workshop at the conference using a live-unline tool (see this review). This paper , now including findings from this experience will be published within this year.

Join us in Paris!

Here is the ZOOM Link to join online;

if you are not participant of the conference and want to join please send an application to Petro at the latest till 23th of August

Note: the session will be recorded an used as data material for the ongoing research.

How to catch a flying pig at IDIERI 2018

A paper and a workshop at The International Drama in Education Research Institute

Christian and I (Petro)  presented a paper and a workshop at The International Drama in Education Research Institute (IDIERI) 2018 in Auckland New-Zeeland this past weekend. The theme was The Tyranny of Distance. IDIERI is the premier drama education/applied theatre research institute held triennially around the globe. IDIERI focuses on developing and expanding research in the community of drama education/applied theatre and aims to engage rigorous academic discourse within the field. Read more on the conference theme and programme.

Our own response to the theme was to look at how online rooms can be used to over come distance and its tyranny by connecting PhD students across Africa with each other through embodiment processes.

Below are some resources you might like to access if you are interested in this theme:

If you were there, you can download our presentation slides here: Paper slides – Embodiment in online rooms

and our workshop slides here: Workshop slides IDiERI

You may also be interested in some of the applied Improv games we played with their online adaptations:

Sound ball


Here are two articles you may like to read:

This one is an overview of the principles we shared at IDIERI and

This one is about principles I learned from interacting with other applied I,prov facilitators who use online processes.

You may also like to buy the complete facilitator guide for The Flying Pig Signature Move (for $7,50) for face to face and online rooms here. It comes with a case example of how it worked in the life of one particular participant.

For more context, this was our abstract

An important aspect of Applied Improvisation and drama is using and perceiving the body: your own and those of others in the room. What happens when this room is virtual? Can adaptations be made to do embodied work online without jeopardising impact? Is this a flying pig? At Drama for Life, Wits University, Johannesburg, students of the PhD cohort are scattered across the African continent able only to travel through virtual space to engage with peers. This paper focuses on adaptations and inventions two academics had made to engage these and other participants in online embodiment processes over the past two years. While much is written about e-learning processes, or about incorporating online technologies in face-to-face drama work, little is said about embodiment work in online rooms. This study aims to address this gap making recommendations for online facilitation of embodiment work. While the study identifies a number of challenges including access to wifi and reliable electricity sources on one hand and the loss of physical touch and three dimensional engagement on the other, it highlights the value of online engagement using the body for PhD students that are isolated and struggling to maintain focus on their studies.


Key words: Applied improvisation, applied drama, online facilitation, embodiment


Trends in leadership development and implications for their implementation

Everyone wants to know what the global trends are for this thing or the next so that they can know if they measure up. Am I on par? As innovator in the space of leadership development, I am usually more interested in whether I am ahead or have an edge that makes me different from all the rest, but, I acknowledge the value of looking at the patterns evident in large scale social behaviour, if only to see what not to do. Was I pleasantly surprised! What the trends indicate we ought to do, is not what we see prominent leaders doing worldwide.

By following the trends, we may be doing something truly radical.

So, here you will find an analysis of six different sources dealing with the global trends in leadership development. I did this analysis to understand how a leadership coach and consultant should think about her own work in response to these trends. I also thought it would be valuable for organisations to see if their own leadership development strategies are on par with world trends and how they should judge the value of various leadership development options. In the top row I identify the source from which the information was drawn. They have been organised from the most predominant trend to the least prevalent trend. Once you have taken the time to go through the analysis, you may read my interpretation for implementation afterwards.

Read the rest here…

What is applied performance?

What is applied performance?

Applied performance is a cross disciplinary field that uses performance process and practice, be it acting, music, dance or other forms of art, backed up by socio-political theory to address social and political issues. The purpose is to make a change and bring about sustainable transformation.

At Playing Mantis we have developed applied performance processes specifically suited to organisational change and development. Its rootedness in the arts ensures a holistic learning process that is experiential and that can bring about systemic change.

Delegates telling stories

Its use of narrative strategy and story telling also allows organisations to reframe their own narratives and reimagine their strategic objectives and ultimately their future. Applied performance is particularly valuable for culture change processes and is essential for organisations that are serious about transformation towards gender and racial equality.

Our applied performance model is called strategic narrative embodiment. The art forms that it most depends on is theatre, story-telling and improvisation sometimes inviting elements of visual art, dance and music. It functions on the levels of design and technique to help change makers create processes that really works. Read more.