Why bats hang upside down – the story

Once upon a time before humans ruled the earth, animals reigned on the ground and in the tree trunks and birds reigned the sky and the tree tops Both animals and birds loved their world and loved who they were.
One day the animals decided to celebrate their ‘animalness’ and the word was spread across the land. When Bat heard the news he was very excited. He loved dressing up and he loved making friends. So, on the night of the party, he brushed his hair, gelled it with a bit of tree gum, cleaned his wings and set off. On the way he caught his reflection in a puddle and he winked at himself.
At the party he was just about to swagger in after the tall giraffe when a foot shot out and tripped him. Wait a minute’ said Big Baboon who was playing bouncer for the night. “You can’t come in”.
“Why not?” asked Bat surprised.
“Because you’re not an animal”, said Baboon, “you are a bird. Look at those wings and you only have two legs. OUT!”
“But I have fur and teeth. Look at me, I an animal”, pleaded bat.
“What about my ears?”
“Owls have ears and they are birds”
Bat tried a desperate dash through the door, but Baboon grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and threw him out. He landed on a wing and bruised it. Limping home bat began to cry. At home he sat on a branch and the tears just kept streaming. He cried so much that the branch on which he sat got wet and slippery and Whoops! He slipped round it, his feet still clinging and there he hung, upside down, weeping.
A few weeks later the birds had a party. They too wanted to celebrate their ‘birdyness’ and the words was spread. Again bat got excited. He loved dressing up and he loved making friends. Again he brushed his hair, gelled it with gum and cleaned his wings. He paid extra attention to his wings. As he slinked off he caught his reflection in a puddle and winked.
At the party e was just about to glide in after Little Sparrow when a curvy beak grabbed him from behind. It was Vulture who was the bouncer for the night “Wait a minute”, Vulture said, “You can’t come in”.
“Why not?” asked Bat surprised, this time he did not expect trouble.
“You are not a bird, look at you, you have fur and teeth.”
“But look at my wings” said bat confidently, and I have two legs. Clearly I am a bird.
“Nonsense” said vulture” you don’t fool me, look at those ears”
“Owls have ears” bat whimpered.
“Owls ears are just sticky outy feathers, not real ears. OUT!”
“But the animals say I am a bird” he tried one last time
“OUT!” Said vulture and flung him out with a strong talon.
Bat landed with a leg twisted in under his body and sprained it. Limping home bat began to cry. At home he sat on a branch and the tears just kept streaming. He cried so much that the branch on which he sat got wet and slippery and Whoops! He slipped round it, his feet still clinging and there he hung, upside down, weeping.
And now ever since, bat hang upside down because they are neither animals nor birds.

Improvisation class 2 – 9 Feb 2010

The focus of the second improv class was to introduce the participants to improv basics.  We started the class with two warm-ups (Hero’s and Pattern circle) to get everyone playful and focused.   The gifts game followed to illustrate accepting a blind offer.  We played Yes but and Yes and to illustrate the difference between blocking and accepting.  The questions game showed how asking questions can be a way of accepting without adding new information.   In Improv this is called wimping.  Then we played Blind offers to illustrate how physical movement can also be an offer.  The class was ended with everyone doing two person scenes.

Key concepts

Blocking – Not accepting another player’s offer.

Accepting – Embracing each offer made by other players to advance the scene (Yes and).

Wimping – accepting offers but refusing to do anything with them.
Examples are:
Asking open questions , thus leaving the action to be decided by the other player.
Waffling, babbling without accomplishing any action.

Talking heads – When players talk about what they are doing or want to do instead of actually doing it.  Too much talk, too little action.

Thanks for everyone stepping up and doing your first scenes in front of others.   Some of you commented to me after the class that you have learned a lot but that it was difficult.  Applying these basic improv principles are difficult at first because we have to break through our defence mechanisms that makes us want to block and not take the risk of taking action.  I also think it is because we are not used to being in a space where our partner is there to make us look good.  As we get to know each other better and build more trust it will become easier.  Please share your comment…

Improvisation class 1 – 2 Feb 2010

Last night was the first class in a series of 8 Improv theatre classes. The objective of the class was to get everyone in a playful mood and to let everyone connect and get to know each other. In order to do this we played some name games such as Name circle, Super Heroes and Bang Bang. To get more playful we played Bodyguard, Yes lets and Giants, Wizards and Goblins. We ended the class with a word association game (To do dodo).

Key concepts that came out of the class:

  • To play you have to be present, focus on your fellow players and interact with your whole body not just your thoughts and words.
  • Make your partner look good.
  • We struggle to play because we are afraid of judgment so we try to hard
  • It is okay to make a mistake. It’s often our fear of failure that causes us to fail.
  • Everything is an offer even a mistake.
  • Let go and focus on the process not the outcome.

What struck me about the class was how everyone really engaged and took part even though it was a first class. I would like to thank you all for that.

Please feel free to add your comments.

  • What did you enjoy the most about the class?
  • What was difficult for you?
  • What new insight did you get?
  • Anything else you’d like to share?

The ABC of Self-confidence

Self confidence and self esteem – Can you have one without the other?

Can self confidence be learned? Is there a set of skills you can master and once you have them, you will be self confident? When you have self confidence, do you also automatically have good self esteem?

Self confidence is the belief and feeling that you can accomplish something worthwhile, something that somehow expresses who you are. You feel you can face whatever life throws at you. You may not win every time, but you will find a way to make it. It is a ‘can do’ attitude as opposed to an ‘I can’t’ attitude.

If you do not have a sense of mastery or personal power, you have no self confidence. You feel like you are good at nothing and fail at everything you try.

Self esteem, on the other hand has two components: Self confidence and self worth. The one cannot be without the other.

Your self esteem is a combination of how much you like yourself (self respect) and whether or not you think you can cope with life (self confidence). It is both an appreciation of your inner beauty and a recognition of your innate ability.

Self respect is the belief that you are okay with all your idiosyncrasies. You know that you have inner beauty and you are worthy of receiving love and admiration. Self confidence is the ‘can do’ attitude that makes you believe you have the ability to measure up to the challenges of life.

Looking at our definition of self esteem, it seems clear that self confidence is only a part of self esteem.

The difference between self esteem and self confidence is that the first comes from inside and must be coupled with respect for your own worth. Self confidence by itself can be learnt by mastering the skills of presentation and communication.

Self confidence can be learned

Learning the skills of looking self confident from outside, is a great way of starting to build your self esteem. You start outside and work inward. This is why parents who want to help their kids gain self confidence enrol them in drama or acting class.

To act you must learn certain techniques and skills to overcome your fear of doing stuff in front of other people.These skills can be transferred to any other context where you must face other people like going for a job interview or asking a girl out on a date.

Many situations in real life can be compared to performing in front of people. Performance skills can help you act confidently in these contexts.

How can a feeling be learned?

Now you may be wondering: if self confidence is a feeling and a belief, as stated at the beginning, how can it be learned from outside? Surely it must be cultivated from within…?

The truth is that even amongst the best of actors and directors, there is not agreement on this matter. One side insists that acting is best when it comes from a feeling inside and the others disagree saying that you can act out any feeling without having to truly experience it. This is the difference between Stanislavskian acting and method acting as opposed to Brechtian acting.

A Story

There is a story about Dustin Hoffman, an American method actor, who had to play a mentally disturbed man. He spent days in a mental institution attempting to feel what it must be like to be mentally il. When he met Laurence Olivier a famous British actor on set Olivier asked him: “Why did you go to all that trouble?” Hoffman answered: I have to be that man.” Why, asked Olivier, “can’t you just act it?”

I will not take sides, but rather say that the two: action and feeling is inseparable and are conversation partners just like self confidence is the conversation partner of self worth when you are building self esteem.

However, when you want to start cultivating a feeling, where do you find it? My answer: start acting the way you want to feel. It is what people mean when they say: fake it until you make it.

I like to say Fake it until you feel it.

Test it for yourself:

Right there where you are try the following sequence of actions and notice the change in how you feel:

1. Rub the palms of your hands together
2. Bite your lip.
3. Breathe faster and more shallow.
4. Look from side to side and even over your shoulder.
5. Wipe your hands on your thighs and take a deep breath…

What are you starting to feel inside?

Here are some of the answers I often get:

I feel anxious, nervous, suspicious, like I am hiding something, guilty, paranoid.

And all this just because of a few physical movements.

Now try the opposite:

1. Sit up straight.
2. Open up your shoulders.
3. Breathe more deeply
4. Smile.
5. Wink at the computer.

Now what are you beginning to feel inside?

Action and feeling feed each other

By learning certain skills, or ways of behaving, you can cultivate a feeling of confidence and power. If you act confidently even though you are nervous, people will respond to you as though you have power and know what you are doing. This will feed back into your feeling that you have power and confidence and you will act even more like it.

In the words of Aristotle, ” … we become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions” (Kilpatrick, 1992:97). I would add: to become self confident you need to perform confident actions.

So what are these skills and how do I learn them?

I can teach you my ABC of self confidence. These are all external skills that you can try out and use. They are a kind of checklist for you to tick off as you enter a potentially nerve racking situation where you need to muster as much confidence as you can. They are easy to understand and you can practise them easily by yourself and try them out anywhere.

I have used this ABC to teach Rap artists and singers to market their material to record companies. I taught it to actors and performers to improve their acting. I used it to teach environmentalists to present proposals for changing policy. I even used it to teach some ‘boring’ University professors to get their students interested in their material. Now you give it a try.

What about self respect?

However, without also cultivating self respect the outward appearance of confidence remains just an empty shell. You can be enormously successful from the outside, but feel unfulfilled, worthless and frustrated on the inside.

This is because you are not expressing who you are in what you are achieving. You do not think that what you really have to offer is worth the time and effort so you only do the things you know will work and feel confident about. Yet, you will always end up feeling empty.

How do you fix this problem?

The short answer is: follow your passion.

By all means apply the skills to any situation where you need them, but do so especially in contexts where you are afraid and nervous. In the pursuit of your passion you will have to make many difficult choices where you are uncertain of the outcome and where you will risk all sorts of things: money, reputation, relationships… It is in these moments especially where you must act as though you are confident and fake it until you make it… feel it.

These moments define who you are and prove to yourself your own self worth.

Flutes found in Gauteng

Our follow your own flute workshop this past Saturday was great fun and life changing as promised. Thank you Rachel, Johan, Joy, Lidia and Sharon for a memorable workshop. Your generosity of spirit and willingness to play made for a fun filled and meaningful experience.

The overwhelmingly positive feedback we received at the end shows us that we are addressing a deep felt need and doing it in a way that is non threatening, safe and enjoyable. The comment Johan made about how well the process is designed and how well integrated it is warmed my heart – aesthetics and learning, design and impact always go hand in hand.

Don’t forget the Improv Your Foxy Skills Workshop coming up this following weekend! This one is for people who want to stop analyzing and act with confidence in spite of change and uncertainty.

For those interested in the Follow your own flute reading material, you can read the following articles that I have just up loaded:

The story of the Black Prince that we used along with some comments on the versions we generated for the ending at the workshop.

Building character: an article about the elements that form part of the value system of both fictional and real characters,

I invite you to use it to expand on and refine your own value system so that you can act true to your own character in any given situation. Amidst the kakophonie of noise out there, it is essential to get to know your unique melody and follow your own flute.

The Black Prince

In ancient Egypt, there was a boy who was ugly, stupid and lazy. The only thing he cared about was playing his homemade flute. He would play it all day. His mother also thought he was worthless.  “Oh, that ugly stupid, lazy boy” she would sigh “he would probably just fall into the river one day and drown.”

One day the boy roamed into a part of the city that was unfamiliar to him and he climbed a wall that was also unfamiliar to him. On the other side was a beautiful garden. But more beautiful than the garden was the girl sitting by a pool in the centre of it trailing her fingers in the water.Black Prince_Princess

He knew that no one as ugly stupid and lazy as himself would make much of an impression on her, so he sat on the wall and began to play his flute. He played out all his dreams and hopes and fears to her.

The next day he did the same and the next. She never looked at him or acknowledged him, but simply sat there day after day by the pool. He dreamed of sliding off the wall one day, taking her in his arms and whisking her away to a little hut by the river where they would live happily ever after. But he didn’t’t.

One day he heard some villagers talking about the daughter of the Pharaoh and they described the garden where she spent her days. The boy realized that he had fallen in love with a princess. A princess would never love a poor boy that was ugly, stupid and lazy. Heartbroken, he wandered all night.

At dawn he passed some merchants talking. One of them said “you know the magician Habeebee? He can do anything”.

“Anything? The boy asked. “Can he change a man’s soul?”.

“Habeebee can do anything”

“Where do I find him?”

“If you walked in that direction for three days, you will find him”, said the man pointing into the desert.

Black Prince_identity With nothing but his flute, the boy began to walk out into the desert. He walked three days without stopping until he came to a little hut by an oasis. He knocked on the door. An old little man opened. “Are you Habeebee?” asked the boy.

“I am”.

“Can you change a man’s soul?”

“I can, but it is not cheep and once done, it can never be changed back again.”

“All I have to offer is my flute”.

“That’ll do” said the old man holding out his hand.

Without hesitation, the boy gave the magician his home made flute. After a few days, the boy’s mother assumed he was dead, thought he had fallen into the river and drowned. She held a little funeral.

Three years passed. During this time the Pharaoh’s enemies attacked him and he lost most of his land and half of his wealth. Desperate for the war to end, he got up one morning and went outside, ready to surrender. When he looked up over the desert, he saw a handsome, powerful man dressed in black riding across the desert into his camp. He told the Pharaoh that he was the Black Prince and if the Pharaoh would let him lead the army, he would win back the Pharaoh’s lands. In return he asked only to be given his heart’s desire. The Pharaoh agreed. Within weeks, the Black Prince  did as he promised and the Pharaoh was restored to power and wealth.

The Pharaoh was pleased and asked the Black Prince to visit him in his palace. He would gladly give him whatever he wanted even half of his kingdom and all the wealth the Prince won back. “I will be back in one month”, the prince said, and left.

At the appointed time, the Black Prince arrived. The girls had been preparing for weeks, buying new dresses, putting on make up and picking out their finest jewelry. The young boys had been playing with their wooden swords taking turns to be the Black Prince slaughtering his enemies. As the Prince rode into the city the women scattered flowers at his feet and everyone gathered to catch a glimpse of the powerful warrior – or hoping he would catch a glimpse of them.

When he arrived at the palace, he saw the princess seated next to her father. The Pharaoh once again thanked the prince and offered the Black Prince all the wealth and power he wanted. The Prince said he only wanted his heart’s desire. When the Pharaoh asked what that was, the Prince said that he would like to marry the Princess.

The Princess stood up. “I will do as you command, Father,” she said and turning to the Black Prince continued,  “but I must warn you, I could never love you. My heart belongs to another”. And then she told them her story.

Black Prince_end“Three years ago before the war, a young boy came to my garden to play to me on his flute. Every day I would listen to him wondering how his music could express so clearly my own dreams, hopes and fears. I used to wish he would slide off the wall, take me into his arms and whisk me away to a little hut by the river where we would live happily ever after. One day he stopped coming and I had my servants enquire about him. They found out that he had drowned and his mother had given him a little funeral. I could never love like that again.”

The Black Prince looked at the Princess “I knew love like that once,” he said “I couldn’t love me either if I were you”. He turned and left the palace, never to be seen or heard from again

Building Character

The biggest challenge for improvisers and actors when it comes to characterisation is to make the character both believable and playable at the same time.  The character must be believable, from the audience’s point of view. That means they must be able to accept that the character’s actions are well motivated and true to life. But the character must also be playable from the perspective of the actor.  The actor must be able to communicate what the character thinks and feels on the inside by making the character say and do things on the outside. To make the character playable, you need to know what it does, its actions. To make it believable, you need to know how it performs the actions, its attitude.

By looking at the 5 essential aspects of character building for actors, you can learn what the essential aspects are for building your own personal character: that which makes you your own unique self. It can provide you with a framework for behaving true to character, i.e. in line with your values and motivations. I t can also help you to know which outer actions will best communicate your inner life. The reverse is also true: it can help you evaluate your outer actions to see if they reflect who you are inside. It helps you to align your profession with your passion.

Actors need 5 essential ingredients to find the playable actions motivated by believable attitude.  We will use a play scenario to explain. Some years ago I was creating a story with students for high school learners. We wanted to explore the issues of peer pressure and pressure from parents and teachers to achieve. We chose to centre our story on a sports event at a typical South African high school (if such a thing exists). The event was a soccer game between the local school and their arch rivals. We wanted to come up with believable characters that can help the audience explore the themes of pressure from peers and parents, but the characters had to be easy to play, since we were working on a tight schedule.

Here are the 5 main ingredients for building character:coach

  • The function or occupation of the character refers to a collection of related activities.  These related activities do not necessarily indicate the ‘job’ of the character, but rather his role, or function. Examples of these from our story are: The over bearing father, the supportive coach, the ambitious team captain, the gangster and his sidekick.  For the occupation to be playable it must involve interaction with other characters. Such roles must also be archetypal because such characters are easily playable and immediately recognisable by the audience. Archetypal characters are those found over and over again in fairytales, myths and fables from all over the world.
  • The related activities that make up the function are called occupational activities. It is important to find as many occupational activities as possible to provide a wide range of options for the actor.  Some such activities for the over bearing father may be as follows: Walks up and down field, shouts orders to players, criticises son, boasts to friends, buys hotdogs, drinks coke, adjusts clothing, ignores wife, laughs too loudly, fights with referee.
  • The character chooses its occupation out of passion – a desire that moti­vates his activities.  The passion is a singular choice and will simplify the character enough to make it playable, yet provide sufficient depth to make him intriguing.  Fulfilment of the passion will bring final happiness to the character.   The passion should be a broad and obvious choice, it may even be unoriginal e.g. a need to be influential (coach) or to be worthy of authority (team captain).  The passion has a ‘back story’, a reason for its coming into being and although it is something the audience never sees – it motivates the character’s actions emotionally.
  • Primary Needs are those needs that most directly serve the attainment of the passion.  ist2_4741473-white-rapperA good primary need in terms of playability is one that calls to mind many occupational activities that could lead to its fulfilment.  The primary needs are all connected to the passion, which is the core desire.  E.g. if the passion is recognition, primary needs may be wealth, the need to be seen with the right people and the need for achievement on some level (gangster’s sidekick in the sports day scenario).
  • The last element flows directly from primary needs:  primary activities.  They are the activities that reveal the primary needs.  What would a gangster do on sports day at the school if just appearing rich, was a primary need?  He would be wearing a lot of ‘bling’ and the right brand of clothing, he would be buying food and drink for all his supporters, he would be belittling the guys who don’t have the right ‘gear’. There should be several primary activities for each primary need.
Function/occupation: Over bearing Father
Occ.  activities Primary activities Primary needs Passion
Walks up and down field, shouts orders to players, criticises son, boasts to friends, buys hotdogs, drinks coke, adjusts clothing, ignores wife, laughs too loudly, fights with referee. Walks up and down field, wears loud colours. laughs loudly

Boasts to friends shouts orders to players

Fights with referee., criticises son

To be seen and heard

To appear knowledgeable

For son to score goal

­­To be recognised as a good father
Actions Attitude

The needs and passion hang together to form a mini value system that motivates the character’s behaviour. For the ambitious team captain this may look as follows:

Supporting values (Primary needs)

These are means to an end.

Core value (passion)

This is an end value

Have good people skills

Motivate his team

Have knowledge of the rules

Respect the coach

Work hard

To win and prove his worth as leader

The function of this mini value system is to guide the actor so that she always knows what to do and how to do it believably. For actors who use a script, the mini value system helps her to say the words in a certain way and use her body to communicate the attitude with which she is saying those words. In the work of improvisation actors, the mini value system becomes even more significant. For an improviser, everything except the mini value system is uncertain. She has no text, she does not know who the others are going to play and she does not know what is going to happen next. The only thing she is sure of is her own characters’ attitude that will inform her reaction to what happens and the set of actions available to communicate that reaction. .It is her framework for every new situation and comment that comes her way. It ensures that no matter what happens, she responds in character.

Here lies the value of every person having a clear picture of their own value system. If you are not sure how to respond to what happens around you, or what choices to make, your value system can help you to react in character – true to yourself. However, it also works in reverse: if you have reacted impulsively or instinctively and your behaviour is questionable, it can be very useful to look at the values that motivated your behaviour. Identifying those values can help you to find less hurtful and less destructive ways of achieving the same goal. You may even discover that the value driving your actions is not part of who you would like to be and make a deep change so that your outer behaviour becomes more in line with who you want to be.

There are three more aspects of character that help to perform believable yet playable characters: fears, strengths and weaknesses. In fact, fears really just embody the opposite of the passion. The weakness is something in the character that works directly against the characters’ fulfilment of his passion. The strengths work to redeem the weakness. All three these aspects, therefore, simply tell an actor and an audience member more about the character’s passion. Typically these aspects of a character are personified by the other characters in the story. We will look at this again when we talk about character relationships.

Petro Janse van Vuuren

Improv Your Foxy Skills in Gauteng – 10 Oct

Improvisation skills to help you deal with the demands of change and uncertainty

In the uncertain ever-changing world of today you need the ability to adjust quickly, think on your feet and come up with creative solutions. Often you are required to do this in a group without the luxury of time or individual authority to move forward.

This workshop will help you:

  • Cope better in uncertain times.
  • Work better in a team with diverse ideas.
  • Create an atmosphere in which innovation can thrive.
  • Be more aware of changes in your environment.
  • Be more adaptable.

These skills are the same as those employed by improvisation actors who respond to ideas from their audience, fellow actors or the scenario quickly and creatively and in collaboration with one another.  Yet, these skills are not based on talent; they are learnt and can be practiced and honed.

In the words of bestselling author Clem Sunter, you need The Mind of a Fox or according to acclaimed writer Daniel Pink, you need a Whole New Mind. You must develop right brain capacities not just to cope with, but to excel in the world of today.

Playing Mantis specializes in the teaching of these skills and can equip you for an unpredictable world.

We will teach you how to play using your right brain, reflect on the experience and apply it to your real life situation.

Who should attend:

Individuals who want to learn skills to thrive in spite of change and uncertainty.

Leaders who want to inspire their team members to be more innovative as a group.

Can you afford it?


With an economic recession causing avalanches of worry to surge over you, can you afford not to align with your passion and cultivate foxy skills? Consider the time and money you spend on keeping your body physically flexed and ready for action – gym fees, hairdressers, clothing bills, healthy food. Can you afford to spend some time and money on getting your heart, mind and spirit flexed and ready for action?

Free follow up consultation

To ensure that you get your money’s worth; we offer you the option of receiving a free 1 hour consultation after the workshop. This is to make sure you get the help you need to apply the new knowledge in your unique context. The ability to apply the skills we teach is part of our promise and we will do what is necessary to assist you in this step

What people say:

The methods that you use have the extraordinary ability of getting people thinking on their feet, out of “the box” and more creatively than they imagined possible while pushing them to become more adaptable. If improving your team’s creativity, adaptability and unity is what you are after, Playing Mantis is who you are looking for. – Mark Baker, Industrial Psychologist, Excelebrate

I feel that I have tangible skills to use in order to cope with the changes in my life. – Nadia Jappie, Marketing Manager, Symphonia

Workshop details

This is a 6 hour workshop that includes 5 hours contact time
with a 15 min tea break and 45 min lunch break.


Follow your own flute: Sat 3 Oct
Improv your foxy skills: Sat 10 Oct

Time: 8h30 – 16h00

Venue: Melville Junction Church, cnr of Seventh Avenue and
Fifth Street

Cost: For our first time in Jozi you get these exclusive workshops at the highly reduced price of R650 for 1 / R1100 for both.

We like to keep our workshops small and exclusive, so BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment.

For bookings e-mail us at connect@playingmantis.net or call Burgert on 0822559625

To read more about Playing Mantis and our Facilitators click here

Play reflect apply

Follow Your Own Flute in Gauteng – 3 Oct

Reconnect with your passion and align with your internal motivation

In our interaction with companies and individuals we meet an increasing number of highly talented yet intensely frustrated individuals who feel a deep need for new inspiration. Many express the desire to rekindle their passion and reshape their professional careers to express that passion.

This workshop will help you to:

  • grow in self esteem
  • get a framework of what drives you and the values that guide your choices
  • Acquire confidence in aligning your life to reflect these values.
  • Know the sound of your own voice and the feeling of listening to it.

Join us on a journey back to your unique self, the source of real joy, inspiration, creativity and motivation. Rediscover your passion, feel great about being you and reshape your career to mirror who you really are.

Playing Mantis specializes in helping you grow through connection with yourself, your passion and your relationships.

We use storytelling and improvisation to play with new ideas and perspectives, reflect on the discoveries you make about who you are and apply the new found knowledge to reshape your professional life.

Who should attend:

Individuals who are looking for the security of knowing whether or not they’re in the right place and the ability to trust their own voice.

Leaders who want to lead with self confidence and make clear decisions in spite of uncertainty.

Can you afford it?

In these times of economic uncertainty, can you afford not to align with your passion?

Your passion and unique motivators are the only things that truly distinguish you from others. We would like to help you align your external context with your internal life so that you are more productive and more effective.

Consider the time and money you spend on keeping your body physically flexed and ready for action – gym fees, hairdressers, clothing bills, healthy food. Can you afford to spend some time and money on getting your heart, mind and spirit flexed and ready for action?

Free follow up consultation

To ensure that you get your money’s worth, we offer you the option of receiving a free 1 hour consultation after the workshop. This is to make sure you get the help you need to apply the new knowledge in your unique context. Too many workshops leave people excited and ready for action, but without a practical plan to make it work for them.

The ability to apply the skills we teach is part of our promise and we will do what is necessary to assist you in this step.

What people say:

It was as if a flashlight was shining through my muddy waters. It showed me a way out and that there is more for me in life than mud. – Amanda Jooste, PRO for artists


I enjoyed the creativity – this is the most fun I have had in ages. – British American Tobacco HR team member


Your unique way with stories and characters opened a fresh perspective on my own character and story. I was moved by the way in which the stories brought the participants straight to the heart of their search for meaning. Dr Jeanette de Klerk, Philosophy of Education, University of Stellenbosc

Workshop details

This is a 6 hour workshop that includes 5 hours contact time with a 15 min tea break and 45 min lunch break.


Follow your own flute: Sat 3 Oct
Improv your foxy skills: Sat 10 Oct

Time: 8h30 – 16h00

Venue: Melville Junction Church, cnr of Seventh Avenue and
Fifth Street

Cost: For our first time in Jozi you get these exclusive
workshops at the highly reduced price of R650 for 1 / R1100 for


We like to keep our workshops small and exclusive, so BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment.

For bookings e-mail us at connect@playingmantis.net or call Burgert on 0822559625

To read more about Playing Mantis and our Facilitators click here

Play reflect apply

Developing six new senses for the future

In his ground breaking book A Whole New Mind Daniel Pink references three prevailing trends pointing towards the future of business and the economy: Abundance (consumers have too many choices, nothing is scarce), Asia (everything that can be outsourced, is) and Automation (computerization, robots, technology, processes).

This brings up three crucial questions for the success of any business:

  1. Can a computer do it faster?
  2. Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance?
  3. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?

When these questions are present, creativity becomes the competitive difference that can differentiate commodities. Pink outlines six essential senses:

  1. Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  2. Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument.
  3. Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  4. Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  5. Play – Bringing humour and light-heartedness to business and products.
  6. Meaning – Relevant feelings and values connected to a person’s passion and purpose..

Playing Mantis specialises in both story and play.


Story is the skill to simplify that which is complex and organise it into a sense making whole. It also helps you to make concrete those aspects of your reality that is abstract and hard to grasp. When it comes to relationships and team work, the way that story places characters in sense making relationships with one another highlighting the causes of conflict and their resolution, can be of great help in managing business relationships.

Similarly the way in which storytellers organises human attributes and role functions into archetypes, can be of great use in understanding the different roles people play in your life. Stories can also assist you in understanding how you can develop your own character by looking at how the hero of a story grows and develops.  This can greatly assist in leadership skills development.

What makes this sense so accessible is the fact that we all already use it. The way in which you relate your day and how it went to your partner before bedtime, the way in which you tell a colleague about your weekend or how you sum up an overseas trip all carry the characteristics of a well made story. You pick a theme and select scenes to support and carry that theme. You populate your story with characters that either worked with or against you. You shape it with a beginning middle and end. In fact, any experience can be made sense of in retrospect by organising it into a story, Even the most confusing and emotional experiences, perhaps especially these experiences,  are made sense of by trying to organise it into a story.

Story is also the way in which we remember things and make sense of the world by linking seemingly unrelated events and ideas. Simple lists of facts do not make sense to us, but linking them with cause and effect turn the facts into one story and makes it memorable. The king died and then the queen died, are two seemingly unrelated facts, but saying that the king died and then the queen died of grief, immediately makes it into a story by adding an emotional component that link the two facts logically. We all do this with things we read and learn and experience. It is a sense well worth cultivating and understanding so that its power can be utilised in areas of our lives where meaning still escape us.

Kids playing with blocks

Play, on the other hand, is the most effective way of learning, working and enjoying it.  It is the way in which children learn. It is their method of organising their worlds into sense making sections. Through play they discover how the world works and what their own place in it is. And while their games are fun and light-hearted, they take it very seriously. Improvisational Theatre utilises the same characteristics of play in a way that makes it accessible and usable for adults. Through this kind of play it is possible to learn how to deal with things that happen in your life that is hard to make sense of – especially if the situation ask you to change how you have done things or understood things until now.

Again improvisation is something we all are able to do in ordinary circumstances. When unforeseen things happen and you have to adjust your plan, you improvise. When someone asks you a question you sort of know the answer to, but not quite, you improvise. When you are cooking and discover that you miss a certain ingredient, you improvise. You use what you have and, maybe more importantly, you use what others have to offer. Honing these skills can greatly help you in dealing with change and uncertainty so that you are less apprehensive and are able to trust you own ability to adjust.

Perhaps even more poignant is that improvisation helps you to remain light-hearted and playful amidst times of stress and confusion. The playful attitude is not the same as being frivolous and superficial, but rather one of great seriousness, but with a certain detachment to the outcome. Think again of the seriousness with which children engage in play. To them it is not at all unimportant and inconsequential. Marrying work and play is the goal of cultivating the sense of play in business..

The other four senses of empathy, symphony, design and meaning all are cultivated during the workshops where we create a creative experience for learning. This experience aims to involve all of the multiple intelligences including emotion (empathy), sprit (meaning,), lateral thinking (symphony) and aesthetic judgement (design)

Summary of benefits:

The most important reasons for using story and improvisation both for team building and for dealing with change relate to the kind of play that is stimulated by these activities. This kind of play

  • Unlocks hidden potential, opens up all your intelligences and puts you in touch with your instinct and intuition,
  • Enhances focus and effectiveness and provides a sense of purpose which is absorbing and motivating,
  • Raises self esteem and self confidence and rekindles your spontaneity,
  • Inspires individual and group creativity, forms a communal paradigm and lets group knowledge surface,
  • Provides understanding and insight into fellow players and creates common focus and priorities while allowing for the safe expression of feelings,
  • Clarifies and simplifies things that are abstract and complicated and produces innovative solutions.

We will teach you this kind of play, help you to reflect on its significance for you and apply the skills you learn to your real life situation.