An Ethical code for Applied Performance work in Organisational settings

Aligning with associates and clients with a shared set of values.

How many times have you experienced a values clash with a client or a fellow consultant when using applied performance techniques?

What you find here is a set of 7 values that had been work shopped with applied drama and applied improvisation practitioners who do work in organizational settings. Three different groups came together at three different occasions (two of them happened at our last Flying Pig sessions). We used a combination of embodied images, role play, conversation and systemic mapping to interrogate the meaning of each of these values sharing scenarios and stories to help us find the appropriate nuances. You are most welcome to comment, question and contribute to the conversation.

Playing Mantis and Associates Ethical guidelines

It is important to us that our associates and clients understand and resonate with our ethical approach and values. These can be articulated as follows:

1. Deep collaboration: We craft our work in deep collaboration with all stakeholders involved. We do not use the powerful tools of story and embodiment to ‘download’ information top down to participants. Rather, we create work that introduces ideas and then facilitate conversations to allow audience members to interrogate and make sense of those ideas for themselves. It is important to us to value the input of all stakeholders equally.

2. Sustainability of human relationships: Sustainability to us means that no process can be a fly by night affair. It requires relationship building, negotiation and development over time. We are deeply interested in the sustainability of the organisations that we support, which includes all of the human aspects of the employees and the wider stakeholder community that will inform the organisational culture.

3. Intersectional symbiosis: We support and enable leadership styles that seek to negotiate solutions between the organisation and the community, between management levels, between departments, sections and divisions, between leaders and workers, between skilled and unskilled labour so that all impacted parties benefit. This means that all parties also have to be willing to adapt and rework solutions based on intersectional input.

4. Intrinsic value and contribution: We support the notion that every individual and every social grouping has value and can contribute positively to the workings of an organisation and its health. This means that every person working in an organisation, and also the community outside the organisation that supports the individuals, have value and can contribute something unique to the organisation that the leaders may not be aware of at the outset. We work to surface and incorporate these in all the work we do.

5. Systemic awareness: We support the notion that every issue must be considered in relation to larger systemic influences and conditions. These include social, environmental, political, historical, strategic, legal and technological factors that may or may not be visible and recognised by stakeholders at the outset. We work to surface and acknowledge the effects of these in all the work we do.

6. Rigorous self reflexivity: We hold ourselves and everyone we work with accountable to honour their responsibilities and agreements they make. We train and support everyone involved in our projects to be self reflexive and able to see and consider their own perspectives and positioning in relation to those of the other stakeholders so that prejudice, egoism, nepotism, domination and corruption are never an option.

7. Responsible sharing of intellectual contributions: We value our intellectual property and yours. It is our livelihood. At the same time we want you to be able to use what you receive through interaction with our work and integrate it into your own. We also want others to find their way to the materials and use it. We therefore ask you to reference our work wherever possible in written or oral format if you use it explicitly or if your own work was adapted from ours. In all these cases please reference us as follows:

– State the nature of our influence e.g. taken from / inspired by / adapted from

– State the author or entity e.g. Playing Mantis People development Consultants / Petro Janse van Vuuren

– State the specific model/ tool /idea e.g. the SNE model / Moving Story Structure / Pig Catching process etc.


“Inspired by Petro Janse van Vuuren’s SNE model.”

“Taken from Playing Mantis’s Moving Story Structure”

Improv class 2.5 – What do you really want?

The theme of last week’s class was “what do you really want?” We started the class with a relaxation exercise followed by a warm up game called “Bunny bunny”. This game so excited me that I hurt my back. Luckily Mike had a few amateur chiropractor tricks up his sleeve. After getting all my vertebrae lined up again we did an Augusto Boal exercise called “Character walks”. In this exercise everyone walks around in the workshop space and becomes aware of their bodies. You identify the part of your body that you lead with and then accentuate it until you become a caricature of yourself. This makes you very aware of what stress and emotion you carry in your body. After that you shake off the character and go into a neutral walk. ( a walk without animation) Then for several rounds you focus on different parts of your body and do something different with that part of your body when you walk. As the teacher I would then ask different questions about the characters while everyone is walking. It is amazing how you will feel like a whole different person when you just walk differently. And answering questions like “what do you feel”, “where are you going?”, “what is your job?”, “what makes you angry?”, “what makes you happy?” and “what is the one thing that drives you?” are very easy. This is a great way to come up with a very strong character for a scene by just walking differently. After this exercise we played a game that I learned from Jet Eveleth at the IO Theatre called “Secret wants”. In this game two players do a scene. Before they start a secret want is given to each player. For example in the scene by Luci and Sonwabo, Luci wanted to be left alone and Sonwabo wanted Luci to be his friend. The secret wants made each character’s behaviour motivated, creating very strong characters. And because of the contrasting wants it resulted in a very interesting scene. Knowing what your character wants in an improv scene is very important because it makes the character well defined and motivates everything that he does. Sometimes when I tell players they should play strong characters they think it means a weird crazy character, but it is quite the opposite. A weird crazy character’s behaviour is often random and unmotivated. A strong character knows what he wants.

So what is the application of this improv wisdom in real life? If you want a strong personal character know what you want. And how do you know what you want? Look at your behaviour and write down the activities that take up most of your time and then ask yourself why you do this until you get to the core value behind these activities. If your time is filled with activities that you really don’t like such as a job that you hate, ask yourself how you can be true to your core value by doing something different that you do like. Or if the activity is something that you really can’t change, knowing why you do it will help you change the way you feel about it. Like my sister and business partner, Petro, says “Know your values, know your value.”
PS This week practise launching yourself into your core being…but mind your back.

Want to take an improv class? click here

Click here to read previous blog posts.

Why bats hang upside down – slides for teachers

How stories ignite values in children

What follows is a series of slides I used for a 90 minute workshop I presented to grade 1-3 teachers. The workshop was done first on 2 Feb 2010 in Cape Town and repeated on 9 Feb in Johannesburg. I did it in partnership with the Kids Development Academy. Thank you to them for a well put together experience! Thanks too to all the wonderful teachers who attended and participated with such enthusiasm.

The slides below will probably make more sense to the teachers who attended than to the casual net surfer who happen to come across them. If you have any questions, by all means contact me.


• Insight into the link between story and values
• Ideas for lessons
• An experience of the power of stry.

Building character

The link between stories and values

Between the head that understands and the hand that acts, lies the treacherous landscape of the heart.

Why bats hang upside down

The story

Reflection questions

• How many of you have felt like this in your life?.
• Close your eyes and think about bat hanging upside down weeping.
• What is he feeling?

Get the feelings expressed

• Draw this weeping upside down bat.
• Lets all pretend to be bats. What clever way can you use your bodies to look like upside down bats?
• Let’s close our eyes and think what a bat’s cry might sound like.
• Let’s right down the words that describe these feelings


• Pretend that you are one of the animals or birds at the party and you heard about bat being thrown out.
• Make a card for bat to make him feel better
What can you draw/write to make him feel better?
• Put it aside for moment.

How values work – the story

Values diagram, simple

How values work – the theory

How values work, meaty

Counter reflection

• How many of you have been in Baboon or vulture’s shoes?
• How does it make you feel?
• Knowing how bat feels, does that change anything?
• Are there situation where kicking people out is important? Discuss/ find an appropriate story.

Stories hold up a mirror to your heart

Why use stories?

• Creates a safe space
• Brings distance for reflection
• Transforms abstract into concrete
• Participatory: involve entire person
• Purpose driven
• Particular to a community
• Communicate universally: symbols & archetypes
• Playful
• Learner centred

Final reflection

• What kind of person are you?
• What sort of class are we?
• Make a big painting/write the words/ create a song…

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.

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.

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

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 or call Burgert on 0822559625

To read more about Playing Mantis and our Facilitators click here

Play reflect apply