The Playback Theatre Master Class on 27 May 2015 will provide an opportunity to experience and reflect upon the power of theatre practices to facilitate knowledge sharing and sense-making.

In the video below, Destin (of YouTube channel Smarter Every Day)  shares his story of how he learned to ride his bicycle after the engineers decided to fasten the handles backwards. This backwards brain bike turns right when you turn left, left when you turn right. Easier said than done.

It took Destin eight months of dedicated practice to override his memory of riding a bike. And then again 20 minutes to ride a normal bike again. His toddler could ride the backwards bike within two-hours.

This story reminds me of the stuckness we often experience when we need to unlearn to learn. The challenge is that knowledge can become so embodied, like riding a bike, that we cannot access it in a rational manner to be able to change it. How can we access such embodied or encultured knowledge.

One method that we could use is Playback Theatre. Playback is a form of theatre that focusses on building social cohesion through a process of storytelling, witnessing and validation. It is a process that involves the whole audience through active, safe participation – regardless of whether people choose to watch and listen, or if people choose to watch, listen and tell stories. Playback theatre is a closed or open process used for schools, universities, clinical and social groups and conferences. Its purpose is to enhance reflection in safe, contained and creative ways.

Join the Playback Theatre Masterclass on Wednesday, 27 May to learn how theatre can facilitate knowledge sharing. This masterclass will be presented by Dr Petro Janse Van Vuuren from Playing Mantis, in collabaration with the Drama for Life Playback Theatre Company. They are the only officially sanctioned playback theatre company in Southern Africa.







The session will conclude with a discussion of the following pertinent questions  —

  • How important is embodiment and reflective practice in Knowledge Management?
  • Does the field of Applied Theatre provide opportunities for accessing tacit knowledge and articulating what people do not know they know or how they know it?
  • How might these methodologies help us reflect on lived experience and elicit learning and insight?
  • What are the possibilities and potential pitfalls for using these methods in organisations?


Kathy Barolsky is the founder and director of Drama for Life Playback Theatre. She is a qualified and accredited Applied Drama and Theatre Practitioner, Drama Therapist and Playback Theatre Trainer. She works as a therapist, teacher and lectures for Drama for Life.

Petro Janse Van Vuuren is a masterful storyteller and a dynamic inspiring facilitator. In her PhD, Petro developed a model that uses the stages of a story (The Hero’s Journey), as a means for understanding the process of deep values based learning.  Over the last 15 years she has used this model combined with Applied Theatre strategies to impact the stories of companies like MediClinic, Spier, Appletizer and Sanlam Investments.  Petro has written various academic articles and has published two books on speaking with confidence. She has presented at various local conferences. Most recently she has teamed up with Drama For Life at WITS University to bring the possibilities of Applied Theatre to wider audiences in corporate education and organisational development. She continues to share what she discovers with anyone and everyone who cares to ask her about it, from rap artists in Cloetesville to the Finance Managers at Mediclinic, from the kids in her Sunday school class to senior managers at SAB, and from engineers at Denel to Knowledge Management Professionals  at the Summit.