Aotearoa NZ Theatre and Covid-19: A Timeline: 2020; 2021; 2022 | IMPACTS | INTERVIEWS | THEATRE SCENES


New Zealand Theatre

and Covid-19:

A Timeline

This timeline explores the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Aotearoa New Zealand's theatre and performance ecology from 2020 through to 2022.

Also included is a discussion of impacts on the theatre and performance sector and a series of interviews with artists affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

This timeline is the first part of a two-year research project ‘Growing Aotearoa’s Theatre Ecology: Sustainability, Resilience and Opportunities in the Pandemic Environment’ led by Dr James Wenley, lecturer in theatre at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington and editor of Theatre Scenes. This theatre ecology project seeks to understand the impact of the pandemic on contemporary theatrical activity in Aotearoa and offer proposals for the further nurturing and growth of this vital creative ecology.

The timeline and information was developed by Dr James Wenley and Phoebe Robertson as part of a 2021-2022 Summer Scholar research project.

In compling this timeline we referred to Unite Against Covid-19's 'History of the COVID-19 Alert System'

This website is best viewed on a desktop screen.

Launched 2/05/22. Last updated 29/11/22.

Feedback and inquiries about the research can be directed to Dr. James Wenley:

10 November 2020

Tuatara Collective debuts Fresh Choice by Jason Te Mete at Basement Theatre, an “observational comedy” about the Covid-19 pandemic. Reviewers Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth write “the trials and tribulations of working in a local supermarket provides a wonderful foil for the creeping and ominous onset of the Covid-19 crisis, but the real beauty of this piece is that it’s not woeful, miserable or tragic – it’s more akin to a group therapy session in the Basement Theatre.”

22 March 2020

Wellington's NZ Fringe Festival comes to a close after a string of cancellations in its final week. Just three live shows are still performing on its final day.  

24 April 2020

The results of Creative New Zealand’s first batch of Arts Continuity Grants are announced as part of CNZ’s emergency response. 18 grants totalling $416,031 are offered to support projects by New Zealand artists and practitioners in this funding round, across the three funding pools (General, Māori and Pacific).

Kelly Fornia starts producing Fierce Fridays. Weekly online drag shows, in which viewers can donate to the Drag Performers involved in each week line up.  

30 March 2020

The first of 10 online hui organised by PANNZ in partnership with Auckland Live is streamed on Facebook Live and YouTube for the creative sector to come together in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Hui 1’s topic is the emergency funding response from Creative New Zealand.  

3 April 2020

At 9am, 10 playwrights, including Briar Grace-Smith, Mīria George, Victor Rodger and Roger Hall, begin Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North’s ‘24-hour challenge”. The playwrights are commissioned to write a monologue in under 12 hours on the theme of ‘escape’ for a paired actor. The 10 actors have a further 12 hours to rehearse, learn and self-tape their designated monologue before being made available to purchase on Centrepoint’s website from 8 April. Stuff reported that “More than 312 people bought tickets, including many schools.”  

Actor Jack Buchanan uploads viral hit Family Lockdown Boogie to YouTube.  

27 August 2020

Halted  3 shows into its season by the alert level changes, Palmerston North’s Regent on Broadway production of Sister Act reopens for 8 performances. The venue is “divided into four zones to accommodate as many people as possible and allow the show to continue.”

Manawatu Standard reports: “The plan was approved by the Government, with each zone sporting a separate entry and exit, unisex toilets and QR codes. A barrier separates the sections, with a gap of two metres either side and in the front row to ensure physical distancing.”  While alert level 2 limits gatherings to no more than 100 people, this innovation allows Sister Act to play to up to 400 people per performance.  

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3 January 2020

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt by Tusiata Avia opens in New York City, making history as the first female Pasifika ensemble to perform off-Broadway at the SoHo theatre. The show, alongside Two Worlds by the Modern Māori Quartet and The Contours of Heaven (Ana Chaya Scotney, Puti Lancaster, Marama Beamish and Owen McCarthy), had been “hand-picked” by SoHo’s Artistic Director and supported by substantial funding from Creative New Zealand. As 2020 begins, theatre from Aotearoa is in global demand.  

16 March 2020

Further sources. (1) (2) (3)

22 January 2020
Disease control officials in China shut off the city of Wuhan, where a new and rapidly spreading virus has begun. By the evening of the 23rd the ban has been extended to two more cities.  

Pre-Alert Levels

30 January 2020

The Director-General of WHO declares the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), WHO's highest level of alarm.

New Zealand government charters an Air New Zealand plane to evacuate citizens from Wuhan. 

4 February 2020

The Auckland Lantern Festival cancels due to concerns about celebrating the festival in light of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

28 February 2020
First COVID-19 case is reported in New Zealand. 

12 March 2020

In New York City, USA, the lights go dark on Broadway after the Governor instructs all theatres to shut.  

This impacts Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, which had been announced to return to the SoHo Theatre for a limited six week season April 16 – May 24, 2020, with this season subsequently cancelled. Broadway will remain shuttered for 18 months.

13 March 2020

The Auckland Pasifika Festival cancels due to “concerns the event could spread coronavirus to Pacific Island nations.”  

14 March 2020

The Government announces anyone entering New Zealand must self-isolate for 14 days, except those arriving from the Pacific. 

17 March 2020

The Book of Mormon musical, playing at Auckland's Civic Theatre (which has a 2378 seating capacity), cancels it sold out evening performance and ends its season early due to the gathering restrictions.

Auckland Theatre Company and Pop-up Globe continue performances abiding by the reduced capacity.

Christchurch's Court Theatre cancels a number of upcoming performances.

On The Big Idea, Mark Amery asks ‘Where is the Emergency Arts Industry Package?

19 March 2020

Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are banned.

Borders close to all but New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. 

20 March 2020

Circa Theatre announces its closure from the 21st of March 2020 for a “limited period of time.”  

21 March 2020

The Government introduces the 4-tiered Alert Level system to help combat COVID-19. The Prime Minister announces that New Zealand is now at Alert Level 2. 

Dunedin Fringe launches a crowd funding campaign to raise money for artists impacted by the Fesrtival’s cancellation. It raises over $5000 within 24 hours of its creation.

Alert Level Two

Alert Level Three

23 March 2020

At 1:30pm the Prime Minister announces New Zealand is moving to Alert Level 3, effective immediately. In 48 hours, New Zealand will move to Alert Level 4.

Under Alert level 3 and 4, no live shows are possible in Aotearoa.

Alert Level Four

29 March 2020

New Zealand reports its first COVID-19-related death.  

25 March 2020

At 11:59pm, New Zealand moves to Alert Level 4, and the entire nation goes into self-isolation. A State of National Emergency is declared at 12:21pm.  

31 March 2020

Christchurch’s Little Andromeda’s monthly improvised Dungeons & Comedians show, hosted by Dungeon Master Brendon Bennetts, pivots online, with Dungeons & Comedians: UNDERDOGS OF THE UNDERDARK streaming live on Facebook.  

8 April 2020

Hump-Day Huntys, a weekly online pay-for-view drag show, launches in Auckland.  

 American theatre company Ad Hoc Economy release Butcher Holler Here We Come online, following the cancellation of the NZ Fringe and Dunedin Fringe seasons. The recording combined scenes from the play filmed at BATS theatre with footage by individual actors in quarantine in the USA.  

12 April 2020

Kelly Fornia releases Slay Healthy: An Online Drag Show Fundraiser, which raises $10,450 for Wellington Drag Artists impacted by Covid-19.  

Alert Level Three

27 April 2020

New Zealand moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm.

29 April 2020

Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi's ‘COVID-19: Impact on the Creative Sector in Tamaki Makaurau’ report finds that 83% of 332 respondents had had an event cancelled due to Covid-19.

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1 May 2020

Tempo dance festival begins an extended online season.

Basement Theatre announces its closure until July.  

4 May 2020

No new cases of COVID-19 are reported in New Zealand.

7 May 2020

BATS release Jean Sergent and Guests’s CORONA DIARIES. 

The Pantograph Punch launch podcast series Artist in Residence, a collection of immersive audio performance by NZ artists including Ruby Solly, Bic Runga and Jo Randerson, funded by NZ on Air.  

8 May 2020

Auckland Theatre Company launch the digital season of Chekov’s The Seagull, created by Eleanor Bishop and Eli Kent.

9 May 2020

After an 85% revenue loss, Q Theatre starts a crowd funding campaign to raise $150,000 to be able to reopen in 2021 .

13 May 2020

New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm. The State of National Emergency expires at 12:21pm.  

Alert Level Two

14 May 2020

Finance Minister Grant Robertson releases the Government’s budget with little in the way of new spending for the arts.

20 May 2020

Te Pou Theatre begins the Front Yard Festival, “a socially distanced tour of Tāmaki Makaurau held in the front yards of vulnerable whānau members, kaumātua and kuia.” Directors Tainui Tukiwaho and Jarod Rawiri created 10 minute music and storytelling shows to “enrich the days of our elders who have been highly isolated, and may remain in isolation significantly longer than younger or less vulnerable people.” The tours continue until 2 June and subsequently travel to Rotorua, Palmerston North and New Plymouth after receiving funding from CNZ.  

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28 May 2020

Help Q Get Through’ fundraiser goal is met with the entire $150,000 being raised.

Prime Minister and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
Jacinda Ardern visits Te Papa to announce new funding to support New Zealand’s cultural recovery from the pandemic.
“The cultural sector was amongst the worst hit by the global pandemic. Museums, galleries and heritage sites closed, and individual artists and arts organisations like dance and theatre companies saw their incomes decimated almost overnight. Funding announced today will help them get back on their feet. New jobs will be created, and the sector will innovate and connect with new audiences. Now more than ever we need a thriving arts and cultural sector. We saw in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes the potential of creativity and culture to create jobs, drive economic recovery and enhance social wellbeing, and they can help us do it again.”
Funding announcements relate to: $25 million for Creative New Zealand; $1.4 million for the Antarctic Heritage Trust ; $11.364 million to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga ; $18 million for the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; $2 million for the Museum Hardship Fund to be administered by Te Papa; $31.8 million for Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision (including funding to prevent the loss of the audio and visual collection which is rapidly deteriorating); $2.03 million for Royal New Zealand Ballet; $4 million for Waitangi National Trust Board

29 May 2020 

CIRCA Theatre releases Ralph McCubbin Howell and Anya Tate-Manning's IT’S BEHIND YOU! a short lockdown comedy-horror.

Prime Minister and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
Jacinda Ardern announces an additional $175 million arts and music recovery package – the biggest government investment in the arts for two decades. The Government’s press release highlights “thousands of jobs will be supported through today’s $175 million package in a crucial economic boost to support the arts and creative sector, which contributes nearly $11 billion a year to GDP, employs 90,000 people and supports the wellbeing of communities.”
$7.9 million for Careers Support for Creative Jobseekers; $70 million over three years for a Creative Arts Recovery and Employment Fund to support the rebuild of the creative industries by commissioning and supporting creative projects at a national and local level; $60 million over three years for a Cultural Innovation Fund; $20 million for a Cultural Capability Fund to focus on immediate needs in response to COVID-19; $16.5 million for a New Zealand Music Recovery Fund specifically directed towards the contemporary popular music industry. This includes $7.1m to boost NZ on Air’s New Music programmes, $5m for a Live Music Touring Fund to support NZ acts on the domestic circuit as alert levels permit; $3m immediate support for music venues to have safe environments for audiences, workers and artist; $1.4m to help musicians recoup lost income via Outward Sounds and NZ Music Month.

1 June 2020

A production of The Phantom of the Opera, playing in a 1600 seat theatre in South Korea, is “believed to be the only large-scale English-language production running anywhere in the world.”  

8 June 2020

The Ministry of Health reports that there are no more active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. At 11:59pm, New Zealand moves to Alert Level 1.

Alert Level One

17 June 2020

Red Scare Theatre release episode one of five-part audio drama Apocalypse Songs, funded by CNZ.  

“The five episode series follows a local radio station reporter Amy Louise Chen (Cassandra Tse) investigating the tapes of Clara Wilson (Catherine Gavigan-Binnie), an obscure 1960s musician whose cryptic lyrics seem to have predicted the future. Amy joins forces with Clara’s great-nephew Josh (Dryw McArthur) to investigate the mystery of Clara’s ‘Apocalypse Songs’.” (Source)

19 June 2020

The first live venue-based theatre shows in Aotearoa resume – 88 days after NZ entered Alert Level 3 on the 23 March. Magnus Steele by Austin Harrison and Wanted. Blaze of Glory by George Fenn and play at Circus Bar, Wellington, and Sorry For Your Loss by Cian Gardner plays at Meteor Theatre, Hamilton.

10 July 2020

The final Arts Continuity Grant (Batch 11) results are announced – 69 grants totalling $1,944,487 are offered to support projects by New Zealand artists and practitioners.

637 grants in total have been awarded through CNZ’s Arts Continuity Grants, totalling $16,037,185. With1418 eligible applications, this represents a success rate of 45%.

16 July 2020

Tainui Tukiwaho’s digital show Found in Translation premiers via Circa Theatre.  

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17 July 2020

Te Matatini Herenga Waka national kapa haka competition is postponed from February 2021 to February 2022.

21 July 2020

Theatre Live Online starts a crowd funding campaign. This campaign commissioned Two Productions, Nightsong and A Slightly Isolated Dog to create new work for both live and online audiences.

8 August 2020

Auckland Theatre Company release The Master Builder via its YouTube channel.  The director, Colin McColl explains that;

“[w]hen the COVID-19 lockdown made it impossible for us to present the work onstage, we decided to keep exploring this enigmatic and elusive late play of Ibsen’s in the rehearsal room.”

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11 August 2020

4 new cases of COVID-19 are recorded in the community in Auckland.

12 August 2020

At 12 noon, Auckland region moves to Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2.

Alert Level Two/Three

15 August 2020

Lockdown La Ronde by Victor Rodger opens with reduced capacity under Alert Level 2 at BATS Theatre, Wellington. Performed by Toi Whakaari third year actors, the play offers a “distinctly contemporary tale of ten interrelated LGBTQIA+ twenty somethings as they connect, or at least try to connect, during lockdown.”

18 August 2020

The second show performed by Toi Whakaari third year students, Pre Lockdown Post by Hone Kouka and company, opens at BATS and follows the experiences of New Zealanders before, during and after the March lockdown.

30 August 2020

Auckland moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm, with extra restrictions on travel and gatherings. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.  

Alert Level Two

1 September 2020

Te Pou begin the fifth annual Kōanga Festival digitally.

9 September 2020

Almost 6 months after pausing its live performances, Auckland Theatre Company opens the Back on the Boards season at the ASB Waterfront Theatre, consisting of three shows: Still Life With Chickens by D.F. Mamea, Black Lover by Stanley Makuwe (the play’s premiere season having closed due to the March lockdown) and 48 Nights on Hope Street, a new work by Carrie Green, Trae Te Wiki, Ravi Gurunathan, Jess Hong, and Patrick Tafa based on The Decameron’s account of the Black Death.

The 650-seat ASB Waterfront Theatre is converted into three zones with temporary partitions (inspired by Regent on Broadway) to accommodate a total audience of 300 people (100 people in each zone).

21 September 2020

All regions except Auckland move to Alert Level 1 at 11:59pm.

Alert Level Two/One

22 September 2020

Basement Theatre in Auckland reopens with reduced audience capacity under alert level 2. Before Karma Gets Us by Tess Sullivan, Ariaana Osborne and Liv Parker opens Basement's Reunited Season, “filled with an amalgamation of shows from the cancelled Summer and Winter seasons, a few rescheduled shows from the second lockdown, some new shows, and even some past hits.”

24 September 2020

NZ Taxpayers Union launches a smear campaign against Creative NZ’s Arts Continuity Grants.  

The smear campaign continues predominately until December 2020.  

5 October 2020

The Shows Must Go On opens at the Queenstown Memorial Centre, musical revue featuring four international kiwi musical theatre performers who had returned to New Zealand due to the pandemic. The show tours nationally through November.  

30 September 2020

Venues across the country are illuminated in red as part of the global #WeMakeEvents campaign to bring attention to the challenges the events industry is facing during the pandemic. Cathy Knowsley of Hi Viz Events tells Stuff: “We’re the first to stop … but also the last to come back. We’re without work, without hope.”

7 October 2020

Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 at 11:59pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

Alert Level One

10 October 2020

The inaugural Whangarei Fringe opens. 8200 people attend 90 events across 17 days.

15 October 2020

G&T Productions’ Mary Poppins becomes the first musical to play Auckland’s 2378 seat Civic theatre since the first lockdown, recognised as “the biggest stage show in the world at the moment.” Stuff explain: “with the theatres of Broadway in New York City closed until June 2021 and the West End of London dark until at least next month because of Covid-19, Mary Poppins at the Civic is thought to be the first major production to light up a stage since the virus spread around the world.”  

5 November 2020

Silo Theatre opens Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan at Samoa House in Auckland. Danielle Cormack directs the production on Zoom from Sydney.  

9 November 2020

Te Taumata-Toi-a-Iwi release a follow up survey on the impact of Covid on Tāmaki Makaurau’s Creative Sector, based on a survey of 146 Auckland based practitioners conducted during September/October. It finds “58% of respondents indicated they had to cancel an event, hui or gathering, or project or service because of COVID-19, and a further 36% had had to postpone.” While noting some improvements since the first survey, the report indicates “even with the shorter and less intensive lockdown from August, many were still impacted by COVID, and many are still struggling with the impacts of the earlier lockdown.”  

2 December 2020

The Modern Māori Quartet’s Garage Party opens at the Civic Wintergarden, Auckland, capping off a year in which most of the group’s gigs (local and international) were cancelled. Reviewer Sam Brooks writes:

“It feels right to end 2020 with a show like Garage Party. It’s the most trite thing to state, and restate, but we’re lucky to see live performance in New Zealand at all. In a normal year I’d probably see about 50 live shows. This year I’ll barely crack 10. Across the world, audiences aren’t sharing space with performers, but watching them on screens, and on screens within screens. That we get to see live performance at all is a blessing. That we get to see people as talented as the Modern Māori Quartet perform is a near miracle.”  
Flash photography, Shorts, Couch, Curtain, Entertainment, Thigh
Auckland Arts Festival
is forced to cancel four international touring shows coming to the Festival due to the new 14-day self-isolation measures for people entering New Zealand. Chief Executive David Inns explains: “it was not possible for us to get the performers into the country before the midnight deadline, so we are left with no option but to cancel these performances.”
Red Leap Theatre Company
cancels the remainder of its North Island tour of Owls Do Cry: “it is in the best interest of public health that we do not promote opportunities for gatherings of people – it is this consideration that has led us to this difficult decision.”
In the United Kingdom,
300 theatre venues close following the call from the UK Government for "drastic action” to halt the spread of the virus.
In Australia,
a ban on mass gatherings of 500+ also comes into effect. The Melbourne production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child announces it will “temporarily close its doors.” (1) The production would remain closed for 49 weeks. (2)
New Zealand actor Gareth Reeves, who plays Harry Potter, wrote: “I think I’m in shock… my body doesn’t yet understand what’s happening, and I’m pretty sure this headache I have is me holding onto some kind of grief.” George Henare, playing Dumbledore, was out of work for the first time in his fifty-year career. He shared with Stuff (3) his experience of severe anxiety caused by the pandemic: “I couldn't understand what was happening. I was losing my appetite and I couldn’t sleep.”
Almost all remaining Auckland Arts Festival shows are cancelled
due to the gathering restrictions. Chief Executive David Inns says, “Over the past four days we have been cancelling shows due to the impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation and this announcement today means we can no longer continue with our shows.” NZ Opera’s Eight Songs for a Mad King and Massive's Babble play their final performances this evening to audiences of under 100.
The Pop-up Globe
cancels the final performances of its farewell Auckland season. Actor Saraid de Silva wrote: “I sit in the theatre where I was able to do the arguably useless thing I love for two whole weeks, look up at a painted sun on the ceiling and my bottom lip quivers.” With its international expansion plans thwarted, the company would go into liquidation a year later.
BATS Theatre
announces in a Facebook post the boutique venue is closing its doors to the public: “We’re sorry we can’t offer more certainty at this time, the only thing for certain is change. Our decision may change tomorrow, or it may not. We believe that today we have made the right one. We also need a rest. It has been a big three days.”
The Pantograph Punch
publishes ‘Freelance Freefall: Covid-19 and Our Artists’. Ahi Kurunaharan shares how Covid has impacted his work: “In a matter of three days, I have lost three festival engagements, a couple of workshops, a tour and a series of classes and appearances that I had lined up for the next 10 weeks. In dollar value that comes up to about $15,000 in revenue. All of these projects have been cancelled so there is no space or opportunity for this to occur later in the year or to make back that revenue”
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Creative New Zealand announces the establishment of a “multi-million-dollar Emergency Response Package to support artists, arts practitioners, arts groups and arts organisations coping with the impact of COVID-19″, consisting initially of a $4.5 million investment. All funding rounds currently active are suspended to focus on the emergency response.   

Princess Boy Wonder by George Fowler is livestreamed via BATS theatre following the cancellation of its in-person NZ Fringe season, playing to an online audience of 200 people, thanks to the technical support of of Tane Hipango, Brynne Tasker-Poland and Benny Jenning.         

David O’Donnell : “A link from the BATS website took me to a payment page where I typed in my details to pay $15. Almost immediately my laptop came live screening the Random Stage at BATS, festooned with theatrical curtains illuminated by sweeping, multi-colored lights, with cheerful pop queer anthems blasting from the speakers. Under the circumstances, this felt metaphoric, an image of the theatrical surviving against the odds. The fixed camera was placed centrally in the seating block, covering the entire stage, giving a similar view to that if you were seated near the back of the auditorium. I could see some of the small invited live audience chatting animatedly in the front rows. At 6.30 sharp, the show began.”
George Fowler
Writer and performer George Fowler says: “Doing the live stream was amazing. It felt so good to bring people joy in such a dark time, to do the show once more, and to reach audiences that we couldn’t have reached without the magic border-crossing capabilities of the internet. I can’t wait to see where the technical advances this lockdown has necessitated will take us next.”
The 2020 NZ International Comedy Festival,
set to be held in April/May, cancels. Comedian Tim Batts writes: “We are devastated. Emotionally and financially. Most by thousands of dollars, some by tens of thousands. So much work has been done by comedians and staff to prepare a festival that will no longer happen.”
The Dunedin Fringe Festival
cancels after positive cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Dunedin the previous day. Festival director Gareth McMillian says independent Fringe artists "will be severely impacted now and in coming months, as will the wider sector including technicians, venues, suppliers and everyone who relies on a vibrant entertainment industry."

10-12 January 2020

WHO publish a comprehensive package of guidance documents for countries, covering topics related to the management of an outbreak of a new disease.

15 March 2020

New Zealand Festival of the Arts in Wellington cancels its final day of performances. Two cast members from Strasbourg 1518 (a dance-theatre show about the historical dancing plague) had been in contact the day before with a person confirmed as Covid-19 positive. Festival Director Meg Williams says, “we feel that extreme caution is the right approach in a situation that is changing so rapidly.”


Covid-19 is tentatively under control in New Zealand through the use of regional lockdowns, however, a highly transmittable varient called Delta is on the horizon. By the end of 2021, Delta has caused further nationwide lock downs and Auckland to be locked down for over 100 days.,

Silo Theatre: Break Bread

17 February 2021

Believing the spread to be contained, Auckland moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 1.

16 February 2021

Auckland Live cancels its Fringe Town programme, originally scheduled to run 15-21 February.  

Red Leap Theatre's Dakota of the White Flats premieres at ONEONESIX in Whāngarei after ‘escaping’ Auckland just prior to the 11:59pm lockdown on 14 February.  

14 February 2021

3 new cases of COVID-19 are recorded in the community in Auckland.

Auckland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm (meaning no live performances can go ahead). The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2 (performances can go ahead with reduced capacity).

The announcement coincides with the opening day of Auckland Fringe, which pauses its upcoming live events. 1/3 of the Festival’s 109 events set to perform the following week are disrupted by the level 3 lockdown.  

Alert Level Three/Two

Alert Level Two/One

22 February 2021

Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 at 11:59pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

A New Zealand production of the Jersey Boys musical announces US actor Hayden Milanés will play Franki Valli – a role Milanés had played internationally for five years. After failing to find an appropriate actor locally, the company searched internationally: “With Broadway and the West End remaining closed, and New Zealand being one of only a few countries in the world where people can enjoy live performance, Hayden said yes.” The production gained approval from Immigration New Zealand for Milanés to have an MIQ spot.  

Alert Level One

18 February 2021

Some Auckland Fringe events resume with reduced capacity.  

23 February 2021

Auckland Fringe extends the festival until 17 April to accommodate shows forced to postpone due to the level changes.  

26 February 2021

Wellington’s NZ Fringe opens with a programme of 156 independent events.  

27 February 2021

After continued community spread is detected, it is announced that Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 and the rest of NZ will move to alert level 2 at 6am the next day.  

Jennifer Ward-Lealand, appearing in Auckland Theatre Company’s Two Ladies at the ASB Waterfront Theatre, learns of the lockdown announcement immediately after the season’s final performance:

“Five minutes earlier a barrage of Covid alerts went off for the 550 audience members but we on stage didn’t know what the hell was going on. It was loud but not fire-alarm loud, and no one from front of house was coming into the theatre with high-vis vests on so… we just ploughed on and finished the show, and the Auckland season. My first words in the wings were “What the hell was going on?!” and our lovely stage manager answered, “Level three from 6am tomorrow for a week.”  

The North Island tour of Two Ladies to Hamilton, Tauranga, New Pymouth and Hawkes Bay is subsequently cancelled.  

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Alert Level Three/Two

28 February 2021

Auckland Fringe again pauses performances.  

NZ Fringe continues under Level 2 Restrictions.

Auckland Arts Festival delays the launch of the Festival, originally scheduled to begin on 4 March. The lockdown would ultimately result in 12 cancelled events, 18 rescheduled events and 2 events with reduced seasons.

1 March 2021

Newtown Festival is cancelled.  

7 March 2021

Auckland moves to Alert Level 2 at 6am. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 1.

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt by Tuisata Avia is released as an audio drama in partnership with Radio New Zealand and Performing Arts Network New Zealand. Wild Dogs Under My Skirt had to cancel tours in 2020, including a planned return season in New York City.

Alert Level Two/One

11 March 2021

Taki Rua’s Sing to Me by Alex Lodge opens the delayed Auckland Arts Festival, playing at Q Theatre with reduced capacity.  

12 March 2021

Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 at midday. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

Alert Level One

16 March 2021

The announcement that an international touring production of The Lion King musical will play Spark Arena in June causes controversy after 126 sought-after spots in MIQ (the NZ border's Managed Isolation and Quarantine system) for the production's foreign workers are approved by Immigration New Zealand under the 'other critical worker’ category. Act leader David Seymour criticized the “special treatment” of The Wiggles and The Lion King, and questioned why local workers weren't being supported. Equity New Zealand responds, “the immigration settings that allow for this many overseas performers into our country without creating job opportunities are too weak and need to be reviewed.” (Read More)

19 April 2021

The trans-Tasman travel bubble opens with Australia, allowing quarantine free travel between the two countries. For the performing arts, this offers the possibility of shows from New Zealand and Australia touring to each other's countries.

20 April 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Deputy PM Grant Robertson, epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker, journalist Mei Heron, and Moira Sa’imoa attend the opening night of Transmission at BATS Theatre, Wellington. Created by Stuart McKenzie and Miranda Harcourt using verbatim extracts of interviews conducted with these five guests, to reconstruct the decisions leading up to the March 2020 lockdown and its effects. Reviewer Adam Goodall observes: “there are so few places in the world right now where 80-odd people can gather in a small room to watch a live performance without risking a super-spreader event.”

23 June 2021

Wellington moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm after an Australian tourist tests positive for Covid (and is believed to have the Delta strain). The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 1.  

26 June 2021

The final rescheduled Auckland Fringe show, Cake Baby by Alice Kirker, plays its closing night performance at Basement Theatre.  

Flash photography, Fashion design, Face, Arm, Dress, Gown, Waist, Happy, Pink, Thigh

Alert Level One/Two

29 June 2021

With no community spread identified, Wellington moves to Alert Level 1 at 11:59pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

23 July 2021

The Government suspends the trans-Tasman bubble with Australia from 11:59pm due to the growing outbreak in Australia. Travel with New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia had already been paused.

Alert Level Four

17 August 2021

All of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 4 at 11:59pm following the detection of a community case of the Delta strain of the virus. In person performances across the country once again have to cease.  

18 August 2021

The Pumphouse Theatre in Auckland is identified as a location of interest after being visited by a positive Covid case.

21 August 2021

Primary students at Redoubt North Shore isolate after the Aotea Centre is identified as a location of interest. The students had attended a performance of Royal New Zealand Ballet's Firebird on 13 August.  

26 August 2021

After Auckland’s Level 4 lockdown is extended, Silo Theatre postpones its production of Live Live Cinema: Night of the Living Dead.

27 August 2021

Erin Harrington publishes, ‘Ghost light, or, the week that wasn’t’, “an alternate vision a time not spent in lockdown,” in which all the arts events in Ōtautahi Christchurch cancelled by Covid got to go ahead.

Alert Level Four/Three

31 August 2021

All of New Zealand south of Auckland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm. Auckland and Northland remain at Alert Level 4.

1 September 2021

Whangārei Fringe postpones until the 1 – 17 October.  

Creative New Zealand confirms it has limited capacity to offer the kind of emergency response implemented in 2020.  

2 September 2021

Northland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm.  All of New Zealand (except Auckland) is now at Alert Level 3. Auckland remains at Alert Level 4.

Alert Level Four/Two

7 September 2021

All of New Zealand (except Auckland) moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm. Under new Alert Level 2 rules for Delta, gathering limits shift down from 100 to 50 people maximum – a new challenge for Aotearoa's live arts.  

Auckland remains at Alert Level 4.

8 September 2021

9 September 2021

The World of Wearable Art cancels. Costs are supported through underwriting by Wellington City Council.

Perfuct Storm
at Christchurch’s Little Andromeda opens under Level 2 restrictions. Performers wear plastic visors to meet health protocols following health line advice. It is later clarified that performers are not required to wear face coverings in Level 2.
Entertainment Venues Association NZ
General Manager writes to the Prime minister warning, “without immediate targeted support our industry faces mass closures and large-scale redundancies…. The impact of the August lockdown has been immediate and devastating. The new alert level 2 restrictions mean that live events in New Zealand are currently impossible.”

14 September 2021

50 arts sector organisations sign a letter sent to Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage calling for “swift and responsive action” from the Ministry in light of Delta's impact on the sector.   

15 September 2021

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival confirms it will go ahead with its October Festival, but announces the cancellation of 6 shows and workshops due to Covid restrictions.  

20 September 2021

The cap on gathering sizes under Alert Level 2 is increased from 50 to 100.  

21 September 2021

Auckland and Upper Hauraki move to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm.

The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

Auckland Theatre Company cancels the return season of The Haka Party Incident by Katie Wolfe, planned to open 2 October. A tour of the play to regional Festivals is subsequently cancelled.  

Alert Level Three/Two

22 September 2021

Tourmakers and Auckland Live cancel the Auckland season and tour of Tu Meke Tūi.  

25 September 2021

Upper Hauraki moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm.

Auckland remains at Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

Tauranga Arts Festival cancels its 10-day festival, which was expected to attract 50,000 people. Bay of Plenty Times report: “Auckland's extended lockdown severely impacted the rehearsal and preparation time for many theatre shows and shortened the marketing and promotion period. Restrictions also meant performances wouldn't be able to get decent audiences.”

3 October 2021

Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Hamilton City and some surrounding areas move to Alert Level 3 for 5 days from 11:59pm.  Auckland remains at Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

5 October 2021

Alert Level 3 restrictions in Auckland are eased from 11:59pm.  Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Hamilton City and some surrounding areas remain at Alert Level 3.  The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

The Prime minister announces the Government's vaccine certificate plan, saying New Zealanders “will need to get vaccinated this month if they want to go to large events over the summer.”

7 October 2021

Waikato Alert Level 3 boundary is extended from 11:59pm to include Waitomo District, including Te Kuiti, Waipa District and Ōtorohanga District. Auckland remains at Alert Level 3 with some restrictions eased.  The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

Nelson Arts Festival cancels most of its events for the second year in a row. The organisers state: “We held on tightly to a spark of hope that we might have been able to safely gather as a community, but sadly, we continue to face too much uncertainty.” Some events continue online.

8 October 2021

Northland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59pm. Auckland and parts of Waikato remain at Alert Level 3.  The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.  

New Zealand promoters, venues and artists including Six60, Benee, Neil Finn and Ladyhawke support the #VaxforLive campaign, “asking people to save summer by getting vaccinated.”

10 October 2021

Whangārei Fringe Festival – consisting of 130 events – is cancelled. Organiser Hayley Clark says: “We held out hope for as long as we could, but Delta's long tentacle has put an end to Whangārei Fringe 2021.”  

18 October 2021

Basement Theatre announces it will remain closed for the remainder of 2021. Executive Director Cat Ruka explains:

 “constantly rescheduling show dates based on the drip-feed of information from the government around alert level shifts was starting to become a tiring and disappointing cycle for the artists, and a recipe for burnout for my staff. It was time to jump off that waka and just make a call to press pause so that we can come back stronger than ever next year.”

Auckland Pride announces a vaccine mandate for all events in its planned 2022 Festival.  

29 October 2021  

Te Matatini Herenga Waka Herenga Tangata National Kapa Haka Festival is postponed for a second time till February 2023. The festival had originally been set to take place in February 2021.

1 November 2021

MusicHelps launches the Delta Hardship Grant, offering $1000 grants to music industry workers affected by Covid-19 restrictions and cancellations.

Applications are suspended by 3.40pm that day due to high demand.  

2 November 2021

Upper Northland moves to Alert Level 3. The parts of Waikato at Alert Level 3 Step 1 move to Alert Level 3 Step 2 from 11:59pm. Auckland remains at Step 1 of Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

9 November 2021

Auckland moves to Alert Level 3 Step 2 at 11:59pm. Upper Northland remains at Alert Level 3. Parts of Waikato remain at Alert Level 3 Step 1.

The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

Government announces the Events Transition Support Scheme, an insurance scheme for events of over 5000 people that are cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions.  

10 November 2021

WORD Christchurch, which rescheduled due to the Delta outbreak, opens with a “revised, downsized, Covid-safe” programme.

11 November 2021

Upper Northland moves to Alert Level 2. Auckland and parts of Waikato remain at Alert Level 3 Step 2.

The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

Basement Theatre announces a fundraiser for its Spring artists.  

“Although our Spring shows will have a life next year, artists are still in a tough place. Their hard work, time and money for their shows had already been set in motion. For many, this wasn’t their first postponement either with some shows coming up to their fourth delayed season since 2020. Time and money ain’t always easy to get back and they now have a growing traffic jam of projects that are joining the queue for 2022. For independent artists, longer lockdowns mean less opportunities for income and ever growing traffic jams – and we can all agree that traffic jams suck.”

16 November 2021

Parts of Waikato move to Alert Level 2. Auckland remains at Alert Level 3 Step 2. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

19 November 2021

The results of an Independent Artists Survey of 543 independent arts practitioners are released, providing a “clear picture of a community in the midst of a deep financial and emotional crisis.” The survey, organised by Johanna Cosgrove, Alice Canton and Sam Snedden, finds 73% of respondents had paid work cancelled due to the Delta outbreak, and only 3% said they had more than enough work to get by.

One respondent commented: “I have essentially exited the industry after 20 years. I cannot maintain a living from my practice any longer.”

Organism, Font

22 November 2021

The Government announces the whole country will move to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework (the traffic light system based on the vaccine pass) at 11.59pm on 2 December.

25 November 2021

BATS Theatre announces its move to operating with vaccine passes under the forthcoming traffic light system.   

Scientists warn of a new Covid variant found in Botswana and South Africa with an “extremely high” number of mutations.  

26 November 2021

Auckland Folk Festival cancels its 2022 events.

The World Health Organisation assigns Omicron as the name of the new variant of concern.  

29 November 2021

Basement Theatre reaches its fundraiser target. Raising $1000 for each show booked for the Spring season.  

Silo Theatre premiere Break Bread by Alice Canton, Freya Finch, and Leon Wadham, with Jarod Rawiri. The show was reconceived as a digital show after the live show was postponed twice due to the pandemic. Reviewer Charlotte Maru-Lanning writes, “it’s near impossible to view this show without feeling a huge sense of empathy for Aotearoa’s Covid-ravaged creatives – or being moved by their persistence.”

28 November 2021

In response to Omicron, the Government places additional restrictions on travellers arriving from nine southern African countries which it has put on its list of very high risk countries.

30 November 2021

Manatū Toanga launches the $22.5 million Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme.  

2 December 2021

All of New Zealand moves to the COVID-19 Protection Framework, also known as the traffic light system, at 11:59pm. This marks the end of COVID-19 Alert System.

Northland, Auckland Taupō, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitīkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts begin in Red, which allows events to run for up to 100 people with vaccine passes and 1m distancing. The rest of New Zealand begins in Orange, which allows unlimited numbers of people to attend an event if vaccine passes are in use.  

(Graphic via TheSpinoff)


3 December 2021

The Tuning Fork is the first Auckland venue to reopen in Red with a live comedy show. Michele A'Court describes the gig:

 “This show went on sale last Monday and the room is just over half-filled to its socially distanced capacity of one hundred. Interestingly, next Friday’s gig sold out first – an indication maybe of a little hesitancy about live gigs, or that the thing people most wanted to do immediately was catch up with friends rather than watch a show. The people in the room are mostly in pairs, mostly in their 20s and 30s. There’s an unusually small (though still enthusiastic) response when I ask the menopausal women in the room to make some noise…. Every comedian flies, and all of us are buzzing afterwards. We talk about how we’ve missed this version of ourselves – who each of us is, but dialled right up to be at our sharpest and shiniest.”

16 December 2021

New Zealand’s first case of the Omicron variant is detected in a recent international arrival.  

29 December 2021

Half of the shows playing on Broadway cancel performances over the past week due to the Omicron outbreak.  

30 December 2021

Auckland and other areas in Red, excluding Northland, move into the Orange traffic light at 11:59pm.

31 December 2021

While many new year events and festivals had cancelled across the country, including Rhythm & Vines, a limited number of events go on: revelers see in the new year at Rhythm & Alps (Wanaka), Northern Bass (Mangawhai) and Highlife (Waiheke Island).

Crocodile Fever at Circa Theatre
cancels its season despite Wellington’s move to Alert Level 2: “unfortunately the level shift hasn’t come in time for us to go up. We need to finish our rehearsals, build our set, and pack it into the theatre before we can open.” Both Circa Theatre and Court Theatre confirm it isn’t viable for the venues to reopen under the new 50 person capacity.
Showbiz Christchurch
ancels its planned Sept/Oct season of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, explaining: “In order for the production to go ahead, Christchurch must be in Covid Level 1. At this point, we are not confident enough that this will be the case in time, nor do we have the ability to move the show to alternative dates later this year.” Showbiz’s 2020 production of My Fair Lady had also been cancelled due to the pandemic.
Musical Theatre New Zealand
issues a media release calling for urgent support and a review of Creative NZ’s funding process: "Attracting audiences of 200,000 annually pre-Covid-19, the grassroots musical theatre community is now faced with ever-growing debt as new restrictions mean no productions can go ahead meanwhile bills continue to mount on productions that were due to open. "

CNZ: “In support of this further phase of the Government’s emergency response, our priority with this additional $5 million is to get it out to artists and arts organisations as quickly and efficiently as possible. The best way we can do this is by distributing it through our existing funding and investment programmes.”   

17 November 2021

iTICKET announces its ticketing platform will integrate with the Government's vaccine passes and allow for pre-verification for ticket holders: “Event attendees will be able to pre-verify their vaccine status ahead of time, meaning just the ticket will need to be scanned on arrival at the event.”

End of Alert Level System

Traffic Light Red/Orange

Alert Level One

24 June 2021

The Lion King opens in Auckland to a full 4500 seat audience at Spark Arena – the first production of The Lion King to play anywhere in the world since March 2020.  

29 September 2021

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni announces Delta relief funding for the arts and culture sector consisting of:   

  • $10 million spread across Creative New Zealand, the New Zealand Music Commission, Te Papa/Museums Aotearoa, and the New Zealand Film Commission.  
  • $5 million for a new Manatū Taonga Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund, a fund of “last resort” to support cultural organisations, including sole traders, at clear risk of no longer operating viably.  
  • $22.5 million “to give the cultural sector confidence to plan and host performances and events over the next 6-8 months given the uncertainty of COVID-19 alert levels.”  

Manatū Taonga estimates the loss of economic activity for the arts and cultural sector between 18 August-21 September at almost half a billion dollars.   

16 October 2021

New Zealand holds the Super Saturday ‘vaxathon’, vaccinating more people against Covid-19 than any previous single day.

19 October 2021

Northland moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm. Auckland and parts of Waikato remain at Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

Auckland Theatre Company cancels the remainder of its 2021 season, Things that Matter by Gary Henderson and Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward, “due to uncertainty around Covid Alert Levels.” Artistic Director Jonathan Bielski says:

“Every show requires huge expenditure in the weeks and months leading up to opening night, and the financial and operational risks are currently too great to proceed in this environment when we have no certainty that we can perform.”

27 October 2021

The parts of Waikato at Alert Level 3 move to Step 1 of Alert Level 3.
Auckland remains at Step 1 of Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.

22 October 2021

Broadway’s longest running production, The Phantom of the Opera, reopens after 19 months.  


Another new variant, Omicron starts community spread causing a new wave of event cancellations.

18 January 2022

The first case of community transmission of Omicron is reported (a household contact of an MIQ worker).  

10 January 2022

International musical Come from Away postpones its planned April-May 2022 season in Auckland and Wellington due to the current uncertainty with the Omicron variant and the reopening of the border.  

Traffic Light Orange/Red

19 January 2022

Auckland’s Big Gay Out is canceled due to Omicron concerns.  

Nelson's Opera in the Park is cancelled due to Omicron concerns.  

20 January 2022  

Government confirms that an Omicron outbreak would send New Zealand into Red Traffic Light Setting.  

COVID-19 Protection Framework level change: Northland, which had been at Red, joins the rest of the country at Orange at 11.59pm.

Traffic Light Orange

Traffic Light Red

23 January 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that all of New Zealand will enter the Red Traffic Light setting at 11:59pm due to the spread of Omicron cases in the community. Under Red, events are restricted to a cap of 100 people with 1m distancing.  

Several events immediately cancel following the Government’s announcement, including Splore and The Others Way festivals.  

24 January 2022

BATS, Circa Theatre, Little Andromeda and Basement Theatre prepare to open this week under Red restrictions.

The Auckland International Buskers Festival
is cancelled (scheduled 28-31 January).
Madagascar The Musical,
cancels the rest of its season at Isaac Theatre Royal six shows into its run.
Comedian Chris Parker
postpones the New Zealand Tour of Gentle Man.
Destination Mars
continues at Te Papa under Red with reduced capacity as part of the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts.
The NZ Fringe,
which had preemptively capped its ticket sales for ‘Red Light’ capacity, confirms it is “in a rare position to still deliver many shows in our 2022 programme.”
Auckland Theatre Company
commits to opening its production of Grand Horizons at the ASB Waterfront Theatre under Red.

25 January 2022

A petition demanding the Government provide support and payments to those working in the entertainment industry amid the Omicron outbreak gains over 5000 signatures. The petition reads:

“The move to the 'Red' setting in New Zealand's Covid-19 Protection Framework has left thousands of Kiwis who work in the live events and adjacent industries completely without work for the foreseeable future. Throughout previous covid frameworks, kiwis have had access to wage subsidies and resurgence payments – However, this time around no such support has been made available despite some industries being totally unable to operate. After an already brutal 2021 for the music and live events industry especially, being left without work again in 2022 could see the decimation of many livelihoods.”  
Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival
cancels its 10-day festival, which was to have showcased over 1000 artists.
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
cancels a 7-day North Island tour in Feburary.
NZ Opera
cancels its Opera on the Harbour Valentines weekend season of Carousel.

27 January 2022

Auckland Lives cancels its annual Summer in the Square programme, which was to have featured over 220 independent artists from multiple disciplines.  

Entertainment Technology New Zealand calls on the Government to implement a sector specific wage subsidy or support: “Our industry is unable to operate while there are gathering restrictions in place, and we are desperately in need of further support to ensure we still have suppliers, staff, and venues functioning and able to hold events while capped capacity limits are in place.”   

Little Andromeda announces a new mask policy:
“We are still requesting y'all wear masks throughout the show (unless you're taking a sip of your drink), but now if somebody takes their mask off for an extended period of time, we will stop the show until they put their mask back on. Shouldn't come to that. […] To the dickhead who removed her mask on Tuesday after being asked twice by our staff to wear it (yet alone the signs on the wall), then told the innocent audience member beside her that she was uptight for having her mask on – please don't come back to our theatre (or any theatre) during this pandemic. This new policy is because of entitled idiots like you (and the small group that were with you). We want everyone else's ticket sales, not yours. Our audience looks out for each other and keeps each other safe. (At the moment, that means getting vaxxed, wearing a mask, staying home when sick, and being kind to each other.)”

2 February 2022

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni announces $121 million in new funding to support the Arts and Culture sector through the Omicron outbreak.  

  • $35 million for the Emergency Relief Fund, which will support in part a new one-off grant of $5000 that self-employed/sole traders can apply for.  
  • $70 million to extend the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme, which will now support already planned events up to 31 January 2023 if impacted by Red settings.
  • $15 million for the Screen Production Recovery fund

NZ Poetry Slam moves its Nationals online due to Omicron concerns.  

1 February 2022

A survey of 280 arts and events practitioners (including 44% sole trader freelancers) conducted by Entertainment Technology New Zealand finds an estimated loss of 85% of respondents’ revenue for the period from 24 January to 1 May 2022 due to postponements or cancellations caused by the move to Red, which equates to an estimated $40 million loss. ETNZ President Vicki Cooksley writes to Government ministers requesting support.  

31 January 2022

Wellington’s San Fran music and events venue temporarily closes due to Red restrictions, explaining “life at Red carries limitations that mean widespread gig cancellations and postponements, grinding our business to a standstill. Adding to these limitations is the highly transmittable nature of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, our inability to stamp it out, and the cost of isolation making people wary of venturing out of the house.”  

3 February 2022

The New Zealand government announces a 5-stage border reopening plan, including the phasing out of MIQ facilities.  

The New Zealand Festival of the Arts
cancels most of its live programme (62 event cancellations), including The Haka Party Incident. The Festival confirmed “Festival artist fees and crew wages for cancelled shows will be paid in full.” A poll of the Festival’s audience found that “while roughly half of those who answered felt comfortable attending in Red, many were not sure how that would change if, as predicted, case numbers grow. The other half had concerns about their enjoyment of the experience, their wellbeing and that of their family – and would choose not to attend.”
Auckland Arts Festival
provides an update on its events, with six shows cancelled or postponed.
Trick of the Light’s Lysander’s Aunty
was set to play at both Festivals. This marked the 11th season of a show Trick of the Light has had to “abandon due to the pandemic” (the first had been the originally scheduled premiere of Lysander’s Aunty with Court Theatre in March 2020).

4 February 2022

Basement Theatre announces it will close for the next weeks:

“While we felt able to be open last week when case numbers were low and contained, the number of Omicron cases are now rising in Auckland and the risk of the virus spreading in our small and not-well-ventilated space has increased. So for the next few weeks, shows have been cancelled or postponed. Beyond the next few weeks, we will keep an eye on how the situation develops and make the necessary calls.”  

Nelson Fringe Festival moves its dates from “31 March-9 April, to the new (slightly chillier) time of 23 June-2 July.”

8 February 2022

A Unesco report finds “ten million jobs in creative industries worldwide were lost in 2020 as a result of the Covid pandemic, and the increasing digitisation of cultural output means it is harder than ever for artists to make a living.”

An anti-vaccine mandate protest convoy, inspired by those in Canada,  arrives at New Zealand's parliment.

9 February 2022

Auckland Arts Festival cancels all 51 of its live events and performances due to “the high risk of infection to cast, crew, production, venue staff, and audiences, along with capacity restrictions for live events under RED in the traffic light framework.” 5 streaming/outdoor installation events continue as planned, 10 visual arts events continue with reduced capacity, and 2 cancelled live performances move online.  

New Plymouth's Womad NZ music, arts, and dance festival and Wellington's Homegrown music festival cancel, “the second time both events have not gone ahead in the past three years.”

10 February 2022

Napier's Art Deco Festival cancels 200 events. A scaled-back version of the festival with 50 events will go ahead 16-20 February.

11 February 2022

Auckland's Pasifika festival cancels for the third time in four years, while Polyfest becomes a livestreamed event.

14 February 2022

Wellington's CubaDupa street festival (planned for March 26-27) cancels, with organisers saying “we have to accept that this is just not possible in 2022.”  

A performance of The Merchant of Venice at the Pumphouse Theatre in Auckland is cancelled after a cast member was notified as a close contact of a positive Covid case. Remaining performances in the season are subsequently cancelled.  

Auckland Pride,
which had planned to offer the biggest Queer Arts programme in the Festival’s history, makes the “challenging decision” to cancel the 2022 Pride Festival. Executive director Max Tweedie says: “We support the imposition of restrictions to protect our communities, healthcare systems, and critical services. The experience of Australia in particular has demonstrated that even without these restrictions, the Auckland Pride Festival proceeding during an Omicron outbreak would’ve been irresponsible. Some events will continue online, including the Samesame but Different Festival.
North Shore Music Theatre
cancels its Skycity Theatre season of musical Wicked. Four years in the making, the show’s planned September 2021 season had already been postponed to February 2022 due to the Delta outbreak.
tell Re News the lack of a wage subsidy under the Red setting is “frightening and stressful.”
Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival
cancels 11 events that had previously been rescheduled to February due to the Delta outbreak, explaining “a further postponement is not viable at this time.”
Auckland’s Lantern Festival
cancels for a third year in a row, and Wellington’s Lunar Festival cancels most of its events.
(Festival of Live Art Auckland) cancels, asking “How many plot twists can an arts industry take?!” It was to have featured “25 artists over 10 full-length shows as well as a free public program of installations, workshops, and a three-course supper” between 5-19 February.
Basement Theatre
opens The Karmasutra Chronicles by Shriya Bhagwat and Harlequeen by Abby Howell , the first public performances to be held at Basement Theatre since the start of the Delta outbreak in August 2021. It was “third time lucky” for The Karmasutra Chronicles, which had been postponed twice before. To open in Red, Basement “dropped audience numbers by at least half so you can sit at a distance from others.”

On The Spinoff, Sam Brooks asks, ‘After two years of hurt, can live arts recover from red?’, concluding: “if you work in the arts, this red light might be the one where you get out of the car, leave the keys in the ignition and walk away forever.”  

15 February 2022

Where our Shadows Meet, devised by Equal Voices Arts, opens at Wellington's Circa Two, with the venue's capacity dropped from 100 to 40. Performed by a Deaf and hearing cast and designed to be accessible for d/Deaf and hearing audiences, NZSL Creative Consultant Rachel Turner says “we didn't want our voice taken away at this time. There are no other examples of stories where NZSL and English share the stage with equal status so we wanted to do all we could to proceed with caution.”

16 February 2022

Film, theatre and events costume and props rental company First Scene issues a call to action for people to support the company to get through the pandemic and “ensure the future of the biggest resource of its kind in Aotearoa.”

17 February 2022

Back to Square One? by Anders Falstie-Jensen prepares for performances in three different cities (Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington) with three different performers.

18 February 2022

Trick of the Light's season of Tröll at the Sydney Opera House in April is cancelled.

23 February 2022

Little Andromeda postpones two shows – Before Karma Gets Us and Nick Rado – due to close-contacts requirements.  

Self-administered Rapid antigen tests (RATs) begin to replace PCR lab tests as New Zealand’s primary test for Covid-19.  

24 February 2022

Auckland Theatre Company postpones the May season of Witi's Wāhine till 2023, explaining that the show “is a large-scale kaupapa that would be rehearsing and performing over the coming months. If we start making it, there is a high risk the production would have to be paused or even cancelled due to Covid-1 cases and isolation periods.”  

25 February 2022

The Government reduces self-isolation requirements, with only positive cases and household contacts being required to isolate for 10 days.    

Auckland Theatre Company cancels all remaining performances of Grand Horizons

12, 011 new cases of Covid are recorded in New Zealand on this day.  

12 March 2022

Final day of the NZ Fringe, one of the few arts festivals to continue in person performances during the Omicron outbreak, delivering 321 live performances across 30 venues and hosting 28 digital shows. Fringe report that 35% of shows in the season were impacted by isolation requirements for Covid positive cases and household contacts.  

4 March 2022

Newshub reports that New Zealand “has passed the all-time per capita COVID-19 case peaks of the United States, Britain and the European Union as Omicron sweeps across the nation”, with 338.9 average cases per 100,000 people. 23,000 new cases are recorded on this day.  

28 February 2022

Applications open for The Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Grant (of $5000) for Self-Employed Individuals in the arts, culture and heritage sector.  

17 March 2022

Basement Theatre announces programmed shows for April will not be going ahead as scheduled: “even though cases are declining, our artists would have been rehearsing, producing and marketing their shows right now and it would have been difficult for them to try to all of that and keep safe at the same time.”   

18 March 2022

The New Zealand Comedy trust announces the “gutting” cancellation of the 2022 New Zealand International Comedy Festival: “due to the mass disruption caused by the spread of Omicron, alongside the level of preparation needed from artists to create their shows and our team to deliver such a large-scale event, the Festival will not be able to go ahead as planned in May.”


22 March 2022

Basement Theatre launches the B-SIDE PROGRAMME, “activities that are low-risk, easy and accessible for our artists and audiences to sink their teeth into while Omicron is Omicronning.” These include a podcast and ‘The Slab’, an outdoor beer garden in the Basement carpark  featuring outdoor performances for up to 44 people.    

25 March 2022

At 11:59pm indoor gathering limits in Red rise from 100 to 200, and outdoor gathering limits are removed. These changes do not represent a meaningful difference for the live arts industry.

Silo Theatre Artistic Director Sophie Roberts says:

 “our sector is still in crisis… I think we're looking at a really long road ahead of us to rebuild what has been lost over the last few years. I'm also mindful that a change in rules doesn't mean the way people feel about going out and gathering right now will also change overnight and that will take time to rebuild. We're still in the midst of a public health crisis, we're still trying to make decisions that are going to best support our most vulnerable.”

8 April 2022

$14m of payments  to organisers of over 500 events impacted by New Zealand’s red traffic light setting approved to date through the Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s Arts and Culture Event support scheme.

26 March 2022

Indian Ink Theatre Company undertakes its first international tour since the start of the pandemic, opening Paradise or the Impermanence of Icecream at the Maui Arts and Culture Center's Castle Theatre as part of a tour to four of the Hawaiian Islands and Arizona.  

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To be continued…

21 February 2022

Prospect ParkProductions postpones theWorld's First Lovers as part of the Dunedin Fringe: “with growing uncertainty around the next couple of months, rapidly increasing case numbers and a strong desire to keep our people safe, we know this is the right decision.”

31 March 2022

Comedian Chris Parker opens Gentle Man at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He joins fellow New Zealanders Barnie Duncan, Urzila Carlson, Melanie Bracewell, Morgana O’Reilly, Guy Montgomery and A Slightly Isolated Dog in touring to the 2022 Festival.

4 April 2022

From 11:59pm vaccine passes are no longer mandated at events (or other businesses), becoming the decision of individual events and businesses to continue using them or not. Little Andromeda, BATS Theatre, and Auckland Live are the first theatre venues to indicate they will no longer be requiring vaccine passes.  

Royal New Zealand Ballet cancels its May/June national tour of Swan Lake.   

19 April 2022

Terrapolis (by Julia Croft, Meg Rollandi, Jason Wright and Nisha Madhan) becomes the first show to play at Q Theatre in eight months.  

Julia Croft writes for Q's newsletter:

“I have really missed you. I missed being in a room with you. In a theatre bar with you. I missed seeing you in those very, very red Q bathrooms as you are running away to a show in Rangatira, and I was running away to a show at Loft. […] This show was meant to open on 18th August last year, and mid dress rehearsal Jacinda and Ashley told us to go home. So we did. And our beautiful set hung in the theatre, all alone, for months. I and Nisha talked about that set in that empty theatre all the time. That was the last time a set was in that room – it’s been empty since we packed it out in December last year.”

13 April 2022

At 11:59pm all of New Zealand moves down to the Orange traffic light setting. At Orange there are no capacity limits for venues.

Traffic Light Orange

9 April 2022

House of Sand's season of Undoing at BATS Theatre closes early due to “due to the unsustainable creep of positive Covid-19 cases that now directly impacts three members of our company.”

22 April 2022

Auckland Theatre Company announces an Encore season of Grand Horizons, playing for two weeks at full capacity in the ASB Waterfront Theatre from 17 May. The original season played at reduced capacity and closed early due to the Omicron outbreak.

28 January 2022

Te Pāti Māori Co-Leader Rawiri Waititi calls on the Government to “compensate artists, musicians and creatives immediately” who have lost work due to the Red light settings.  

Q Theatre in Auckland cancels the Summer at Q Festival, with 15 affected shows.  

29 January 2022

iTICKET’s Reece Preston says over 200 events due to run over the next two months that had been using the ticket provider have cancelled, with many of the events already having been postponed due to previous outbreaks.  

Tauranga Musical Theatre cancels its production of Les Misérables: “We were due to stage Les Misérables in September 2020, then August 2021, and now February 2022. To be so close is incredibly tough to take for our talented and hardworking cast and crew.”  

10 May 2022

New Zealand reaches one million confirmed Covid cases across the two years of the Pandemic.

19 May 2022

The Government announces $185 million in the 2022 Budget will “help build a resilient cultural sector as it continues to adapt to the challenges coming out of COVID-19.” Te Matatini, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet receive funding increases, but Creative New Zealand misses out.

20 May 2022

Te Matatini welcomes the doubling of its funding to $2.9million, but argue it " it falls short of providing equitable funding for kapa haka to flourish in Aotearoa.”  

24 May 2022

After some cast in Auckland Theatre Company’s Encore Season of Grand Horizons go into isolation, the show continues with the use of covers – “actors or crew who have not learnt the show, they come in cold with minimal rehearsal. Actors sometimes have a script in hand when they cover.”  

26 May 2022

Te Rēhia Theatre teams with The Dust Palace for the Front Yard Festival 2022: “Two roopu of mostly Māori artists and acrobats will perform 15-minute music, circus and storytelling shows wherever they are booked to go – such as rest homes, schools and people’s own whare. They turn front yards into theatre venues, and present joyful, vibrant, non-contact waiata and performances highlighting the beauty of Māori and Samoan culture.”    

3 June 2022
After an 18 month gap since its last live production, Silo Theatre open seven methods of killing kylie jenner at Basement Theatre.  

Q Theatre welcomes Australian comedian Rhys Nicholson, its first international act of the year.

13 June 2022

A Slightly Isolated Dog conclude an “epic” 10-Week Tour of Australia (originally scheduled for 2021).    

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20 June 2022
Chess the Musical in Concert completes its season at Auckland Live’s Kiri Te Kanawa theatre, playing to 8000+ people across 5 performances.

1 July 2022
In New York City, most Broadway theatres end mask mandates for audiences.

2 July 2022

Wellington’s St James Theatre reopens after being closed since 2019 for earthquake strengthening and is busy for the rest of the year.

5 July 2022
Ministry of Culture and Heritage Manatū Taonga announces the $28 million Cultural Sector Regeneration Fund, replacing previous Covid-19 recovery programmes.  

23 June 2022

Four performances of Indian Ink’s Mrs Krishnan’s Party are cancelled due to an actor testing Covid positive.      

7 July 2022

Creative New Zealand’s Arts Sector Remuneration report finds that creative sector workers had a 0% median salary increase over the past year. The expected salary increase for artists in 2023 is also 0%.  

15 July 2022
Christchurch’s Little Andromeda introduces a “self serve refunds” policy: “the last few weeks have gotten a bit crazy with the amount of ticket cancellations coming in – we’re SUPER happy to cancel tickets (thank you so much for keeping your sickness at home!) but shit they’re coming in thick and fast right now, and when we’ve got staff down with covid too it’s just getting physically difficult to keep up with all the refunds.”

21 July 2022

Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright warns the arts community that CNZ has reduced funding capacity compared to the previous two years: “We spent down our reserves through our initial emergency response to COVID-19, and with the ending of one-off COVID-19 funding from the Government, as well as the lack of material increases to our baseline funding, we will have limited financial flexibility over the next four years. There will be times ahead when we’ll have to make some difficult decisions as to where we invest our resources. This comes at a period when the arts sector is struggling, and the next several years will be challenging for our community,”   

25 July 2022
New Zealand’s Covid-19 death toll passes 2000 people.

8 August 2022

Circa Theatre’s Wednesday to Come loses a week of performances due to illness. The production’s opening night had earlier been postponed.

End of the Traffic Light System

12 September 2022
New Zealand moves out of the Orange setting and the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic lights) ends at 11:59pm. All mask requirements are removed (except in healthcare settings). People who test positive for Covid-19 are still required to isolate for 7 days, but household contacts are no longer required to isolate.

15 September 2022

Little Andromeda moves to a new “masks recommended” policy.  

21 September 2022
Krishnan’s Dairy, written and performed by Jacob Rajan, completes its 25th anniversary tour at Te Papa, Wellington after previously touring to Auckland, Kāpiti, Christchurch and Hamilton between June-September.  
The World of WearableArt opens at Wellington’s TSB Arena – the first WOW show since 2019.

23 September 2022

Arts practitioners and organisations react to missing out on competitive funding in Creative New Zealand’s Kahikatea programme and Annual Arts Grants. While Te Rākau Hua o te Wao Tapu, Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival, Kia Mau Festival and Toi Ngāpuhi all received Kahikatea funding for the first time, Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand and Arts on Tour are two of four organisations who did not receive renewed funding.  
NZ Fringe, A Slightly Isolated Dog, Binge Culture, EBKM (Eleanor Bishop & Karin McCracken), Nightsong were declined funding in the Annual Arts Grants, while Trick of the Light had its funding reduced. Nightsong’s Ben Crowder says “we are completely devastated and unsure how to resurrect literally years of work in planning – and deal with the alternatives that are potentially on the horizon to get the whole year back up.” The Big Idea reports the “funding shock” is “worse than Covid.”

26 September 2022
All remaining Government vaccine mandates are removed.  

27 September 2022

Po’ Boys and Oysters by Estelle Chout, the “first NZ play focusing on a black lesbian couple wanting to adopt” opens at Basement Theatre, a year after it was originally set to debut.

14 October 2022
A row over Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand being declined $31,000 (per year over 3 years) in Creative New Zealand funding makes international headlines.  

15 October 2022

Recently appointed Auckland Pride Creative Director Nathan Joe writes an open letter to the arts community after Pride was declined CNZ funding to continue the Creative Director position. Nathan writes:

“Without fetishising resilience, as emerging artists fall through the cracks, it will be up to our arts administrators, arts leaders, arts gatekeepers to throw their best life rafts, to throw out their best lifelines, to open up their doors and resources, to make the stepping stones and pathways clearer than ever.”

18 October 2022
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern intervenes to ensure funding for Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand continues through the Ministry of Education. There is no assistance for other artists and organisations that CNZ was unable to fund.

26 October 2022

Comedy Gold's Western themed comedy Cocked and Loaded cancels its premiere season at Wellington’s BATS Theatre after just one performance: “The plague has hit the town and following Covid-19 Procedures we will sadly be shutting our saloon doors.”

People in nature, Natural landscape, Plant, Sky, Happy, Hat, Tree, Travel, Leisure

27 November 2022
A combined publication of verbatim plays The Haka Party Incident by Katie Wolfe and Transmission by Stuart McKenzie is launched at the annual Playmarket Accolades at the Hannah Playhouse, Wellington. Wolfe reports that planned Haka Party seasons were disrupted 8 times by Covid-19 outbreaks and restrictions. A national tour of Transmission (which follows the events of New Zealand’s first lockdown) for this year was also foiled by Omicron. Playmarket Director Murray Lynch reports that play licenses for 2022 remain down compared to 2019.

Pandemic Impacts

A summary of impacts of the pandemic on Aotearoa New Zealand's theatre and performance sector over the past 2+ years.

Restrictions on Performance  

The first restriction on public gatherings in New Zealand was introduced on 19 March 2020, when the Government banned indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. By 23 March 2020, New Zealand was moving into lockdown and no live performances would be possible for the next two months.  

Between 1st January 2020 through to 13 April 2022 (when New Zealand moved to the Orange traffic light setting), there has been a public heath measure in place somewhere in the country that restricts public gathering and the viability of live performance close to 50% of the time. During this almost 28-month period, the entire country has been free of any gathering restrictions on 432 out of 834 days.  

The other half of this period has featured periods where the country and specific regions have been under Alert Level 3 and 4 (where no live public performance can go ahead) or Alert Level 2 and the Red Traffic Light setting (where performance can only go ahead with reduced capacity).  

This graph demonstrates how live performance in Auckland, Northland, Wellington and Christchurch has been impacted by the pandemic and public health measures – recording the number of days per year when live performance in these regions was restricted.  

* No performance restrictions indicate performances could go ahead with full venue capacity. It does not include other public health safety measures that might be in place such as vaccine passes or mask requirements.  

This graph illustrates the number of days where it was technically possible for live performance to go ahead. It does not account for the lag for time it takes for live performance to resume after a period of the restrictions (for example, during the first lockdown New Zealand moved to alert level 2 at midnight on 13 May 2020, but the first performances in theatre venues did not take place till 19 June 2020). As reflected by the main timeline, the periods with capacity restrictions (eg: a limit of 100 audience members) also see a substantial number of cancellations of shows where it was not financially viable to perform for an audience of this size.

We can see from the graph the impact of outbreaks in Auckland, where live performance could not go ahead for 190 days over the 28-month time period (22.7% of the time) and had capacity restrictions over a further 188 days (22.5%).  

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Cancellations and Reduced Activity  

  • An April 2020 survey conducted by Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi and Dovetail of 332 workers in the creative sector found that 83% of respondents indicated they had to cancel an event, hui or gathering, or project or service because of COVID-19.  
  • There was a 44% decrease in the number of works presented by New Zealand's major theatre companies and venues in 2020 compared to the previous year. A combined 114 works were presented in 2020 by theatre organisations Auckland Theatre Company, Circa Theatre, Court Theatre, Basement Theatre, BATS Theatre, Capital E, Massive Company, Taki Rua, Centrepoint Theatre, Barbarian Productions, The Conch, Indian Ink Theatre Company, Nightsong, Red Leap, Silo Theatre, Tawata Productions and Young & Hungry. With 205 works presented by these same companies in 2019, this is a difference of 91 works (data provided by Playmarket).  
  • The Independent Artists Survey of 500+ independent artists conducted during the August 2021 lockdown found that 73% of respondents had paid work cancelled, and 17% had stopped their practice all together.  
  •  New Zealand's Omicron outbreak and move to the red light traffic setting in January 2022 ushered in a new wave of event cancellations. One ticketing provider, iTICKET, listed 111 event cancellations that had been scheduled to go ahead across the country between January and March 2022 (data captured 6/2/22).

Young New Zealanders’ Access to Theatre during the Pandemic 

Research conducted by Colmar Brunton into young New Zealanders’ attitudes to, attendance at and participation in the arts in 2020 found a significant decline in the number of young people (10-14 years old) who attended and participated in and theatre events in 2020. 22% of young people participated in theater events in 2020 compared to 48% in 2017. 49% of young people attended any dance theatre, music or performance in 2020, compared to 64% in 2017. While these rates reflect the restricted access to live performance in 2020, the reduced opportunities for young people to engage in these arts experiences is a concerning finding and should be an area of focus.  

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Phoebe Robertson, Summer Research Scholar: During the research process I  wanted to get individual perspectives on such a massive project. Here are a selection of interviews I conducted with a variety of New Zealand artists impacted by Covid-19.