Auckland's move to the Covid Protection Framework is a welcome relief to artists exhausted from juggling alert levels for nearly two years – though the move doesn't mean a rush to stage shows this side of Christmas.
The live arts sector has been amongst the hardest-hit industries in Auckland's long lockdown, with dozens of shows forced to cancel over the past four months because of the tougher restrictions introduced to combat the arrival of the Delta strain.
From Friday, when Auckland moves to "red" in the new traffic light system, those venues will finally be able to open to vaccinated customers, albeit at restricted levels.
However, while the move provides more certainty going forwards, many artists and organisations have already had to pivot.
Silo Theatre this week launches its long-awaited production Break Bread, which was first announced at the end of 2019 but has been delayed several times because of lockdowns.
The show, originally conceived as a communal experience where the audience would bake and eat together, is now being streamed online, with the cast all filming remotely.
Despite being released so close to the opening, writer Leon Wadham said there are no regrets about releasing the show digitally, given the apprehension some may feel about going to public performances.
"I like the idea that Break Bread provides a gentle re-entry option in red - you can watch the show with a group at home, but you know exactly who's in the room."
Break Bread has remained in flux for two years, with the changing nature of the pandemic had making the team uneasy about staging the show, Wadham said.
It didn't help that the possibility of moving to different alert levels meant planning for different outcomes should audience capacity limits change.
When the decision was made to go digital, Wadham said it was "incredibly freeing" and is relieved it can finally be seen by the public.
"I just felt the immense relief of not having to hold four different shows in my head. It allowed us to concentrate our time."
It's a similar concern held by Cat Ruka, executive director of Basement Theatre. She said while there is still uncertainty around staging shows in the traffic light system, it provides more clarity than the alert levels and having to make multiple plans for each show.
"You were producing things that never eventuated. We're looking forward to those days being behind us."
While shows can be staged now, Ruka and the Basement team are focusing on a "jam-packed" reopening line-up at the end of January.
There was consideration given to staging shows in December if Auckland reopened early enough, but Ruka said this decision is best.
"It was a hugely tough decision to make to not put on a Christmas show, but it would have been impossible to stage a show of that scale."
Wadham – who directed Basement's last Christmas show – said while Break Bread wouldn't be staged in a theatre now, the goal had been to keep the theatricality to the production rather than make it a live show – and was confident this latest version is "the best version of the show yet".
Part of that comes by subtly addressing what has forced this changed in release – Covid.
"By allowing that to be text rather than a dirty little secret, all the best material we had been making over the last two years coalesced in a wonderful way," Wadham said.
"We don't want it to be a compromise, we want it to be a triumph."
• Break Bread is available to stream at silotheatre.co.nz from November 30 - December 19.