Sold-out shows and surges in new memberships have seen community theatre make a huge comeback after Covid-19.
The lockdown meant shows across the Bay of Plenty were cancelled, moved, postponed - some even four times over - and it left not-for-profit theatres financially vulnerable.
Now, theatres are seeing full houses and increasing interest from new members as they get back on their feet and plan for a new 2021 show calendar.
Rotorua Musical Theatre president Bobby Mihi Howard said having to defer all 2020 shows into the new year meant there was no revenue.
But, she said, the fairly-new committee used the time to review, assess and plan for the future.
"It was a time to regroup and strategise.
"We looked at everything and took some key points to focus on, which was building the capacity of our current membership and recruiting new people to Rotorua Musical Theatre."
Once theatre returned after lockdown, Howard said there were increased ticket sales with some shows selling out.
"We used this to gain some valuable feedback from all involved, from audience members to cast and crew. We wanted current statistics to be able to plan effectively for 2021 onwards.
"We tried different strategies to engage more from audience and stakeholders which benefited our theatre so indeed there has been some added interest from our community.
"We even had some audience members who are keen to engage in theatre."
Howard said their intention of staging Aotearoa - The NZ Rock Musical in November was to include people both within and outside the theatre joining the creative teams and head of department production roles.
She said creative team members were mentored by a theatre expert and everyone except for the musical director took on first-time roles.
"We even gained new members. We planned the production around level 2 restrictions in case we went back into level 2.
"We had a very well-attended season and had increased sales."
Howard said she believed people were missing the social interaction and the show was a "nice distraction" from the uncertainties of life post-Covid.
Rotorua Little Theatre president Liz Carrington said the theatre staged two of four shows in 2020 due to Covid-19.
"That basically halved our income for the year," she said.
"Our first show we had to move due to Covid from May until the end of the year. Then in level 3 people still weren't confident about coming out."
But Carrington said people were starting to enjoy theatre again.
"I think the energy and confidence is back and we're very much planning for this year."
A pantomime the theatre staged in December generated a "big surge" in memberships and an increase in young people, Carrington said.
Since lockdown, the theatre had hosted the University of Waikato Conservatorium of Music as well as Kiwi comedians Rose Matafeo and Guy Williams.
"People were excited about being able to see comedy and that sold out," she said.
Tauranga Musical Theatre president Jeremy Sparrow said the theatre had been relatively fortunate being able to stage two shows that were delayed due to the lockdown.
"We did have to move our big production of Les Misérables from September 2020 to 2021," he said.
"However, Baycourt [Community and Art Centre] were very accommodating to transfer over the booking and as such we didn't take a financial hit there."
Sparrow said ticket sales were "very important" to the not-for-profit theatre as all profits went directly into staging future shows.
"Holding shows are where we make the bulk of our profit, as well as through very generous sponsorship and funding, so we need to hold events to continue to run the theatre."
Since lockdown, Sparrow said the response from the community had been "phenomenal".
"When we came out of lockdown, we had a fantastic run of The Blues Brothers: First Contact, which was our first show back on stage since January 2020.
"It had been delayed four times, so we had built quite a loyal following of people who were dying to see it get to the stage. I feel like people were really invested in our journey."
Sparrow said four shows were sold out prior to opening and once the curtains opened nearly every show in the season did too, with two extra weekday shows added.
"I think also people were really excited to get back to the theatre, to be around other people and connect with the community through something fun and exciting," he said.
"There was this sense of appreciation for how lucky we are in New Zealand to be staging live theatre when productions around the world were and are shutting down due to Covid-19, so we don't take the opportunity lightly."
Sparrow said the theatre's end of year show Popstars also sold well and brought in some "really enthusiastic audiences" as well as new names inquiring at auditions for future shows West Side Story and Les Misérables.
"We also had a large number of ex-volunteers, who had moved overseas, come back and join us, which was really cool too."