COVID 19 Health and Safety for Artists

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Resources for producing and rehearsing safely

Creating theatre during the time of COVID presents new difficulties and challenges, requiring all of us to get creative and innovative with the ways we rehearse and present theatre.

As the situation continues to evolve, it is important to keep up with the latest governmental and public health regulations and guidelines:


Producing during COVID-19

It is vital that artists, producers, presenters and arts organizations adhere to regional public health guidelines in order to create a safe workplace. Stay up to date with your local authorities, as their rules and restrictions will govern how you work during this time. We’ve created a list of considerations to accompany your local region’s public health guidelines to help guide your planning process.

Before you begin rehearsals:

  • Contracts and payment schedules: COVID-19 has specific implications for artists, whose fees are usually paid after a workshop/performance is completed. In your contract, include pay days, and details on what percentage of payment artists will receive should the project be cancelled.
  • COVID-19 Plan: Any in-person activity will involve risk. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect a worker. All employers are encouraged to develop a COVID-19 workplace safety plan and to review and update it regularly. Some businesses, including all those operating during a lockdown or shutdown, must have a written safety plan by law. A helpful way of developing a plan is to consider your actions through a hierarchy of risk. Ask yourself: What do our decisions risk? What do we not have to do? What can we change? The Government of Ontario provides a variety of resources including a downloadable template for you to create your own workplace safety plan. Some health services (such as WorkSafe BC) will review your COVID plan for you (though it might take a while to hear back from them), and tell you if it works. Flexibility and adaptability as regulations change is very important.
  • Creative Team Consultation: Ensuring COVID safety will be a team effort. Consider developing your protocols and procedures with input from everyone. Each of your team members are experts in their respective fields and have knowledge and experience to help ensure nothing important is overlooked.
  • Artist Feedback: Address any concerns that the artists may have by giving them time for feedback on your COVID protocols and procedures. This can be done as a separate meeting or perhaps at the very first team meeting. An important part of producing is making artists feel as safe as possible so they can fully comfortably engage in the work.
  • Cultural Practices: Take the time to have broader discussions about what is needed to safely accommodate cultural practices or customs. You may wish to include artists and the whole creative team in these discussions.
  • Venue: When preparing for a venue, consider that most venues have their own COVID-19 related protocols and procedures that will have to be taken into account. This may affect the capacity, technical abilities, and amount of space available for rehearsal or production. The venue’s COVID plan must be visibly posted in the workplace and on their website. Otherwise this can result in a shutdown of the space by the provincial health and safety services.
  • Travel: If you are considering creating a bubble with your artists for the duration of your project, take the time to discuss your artists’ commutes. Folks may be travelling by public transit, bike or car, and this will certainly affect contact tracing. You may discuss different options as a team; such as creating a team carpool, or providing a car rental/gas stipend for artists who have challenging commutes.
  • Contingency Plan: Building a contingency plan will help anticipate and troubleshoot potential COVID-related issues. A COVID-contingency plan could extend to contracting flexibility, changes in venue, changes from in-person to digital rehearsal, casting changes, cancelling or postponing the process, someone on your team contracting COVID, and any changes in governmental regulations which might put new barriers on your plans. It is worth exploring having a plan for a potential lockdown and in case someone falls ill, but can still work from a quarantined area.
  • Accessibility: Consider the ways in which you can address accessibility in the planning and production of your project, workshop, or presentation. Live captioning, transcription, and audio description are services that can be applied to in-person, distanced and online performances. Check out our page on Accessible Websites, Graphics, Videos and Documents and Accessible Performances for more info.
  • Budget: Specific things worth keeping an eye out for in your budget: potential gross box office, personal protective equipment, sanitization supplies, rehearsal equipment to ensure safe practices, equipment needed for streaming, costs to enact contingency plans, transportation, and caregiving costs. If you already have a budget, it’s worth reviewing it and making necessary changes.
  • Ticketing: With the loss of income that most people are experiencing, it is worth re-evaluating how much you will charge for tickets. Consider asking fellow producers/organizers who are doing similar work. Think about the communities who most frequently attend your work, or your target audience. What can they afford during this time? Many shows have chosen to make their work free or adopted PWYC ticketing models.
  • Production Meetings: Set aside a time during each production meeting to address things that might be affected or changed by COVID. If your production meetings are bi-monthly, you may want to add a weekly check-in to keep on top of responding to the virus.
  • Cohorted Living: Many people live in cohorts as families. Some productions have chosen to create a “Declaration of Cohorted Accommodation”. This is a co-signed document that the artist is living in a cohorted space and all other members of the accommodation are aware of their participation in the production.


Procedures and protocols for rehearsals

How you conduct rehearsals must first and foremost be governed by your local authorities’ public health rules and restrictions. Below is a list of procedures and protocols that artist producers across Canada have applied to their rehearsal process. Use them as inspiration, or a jumping off point, in conjunction with your local public health authorities’ recommendations, in order to create a safe working space.

  • Adapt for digital creative collaboration: You may choose to work online rather than in person, due to public health rules and restrictions, but working online is not the same as working in person. Answers & Offers: A Field Guide to Creative Collaboration in Digital Spaces contains great tools and strategies for adapting your creative process to meet the needs of your project, and the capacities of the folks you are working/playing/making with. Some subjects include countering zoom fatigue (many have reported that rehearsing over video conferencing software can lead to exhaustion after shorter periods of time than in-person rehearsals) and relationship-building in a digital space. 
  • Contact Tracing: Contact tracing is an important tool to help diagnose people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 as soon as possible, to prevent the virus from spreading. It is important to record the name, phone number, email, and visitation date of anyone who enters your rehearsal and performance venues. Most people record this information by hand, but some venues will have their own apps which can be accessed with a smartphone. These records are often kept for 30 days.
  • Socially Distanced Grids: Tape out 6 metre x 6 metre squares. Whenever you are in the playing area, you can see if you are a safe distance from others.
  • Traffic: Establishing a procedure for the order in which you would like everyone to enter and exit the rehearsal space will help keep everyone socially distanced. Developing overall rules or gamified traffic signs and signals for moving around tight spaces is crucial.
  • Sanitizing Procedures: Who will be sanitizing what? Anything that has been touched must be sanitized; including washrooms after each use, kitchen areas and tools, and rehearsal equipment (see Health Canada’s “Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces during COVID-19”). If someone has personal objects, make sure they have one place to put all of their stuff. Labeling everyone’s stuff will also help.
  • Rehearsal Materials: Rather than shared materials, you will need to designate rehearsal materials (pens, sharpeners, highlighters etc.) for each person in the room and provide them in a labelled kit (like a pencil kit). This cost should be accounted for in your budget. You may also ask the Stage Manager to tape out squares on a table for folks to place their kit and other stuff needed for rehearsal (like scripts, water bottles, etc.).
  • PPE station: Personal protective equipment is extremely important to combating COVID-19, but sometimes people can forget or not have access to their own. Making PPE available to your team is an important safety net. It is a standard for people to wear masks when possible and especially in spaces with other people.
  • Hand sani stations: Making hand sanitizer easily accessible has proven to increase its use. Have several stations around the rehearsal room, not just at the entrances.
  • Daily check-ins: Protocols change and peoples’ level of comfort and consent will change too. This can also be an opportunity to check in on mental/physical health. It is worth considering establishing a time to check in with the cast and creative team. This can either be something you do as a group or perhaps in a buddy system.
  • Communication: Another important aid to mental health is open communication, especially when it comes to safety boundaries. This will help to alleviate mental stress and anxiety. This can sound like, “Would you mind stepping back a foot? You’re feeling a bit too close to me.” Or even simply, “Your mask is slipping off your nose.”
  • COVID symptoms in rehearsal: Determine guidelines about the physical condition required for team members to attend a rehearsal or performance in person.You may wish to discuss these scenarios with the entire team to ensure their comfort and safety in the room. Be as clear as possible: e.g. if someone is experiencing a cough or sore throat, they must stay home. You may choose to make alternative methods of participation available (e.g. via Zoom) in such an instance.
  • What if someone tests positive?: If you are producing a project, you must have a plan for if someone tests positive for COVID. If you are rehearsing in person, it is your responsibility as the producer to contact anyone who has come in contact with the infected person. These people should get tested immediately and follow self-isolation procedures until they receive a negative test result (see BC CDC's self-isolation procedures).


National resources:





  • The #Lights-on Venue Reopening Guide is an online venue reopening guide for the Toronto live entertainment industry. The guide is a collaborative effort of live entertainment organizations and individuals that reviewed existing published materials and best practices to build a digital resource that venues, and venue organizers can use to safely reopen. Throughout the process of creating the guide which began in June, the City of Toronto has been involved and we have followed public health recommendations throughout.
  • City of Toronto COVID-19 Reopening Guidelines for Businesses & Community Organizations: Includes planning guides, bylaw information, risk assessment and mitigation guides, and downloadable printable posters, organized according to business/organization type.
  • BusinessTO and CultureTO Newsletters: Keep up-to-date on the latest guidelines, resources, and opportunities for arts and culture in the City of Toronto by signing up for their newsletter.
  • Toronto Arts Council (TAC) COVID-19 Updates Page: Most up-to-date information form the TAC for grant recipients and artists residing in the GTA, including a list of prior public releases and assembled resources.
  • TAPA COVID-19 Resources: TAPA is updating this page with all public notices from Toronto Public Health (TPH). They also have a list of resources for TAPA members including action plans, sample communications and event guidance.
  • Mirvish Theatre Reopening Manual (published November 2020) offers a practical plan for reopening, outlining protocols for FOH, ticketing, cleaning, load-in/load-out, and more.






Newfoundland & Labrador-specific:


COVID-19 testing sites


Emergency funding initiatives for artists in Canada

You may require additional finances for personal protective equipment, loss of revenue, caregiving and many other things. These resources will help you get your production back on track.


Resources for artists working in the Canadian performing arts sector

Taking care of your health is a top priority, and especially managing the stress and mental anguish that comes along with COVID is important to building a rehearsal and performance experience that takes care of everyone involved.

  • Check out our Health Care, Self-care for Artists, and our Mental Health page for resources related to accessing care. We've added lots of free, online resources for exercising, meditation and accessing mental health support remotely during this time.
  • COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources is an aggregated list of free resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines.
  • Principles for Ethical Cancellation discusses ways in which freelance artists can help sustain our vital creative community, created by Springboard for the Arts.
  • Theatre Resources for Isolation is a Google doc originating in the UK that has links to play databases, YouTube channels with recorded performances, interviews, panels and all sorts of resources to keep you occupied during this time.
  • Artists in Residence is a new platform which supports artists' mental health and well-being by providing opportunities for collaboration, discussion, and creativity. It aims to develop a network for artists to connect with new collaborators; foster and develop new work; engage as a community around social, political, and cultural events impacting the performing arts, and spread awareness of mental-health resources specific to artists.
  • Artscape Daniels Launchpad is providing free online workshops and classes on a variety of topics, including money, grant writing, mindfulness and pilates.


Templates and downloads

  • Safe In Sound: National re-opening checklist for the live entertainment industry (preview below) is a free reopening checklist for the live entertainment industry. This toolkit was developed after consultation with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and based on the most up-to-date guidance and resources available at CDC's Guidance for COVID-19 (posted May 21 2021).



Have resources to share/add? Submit them via this form. 


Created by kpalm. Last Modification: Monday July 19, 2021 22:05:42 EDT by bpostalian.