On this page (click links to jump to section):
- Public health resources and guidelines for producing and rehearsing safely
- Producing during COVID-19
- Proof of Vaccination
- Procedures and protocols for rehearsals
- COVID-19 testing sites
- Emergency funding initiatives for artists in Canada
- Resources for artists working in the Canadian performing arts sector
Resources for producing and rehearsing safely
As we move into a new stage of the pandemic and return to live performance, we must keep the safety of our collaborators and audiences top of mind. 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:
- For the latest information on COVID-19 in Canada, please visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website and consult your local health authority.
- A list of community-based measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus (from the Government of Canada)
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.
As we hopefully move into the recovery stage of the pandemic, it is possible that some of the measures below will become unnecessary. However, they represent a thorough and cautious safety-minded approach to rehearsal and production that is useful beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep in mind that even as pandemic restrictions ease, members of your team or their loved ones may still be at high risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.
Before you begin rehearsals:
- 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. Consulting the team about their concerns and comfort levels is an important step that should be taken at the start of the planning process.
- 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 due to a change in government restrictions.
- COVID-19 Plan: Even as the pandemic shifts into a new phase, any in-person activity will involve some 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 must we 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.
- 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, including requirements around proof of vaccination. 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 pose new barriers for 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 information.
- 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 and making necessary changes. As restrictions frequently shift, a large contingency in your budget is prudent. For resources on creating your budget, check out Budgeting for more information.
- 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 Pay-What-You-Can (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.
Proof of Vaccination
As of Fall 2021, a majority of rehearsal and performance venues will require proof of vaccination from anyone who enters. It may be your responsibility as a producer to collect this proof from everyone on your team prior to the start of rehearsals. Here are some things to keep in mind while navigating these requirements:
- Ensure everyone on your team understands the requirements and has the required documentation available on the timeline you set. This may also include providing photo ID.
- Vaccine passports contain people’s personal information. Ensure you have a safe place to store any information you receive, and be clear with your team who has access to this information. Alternatively, you may ask your team to show their proof of vaccination in person or over zoom, and track this information in a document or spreadsheet.
- E.g., *Team Member* showed proof of vaccination via Zoom on November 1, 2021 to *Producer*
- Some provinces have apps which allow easy scanning of vaccination passports. If you have a large team, it may be worthwhile to use one of these tools.
- It is useful to collect this information at the earliest point possible, so that you have time to respond if a team member is not vaccinated. You may need time to make alternate working plans, discuss boundaries with the rest of the team, or replace that team member if necessary.
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.
- 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 regular 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? I'm feeling you're a bit too close to me.” Or even simply, “Your mask is slipping off your nose.”
- Rapid Testing: Some provinces and municipalities are providing free rapid tests to businesses. You may consider performing rapid testing throughout your rehearsal process to ensure your team’s safety and peace of mind. Make sure you are checking local reporting and disposal requirements related to these tests.
- 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 typically kept for 30 days
- Socially Distanced Grids: If your team prefers to work while maintaining social distancing, you can 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: Depending on the comfort levels of your team and severity of the pandemic in your area, you may choose to pay special attention to traffic in your workspace. 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: Officials have acknowledged that COVID-19 is spread primarily through aerosols rather than droplets. This means that intensive sanitizing of working spaces is no longer considered to be necessary for safety. Measures such as reducing contact, masking, and requiring proof of vaccination are likely more effective in protecting the health of your team. When organizing rehearsals, consider providing cleaning supplies so that participants can sanitize their personal items according to their comfort levels.
- 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 3-layer masks when possible and especially in spaces with other people. N95 and KN95 masks are highly recommended.
- Hand sanitizing stations: Making hand sanitizer easily accessible has proven to increase its use. Have several stations around the rehearsal room, not just at the entrances
- 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 until they have no symptoms. You may choose to make alternative methods of participation available (e.g. via Zoom) in such an instance. It is recommended to ensure your contracts are clear about plans for payment and/or completion of work in the case of someone becoming symptomatic and/or testing positive.
- 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).
- Risk mitigation tool for gatherings and events operating during the COVID-19 pandemic from the Government of Canada
- Canadian Actors’ Equity Association Guidelines and Protocols: Any dance, opera or theatre production, where an Artist is engaged under an Equity contract, should be guided by these protocols (published September 18, 2020; in effect September 21, 2020).
- PACT Public Resource Folder: Includes presentation slides on public health measures and some steps for theatre companies to consider taking now
- Film and television industry health and safety during COVID-19: Resources, best practices and information to help keep your workers safe and healthy during COVID-19 (published June 25, 2020).
- COVID-19 Risks and Precautions for Choirs: Precautions for choirs to minimize transmission of COVID-19 (published Jul 10, 2020).
- The NAC Guide to Support the Re-Opening of Canadian Performing Arts Centres and Venues provides tools and best practices to help performing arts venues prepare for every aspect of putting on a show, from contract negotiation to rehearsal to performance, and everything in between. It is designed to help the Canadian performing arts industry recover and thrive in the age of COVID-19.
- Event Safety Alliance Canada has gathered a resource list for COVID prevention and planning.
- Free rapid tests for Ontario businesses: A program for businesses (including performing arts companies and non-profits) in Ontario to register for free rapid tests.
- Proof of Vaccination in Ontario: Information about how to obtain your proof of vaccination, and best practices for verifying proof of vaccination.
- Live Performance Health and Safety during COVID-19 released by the Live Performance Health and Safety Advisory Committee and Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (Published Feb 17 2021)
- Government of Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open (updated November 8, 2020)
- Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace has sector-specific guidelines and posters to help protect workers, customers and the general public from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ontario.
- 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.
- Proof of Vaccination in British Columbia: information on how to obtain and check proof of vaccination in British Columbia.
- WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Safety Plan Builder: a tool to guide you through a six-step process to help you create a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
- Actsafe COVID-19 Updates to Protocols and Resources: Resources for the arts and entertainment industry, including but not limited to Industry Relaunch Framework, Risk Assessment Guidelines and much more. You can also sign up to receive notifications each time a new resource is added.
- GVPTA COVID-19 Resource List: Includes a submission form for data collection and community resource distribution, public health authority information, and provincial and local resources.
- Information about vaccination in Alberta, including information about proof of vaccination.
- Alberta Rapid Testing Program: Information about who is eligible for rapid tests in Alberta, and how to obtain them.
- Alberta Government Operating Safely Guidance has created a PDF to help relaunch your business (updated September 11, 2020).
Newfoundland & Labrador-specific:
- Information about Newfoundland and Labrador’s vaccine passport program.
- Newfoundland & Labrador Government Information for Operating Safely.
COVID-19 testing sites
- List of COVID Assessment Centres in the GTA
- List of COVID Assessment Centres in Vancouver
- List of COVID Assessment Centres in Alberta
- COVID-19 Testing Information and List of Assessment Centres in Manitoba
- COVID-19 Testing Information and List of Assessment Centres in Quebec
- COVID-19 Testing Information on Self Assessment Test for Newfoundland & Labrador
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.
- It’s important to remember that you and your work have value: asking for support in a difficult time is appropriate. Fractured Atlas has created a downloadable PDF with templates for some helpful language for asking for support.
- The AFC (Emergency financial aid for entertainment professionals) has released a COVID-19 Guide on available support during this time.
- NABS - financial assistance for media, marketing, and communications professionals
- Unison — financial aid for musicians
- Glad Day Emergency Survival Fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers, tip-based workers
- Woodcock Fund Grant — emergency funds for writers mid-project
- CBC Arts is hosting a continuously updated list of where Canadian artists and freelancers can find help during COVID-19 shutdowns.
- The Toronto Arts Council (TAC) and Toronto Arts Foundation (TAF) - $1000 grants to Toronto based self-employed artists
- Opera Artist Emergency Relief Fund provides urgent funds to opera artists experiencing immediate cash shortages for basic necessities
- Behind the Scenes offers financial support to Entertainment Technology Professionals in need of financial support due to COVID-19 in the form of Basic Needs, Counselling or Funeral Support Assistance (performing artists are not eligible)
- The Government of Canada is offering an Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations
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
- Government of Ontario COVID-19 Safety Plan Template (preview below)
- 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).