Every year improvisers gather in Wellington to celebrate the New Zealand Improv Festival (NZIF), but this year improvisors from overseas have been COVID-19-blocked. Festival director Jennifer O’Sullivan says, “We have built the festival on a platform of collaboration and connection, reaching nationally and internationally and bringing together amazing talent and perspectives. Of course, the current situation has thrown a lot of our international work out the window, at least for this year – but instead we’ve got this wonderful opportunity to really explore and celebrate what’s happening in our city; to highlight the people and companies making work year round and pushing the art form into new exciting places. I’m so proud of the programme we’ve gathered.

Returning to its roots with a Close to Home programme, the 2020 NZIF features seventeen shows by Wellington’s most innovative improvisers. The smaller, more intimate festival will give Wellingtonians a great chance to be a part of the thriving local improvisation community. With a diverse programme covering multiple cultures, genres and forms of improv – the 2020 NZIF will be a short and sharp showcase that captures the spirit and aroha of Wellington theatre. From a darkly gothic romp, to environmentalist storytelling, to a musical within a musical, the 2020 Festival celebrates the diverse work created by our local artists and the loves, laughs, tears and tantrums we’ve all felt this year. 

The festival is not just focussing on strictly improv-based performances and is also delving further into wider theatrical styles. “We wanted to not only include the purely improv performers in Wellington, but also bring in work and creators who use the framework of improv and spontaneity to support more traditional theatre and performance,” O’Sullivan says, “It’s so valuable to see how our work overlaps and how we can learn from each other’s processes. 

If you’re new to improv try the opening showcase Here’s a Thing and then book one of the other shows via the BATS Theatre website. More information about each show on the Festival website.