Musical company

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Auckland Theater Company’s ‘Grand Horizons’ show will continue

Director of Grand Horizons Jennifer Ward-Leadland. Picture / Crown Andi

An Auckland play raises the curtain despite red lights being set.

Grand Horizons is moving forward with its opening night on February 8 and adjusting performances to cater to a limited audience of 100 people.

While this is undoubtedly a blow to everyone involved, those involved in the production are grateful that the performances can still go on.

Director Jennifer Ward-Lealand says she can’t wait to make a nice distraction despite Omicron’s epidemic derailment plans, and everyone involved in the production knows how to adapt well to performing in a world with Covid-19.

“I’m not accepting any doomsday scenarios at this point because I’m more focused on getting a really good show,” she told the Herald when asked if the current outbreak of Omicron kept her up at night as a creative professional.

ATC’s production of Grand Horizons, a play written by Bess Wohl, stars Annie Whittle and Roy Billing and is a comedy about a 50-year marriage that is suddenly on the rocks. Ward-Lealand says he will connect with an audience that will almost certainly be able to recognize similar family dynamics.

Annie Whittle and Roy Billing star in the comedy about a 50-year marriage on the brink of collapse.  Photo/Ross Brown
Annie Whittle and Roy Billing star in the comedy about a 50-year marriage on the brink of collapse. Photo/Ross Brown

And theater is more important than ever, says Ward-Lealand.

The Auckland Theater Company production operated under strict Covid-19 protocols, including until recently the use of rapid antigen tests.

“Theatre is there to reflect our humanity to us, to hold up the mirror of nature as Shakespeare says,” says Ward-Lealand.

“You can just sit in a room and expand your imagination and your thoughts. Which is a good thing for us. I mean, what did everyone turn to during lockdown? The arts,” said she added.

When asked what audiences can expect to get from the show, she replies, “What is the nature of parenthood? What is marriage – what does marriage mean “And what does a long-term marriage mean? And how much of yourself do you give on top?”

She wants to make it clear that the audience will really be safe in the theatre.

“I understand that some people won’t want to go out. But if they want to go out and take their minds off things, go out and see something really great, that’s the perfect opportunity.”

ATC CEO and Artistic Director Jonathan Bileski says the theater industry has adapted well to the challenges Covid has presented them with and wants to reassure ticket holders that they are doing everything they can to ensure customer safety. Refunds will be issued if people can attend longer due to Covid.

“We will operate our hall using the vaccine pass system, people will enter and groups of people will be separated when seated in the auditorium,” he explained.

In accordance with the gathering rules, ticket holders will be required to wear a mask inside the theater.

“Right now, we need an escape from everyday life in the third year of a pandemic. And we happen to have a comedy on our stage with Grand Horizons,” he says.

“I think that’s what theater and music and dance can do is take you out of yourself, out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.”

• Grand Horizons runs from February 8 to March 5 at the Waterfront Theater in Auckland.