NZIF 2019: We're Going To Need A Bigger Boat

Image from The Greatest Show, NZIF 2018. 12 improvisors in circus performer costumes, posing for the audience in a post-performance tableau.

Image from The Greatest Show, NZIF 2018. 12 improvisors in circus performer costumes, posing for the audience in a post-performance tableau.

We have signed a contract! The festival will take place 7-19 October at BATS Theatre. NZIF 2019 will be a 12 day event encompassing 10 days of performance, 8 days of workshops, and multiple networking and social events for participants, teachers, directors and other practitioners of improvised theatre. Performances will include mini-seasons of work by established ensembles, a season of short form improv by and for improvisors of all skill levels, scratch nights, and premiere performances led by seasoned directors featuring ensemble casts from across the festival. New to the festival line up are a youth programme for teens providing workshop and performance opportunities, and performances for young audiences (primary school). This aims to develop the future of Wellington’s improvisors and audience, and is timed to benefit from the second week of the school holidays.

We have funding from Wellington City Council’s Arts & Culture fund, and are waiting on a funding decision from CNZ (you’ll know when we know!).

Our Core Festival Goals

  1. Deliver a festival for the NZ improvisation community and the Wellington theatre audience that celebrates and showcases improvisational theatre from around the country, with select work from overseas

  2. Deliver a high quality, varied workshop programme, supporting experienced and newer teachers alike

  3. Maintain/increase funding levels to support personnel, marketing, and to maintain affordable costs for participants and audience

  4. Develop our scholarship/inclusion policy to better support marginalised community members

  5. Add a youth performance and workshop season to the line up, creating opportunities for 13-18 year olds to work with visiting teachers and to perform alongside them at a professional venue

Image from The Protest, NZIF 2018. Eight improvisors are face each other in two lines, hands outstretched to high-ten each other. They are smiling.

Image from The Protest, NZIF 2018. Eight improvisors are face each other in two lines, hands outstretched to high-ten each other. They are smiling.

What's new

Mini seasons

We're keen to see a bigger programme of work from existing ensembles and companies - we had a wee taste of this last year with our anniversary return performances, and it made us realise we’ve missed it! This will present work from around New Zealand in 2-3 night seasons on the Random Stage. It’s thrilling to see well-oiled improv machines at the height of their powers, plus, it gives audiences more opportunities to see this kind of work.

Youth performances & workshops

The plan is to offer three full days of workshop for teens, with performances on Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 October. There’s also the possibility of the workshops starting earlier in the year, so that by the time we get to the festival they’re ready to soak up the experience. People pitching workshops to the festival will be asked if they’re interested in teaching it to the teen squad too. The shows will be a kind of opening act for the festival, and we may invite adult improvisors to support the teens as performers.

Improv for young audiences

It’s the school holidays! There’s kids about! We want to see some awesome improv for primary school aged kids. These will run 9-11 October at 11am and 1pm. We have space for two seasons, and we’d like these to be part of the mini-seasons - that is, existing ensembles presenting NZ work.

A longer festival

This is the main new thing. Two weeks is a big move, but we reckon it’s time to test it out. It means we can offer more performance time, more space to promote the event while it’s actually on, and generally see what a longer festival offers the community and the audience.

What's back

Eight day workshop programme

You love this, so it’s staying. We’ll offer workshops to anyone with at least a beginner’s understanding of improv from 11-19 October, with morning and afternoon workshops in the weekend and morning workshops during the week. Yes, we’ve shifted the weekday workshops to 10am - we reckon starting with workshops and then leaving space in the afternoon for you to decompress, socialise, and attend the Forum Series will be a good move. It also leaves space for tech times to take place in the afternoon when necessary. We’ll give you more info about what we’re looking for when submissions open.

Shows from Workshops

Running in the Heyday Dome at 7pm each night, these will be led by experienced directors and will present new work - that is, new to the Festival or making its overall debut. Casting will be determined by those directors in association with festival management.

All in short form show

We want you all to play together! So we’re bringing back the short form fun. These will include 1 hour rehearsals on the afternoon before you perform - this is to ensure everyone’s on the same page about what you’re doing together, and provides more chances to play together even if there’s no audience for them. Not sure yet what form the shows will take, but watch this space. These will run at 9pm in the Heyday Dome.


Last year we had two of these, and they were damn interesting. Think of them like conference talks - excited and interesting people presenting scholarly work to an interested audience. Weekdays at lunchtime, open to the public.

Forum sessions

These will be 45 minute sessions in the afternoon after the lunchtime lectures. You’ll be able to pitch sessions and panels.

Financial Assistance & Accessibility

It’s important to us that we make NZIF as accessible and welcoming as possible. This means we are again offering financial assistance in the form of workshop vouchers, childcare grants, and travel grants. Applications of interest for this will open much earlier than last year. We also want to offer some free workshops leading up to the festival providing context and familiarity to marginalised community members who may be interested but unsure if improv is for them. Watch this space…

Lightning Talks & Social Times

These are fun, dang it! Let’s do them again! We will hold space for both the raucous and reserved among y’all.

Code of Conduct & Manaakitanga

You trust us to provide you with a safe and positive experience, and we want to reward your trust by delivering exactly that. We want to build on our manaakitanga practices, ensure our Code of Conduct is fit for purpose, and provide space for fun and memorable social connections with the wider improv community that they associate with NZIF. Your feedback on this is always welcome.

That’s it!

Phew! Okay that’s a lot of information. But here’s a little more…

You can see a calendar view of the proposed programme here.

And you can see a proposed org chart for the festival team here.

We hope you read it all and that we didn’t forget anything. If you have questions contact We will open submissions soon, and get this ball rolling.