TDF, the not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing the power of the performing arts to everyone, has been serving the performing arts community in New York City and beyond for 50 years. TDF opened its doors in June of 1968 and has since accomplished its mission of sustaining live theatre and dance by engaging and cultivating a broad and diverse audience and eliminating barriers to attendance. Through a variety of program and initiatives TDF expands audiences, cultivates communities and supports the theatre makers. TDF will launch its 50th Anniversary year at its June 18 gala at Gotham Hall honoring Tony Kushner and presenting its first Founders Award to James Lapine.
“The overarching goal of TDF, then and now, is to ensure that everyone has a right to attend performing arts events,” said Victoria Bailey, TDF’s Executive Director. “Breaking down barriers, whether they be physical, financial or developmental has been key to our mission as witnessed by the programs we’ve developed over the years. Looking forward, we are working to expand our reach more deeply into communities throughout New York City and beyond, to help people experience what we feel is the right of anyone raised in a city where there is a ‘theatre district.”
While TDF (formerly known as Theatre Development Fund) is perhaps best known for administering the TKTS by TDF Discount Booths, the organization has been dedicated to bringing the arts to everyone. It does this by:
Expanding Access: For people who would love to experience the performing arts but think it’s not for them, TDF removes barriers – distance, cultural, physical, financial, age and opportunity. It does this through its membership program, TKTS by TDF Discount Booths, Accessibility membership, TDF Autism-Friendly Performances and, in partnership with The Broadway League, the Theatre Access NYC website.
Cultivating Communities: By reinforcing the spread of live theatre and dance beyond Broadway in neighborhoods and schools all over the five boroughs of New York City. TDF engages, educates and encourages people to make the performing arts a vital part of their lives; creating not just more audiences, but more diverse ones. This is accomplished through TDF’s School Programs, TDF Community Engagement Programs and through TDF’s publications TDF Stages and PxP.
Supporting the Theatre Makers: TDF actively enables the creators, players and storytellers, offering and integrating our extensive research insights. We support producers, working to expand their audience and to strengthen their knowledge base. This is accomplished through TDF Training and Professional Development Programs, the TDF Costume Collection Programs, TDF Accessibility Grants and TDF’s National Audience Research.
TDF does all of this to sustain a world of live performance that’s healthy, vibrant, essential, relevant, and inspirational. TDF’s accomplishments in the past 50 years are impressive. When TDF first opened its doors with a grant to purchase tickets to give to students so they could attend their first Broadway show, little did anyone dream that TDF’s name would grow to encompass so much activity.
Here are some major TDF statistics and fun facts:
· TDF programs have been responsible for over 95 million admissions to theatre, dance and music productions since 1968.
· These admissions represent nearly $3 billion in revenue returned to thousands of Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, dance and music productions.
· Over 1,000 plays and musicals have received subsidy support from TDF – 37 of these went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, including 2018’s winner, Cost of Living.
· Plays for subsidy support are now chosen by a selection committee, but the first Play Selector was the eminent director, writer, and critic Harold Clurman.
· Nearly every not-for-profit dance company that performs in NYC receives subsidy support from TDF.
· TDF’s Introduction to Theatre program sends 10,000 NYC high school students to the theatre each year at no cost to them or to the school.
· TDF’s Open Doors Program, founded with the late Wendy Wasserstein has grown from 1 to 24 groups of NYC high school students, led by eminent mentors such as James Lapine, Kathleen Marshall, Alexander Dinelaris and Natasha Katz. Former mentors include Hal Prince, Joe Mantello and Graciela Daniele.
· TDF has been a leader in access for those with physical and developmental disabilities. TDF presented the first sign language interpreted performance of a Broadway show in 1980 at The Elephant Man; the first open captioned performance of a Broadway show in 1997 at the play, Barrymore, and the first autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show at The Lion King in 2011.
· TDF has trained 50 theatres across the country on how to provide open captioning at their productions and 30 theatres on how to present autism-friendly performances.
· TDF’s Costume Collection Rental Program provides low-cost professional costumes to not-for-profits across the United States and last year provided costumes that dressed 936 productions in 35 states.
· TDF’s new Community Engagement Programs are currently in partnerships with organizations in three boroughs and are expanding each year.
· TDF’s studies: Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play and Triple Play have helped the field better understand and address issues surrounding the economics of playwriting and building audiences for new plays.
· Steel Magnolias playwright Robert Harling worked in TDF’s ticket department and writer/director Aaron Sorkin and NY1’s Donna Karger were once messengers at the TKTS Booth early in their careers.
As we look to the next 50 years, we hope to serve more communities throughout the city, building programs that partner with local civic organizations, to engage those with limited exposure to New York’s greatest cultural assets. We will continue to build audiences and will fight for a world where the arts are essential, relevant, accessible and inspirational.