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The Theatre Development Fund (TDF) is a not-for-profit performing arts service organization in New York City. Created in 1968 to help an ailing New York theatre industry,[1] TDF has grown into the nation's largest performing arts nonprofit, providing support to more than 900 plays and musicals and returning upwards of $1.5 billion in revenue to thousands of Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway music and dance productions.[2]

TDF accomplishes their mission through several programs. The TKTS Booth in Times Square is the most visible of all programs.[2] TDF has several programs that helps strengthen their mission including TDF Accessibility Program (TAP), Education Programs, Ticketing Programs and The Costume Collection.

As of August 2023, TDF is led by Executive Director Deeksha Gaur and Managing Director Michael Naumann.[3]

TDF Accessibility Program (TAP)

TDF Accessibility Programs, also known as TAP, serves theatergoers with physical disabilities. TAP arranges for special discount tickets in the orchestra to be made available to individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf, have low vision or are blind, require aisle seating for medical reasons, use wheelchairs or cannot climb stairs. Various programs also offer accessibility services for people with disabilities.

Autism Friendly Performances

On October 2, 2011, TDF launched a new program, Autism Friendly Performances (originally known as the Autism Theatre Initiative), to make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum as well as their families.[4]

Part of TDF's Accessibility Programs (TAP), the program presented the first autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show with Disney's landmark musical The Lion King on Sunday, October 2, 2011. This performance was so successful that TDF's Autism Friendly Performances presented a second autism-friendly performance on Broadway at Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's production of Mary Poppins on April 29, 2012, and an encore autism-friendly performance of The Lion King on September 30, 2012. As a result of this initiative, theaters around the country began to see the need for autism-friendly performances in their communities.

To make a performance autism-friendly, the show is performed in a welcoming, supportive environment for individuals on the autism spectrum, with sensory and communication disorders, or learning disabilities. Slight adjustments to lighting and sound are made. There are break areas staffed by specialists in the field in case anyone needs to leave the theater during the show. A downloadable Event Narrative with pictures of the theatre and the production is made available, designed to personalize the experience for individuals wishing to prepare for the show. Additional resources, such as a Character Guide, are provided as needed. Tickets are sold at a discounted rate.

Access for Young Audiences

Access for Young Audiences, TAP's Arts-in-Education program, offers tri-State elementary and secondary school students the opportunity to attend accessible Broadway performances. For these mostly first-time theatregoers who are hard of hearing or deaf, TDF simultaneously provides sign language interpreting and open captioning. In 2008, TAP launched a pilot program for students who have low vision or are blind, whereby audio description is provided. These programs are offered free of cost to the school. This school year, TDF's Access for Young Audiences reached students from 35 schools in the tri-State area.

Open captioning performances

TAP performances provide the audience with an electronic text display to the side of the stage displaying what the actors are saying or singing in real time. The display also describes sound effects on stage. TDF open captions several Broadway and Off-Broadway shows each month for people with mild to severe hearing loss. This also provides a way for the deaf to see what is happening on the stage without always looking at the interpreter.

Sign language interpreting performances

TDF presented the first American Sign Language-interpreted performance on Broadway in 1980 at The Elephant Man.[5] TAP Sign language interpreting performances provide the audience with an interpreter who uses American Sign Language to describe what the actors are saying or singing, as well as sound effects on stage. TDF interprets bi-month signed performances of Broadway shows.

Audio described performances

TDF presents audio described performances for audiences who are blind or have low vision. The organization presented its first audio described Broadway performance, the musical Grease, in 2008.[6]

Theatre Access NYC

In 2016, TDF and The Broadway League partnered to launch Theatre Access NYC, a website highlighting accessibility information for Broadway shows.[7]

Veterans Theatregoing Program

In December 2017, TDF launched its Veterans Theatregoing Program, which brings NYC-area veterans to Broadway shows at no cost to participants.[8]

Educational Programs

Students attending In the Heights!

It is TDF's belief that future audiences are built by engaging students, first-hand, in the vital and exciting activity of the creative process, as well as providing opportunities to attend live performances of great theatre.

Introduction To Theatre

introduction to Theatre, TDF's largest arts education program, provides students with an in-depth introduction to live theatre. Each class attends a Broadway or Off-Broadway performance and participates in eight in-class workshops that include scene writing, improvisation, etc., which serves as preparation for their theatregoing experience. Introduction to Theatre currently serves 10,000 students in the NYC area.

The Wendy Wasserstein Project

Wendy Wasserstein and Harold Prince at Open Doors Graduation

Formerly Open Doors, TDF's theatre arts mentoring program, started in 1998 by Tony Award-winning and Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, offers small groups of high school students an in-depth introduction to live theatre and dance.[9] Each group works with one or more dedicated theatre and dance professionals throughout the school year. Mentors have included Kathleen Chalfant, Kirsten Childs, Graciela Daniele, Scott Ellis, William Finn, David Henry Hwang, James Lapine, Lar Lubovitch, Frank Rich and Mo Rocca.

Young Playwrights (YP)

Young Playwrights is a year-long collaboration between TDF and schools. Together we explore live performance as students craft original works that are shared as staged readings Off-Broadway. Young Playwrights currently serves 700 students in New York City high schools. This has spawned two other Young Playwright programs at TDF:

TDF Young Playwrights’ Group is a year-long after-school play writing workshop for high school students who have been a part of the residency or summer programs. The group meets weekly to write, see and experience play writing. Their work is showcased each June with professional actors in an Off Broadway theatre. Members of the group see a show every month, work with guest artists, and write original plays that are showcased throughout the year by professional actors.

TDF Young Playwrights’ Summer program is a two-week play writing intensive that is open to tri-state area high school students. We welcome those with a curiosity about play writing to apply.

Introduction to Dance

Introduction to Dance gives students the opportunity to see live dance and attend workshops led by teaching artists who are professional dancers and choreographers. Each school year the students see performances by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and American Ballet Theatre.

Ticketing Programs

TDF's discount ticket services make theatre, music and dance affordable and accessible to more than two million people each year.

TKTS Times Square

TKTS Discount Booths

TKTS Discount Booths offer tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals and plays at discounts up to 50% off full price tickets. Since the opening of the original Times Square TKTS Booth on June 25, 1973,[10] over 51 million tickets have been sold, representing $1.38 billion returned to thousands of theatre, dance and music productions. TDF opened its new TKTS booth in the revitalized Duffy Square. TDF operates a satellite TKTS booth at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in the David Rubenstein Atrium.[11]

TDF Membership Program

Launched in 1971,[12] TDF Membership Program maintains a growing list of more than 80,000 qualified theatre lovers who enjoy discounts of up to 70% on admissions to hundreds of Broadway, Off-Broadway, music and dance productions each year. To qualify for TDF membership, members must belong to one of the following groups: full-time students, full-time teachers, union members, retirees, civil service employees, staff members of not-for-profit organizations, performing arts professionals, and members of the armed forces or clergy. In the 2007-2008 season, TDF membership performance admissions reached over 530,000 annually and returned over $13 million to New York City productions.

Theatre and Dance Subsidy programs

TDF Theatre and Dance Subsidy programs are central to TDF's mission, as they marry the goals of supporting productions of merit and bringing audiences to the theatre that might not otherwise be able to attend. The Theatre Subsidy program has subsidized over 900 productions since 1968, including 30 plays that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Last season, admissions to subsidy productions reached 63,997 for theatre and 20,217 for dance. Over $2.5 million was returned to theatre productions and $663,000 to dance productions.

Costume Collection

TDF Costume Collection

In 1974, the TDF Costume Collection opens, renting costumes to nonprofit and commercial productions.[13] TDF Costume Collection houses over 65,000 costumes and accessories providing professionally designed costumes to not-for-profit organizations at affordable prices. Their reasonable prices not only allow emerging companies to mount more professional-looking shows, they also help theatres to produce a greater number of new works by keeping production costs down. Last season, TDF's costume collection served 440 performing arts companies in 29 states—colleges and universities, middle and high schools, and community and charitable groups—who mounted 848 productions with low-cost costume rentals from the TDF Costume Collection.

Irene Sharaff/Robert L.B. Tobin Awards

TDF's Irene Sharaff/Robert L.B. Tobin Awards were founded in 1993 to pay tribute to the art of costume design.[14] Since then, the annual award presentation has become an occasion for the costume design community to come together to honor its own. TDF's Irene Sharaff/Robert L.B. Tobin Awards honor excellence by presenting five awards: Lifetime Achievement Award, Artisan Award, Young Master Award, Posthumous Award and the Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design.


  1. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie (October 18, 2018). "Celebrating 50 Years of TDF".
  2. ^ a b Hershberg, Marc. "TDF To Celebrate Five Decades of Building Broadway Audiences". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  3. ^ "TDF Staff". Retrieved 2023-08-12.
  4. ^ "Theatre Development Fund Pilots Autism Theatre Initiative at Disney's The Lion King Oct. 2". Playbill. Retrieved 2023-08-12.
  5. ^ "'The Elephant Man' To Be Interpreted In Sign Language". The New York Times. November 20, 1980.
  6. ^ Tyler, Dana (2008). "Audio Described Performance of "Grease"". CBS News.
  7. ^ Lunden, Jeff (March 14, 2017). "A Blind Theatergoer's 'Hamilton' Lawsuit Aims Spotlight On Broadway Accessibility". NPR.
  8. ^ Hetrick, Adam (December 19, 2017). "TDF Veterans Program Invites Servicemen and Women to Broadway Shows for Free". Playbill.
  9. ^ "TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE". 2005-02-12. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  10. ^ Paulson, Michael (June 28, 2023). "Victoria Bailey Wants Audiences to Get Bigger, and Broader". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Viagas, Robert (January 26, 2017). "Lincoln Center TKTS Discount Booth Will Become Permanent". Playbill.
  12. ^ "A Timeline of TDF Achievements and Milestones".
  13. ^ Hogan, Jane (March 1, 1999). "The TDF Costume Collection". LiveDesign.
  14. ^ Editors, American Theatre (2018-03-05). "TDF Announces 2018 Irene Sharaff Awards for Costume Design". AMERICAN THEATRE. Retrieved 2024-02-23. ((cite web)): |last= has generic name (help)