On October 2, 2011, Theatre Development Fund (TDF) launched a new program, Autism Theatre Initiative, to make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum as well as their families.
The program, which is a part of TDF's Accessibility Programs (TAP), 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 Theatre Initiative presented a second autism-friendly performance on Broadway at Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's production of Mary Poppins on April 29, 2012, a second performance of The Lion King on September 30, 2012. Additionally, theatres around the country are beginning to see the need for autism-friendly performances in their communities as a result of this initiative.
The shows are performed in a friendly, supportive environment for an audience of families and friends with children or adults who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other sensitivity issues. Slight adjustments to the production included reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. In the theatre lobby there were quiet areas and an activity area, staffed with autism specialists, for those who needed to leave their seats during the performance.
Downloadable social stories (in Word format), with pictures of the theatres and productions, were available several months in advance of the performances. These are designed to personalize the experience for each attendee with ASD. Tickets were offered through TDF at affordable prices.
TDF’s Autism Theater Initiative (ATI)'s slate of autism-friendly performances of Broadway shows for the upcoming 2013-14 theatre season are:
Disney's The Lion King on Sunday, September 29 at 1pm at the Minskoff Theatre
Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark on Saturday, November 16 at 2pm at the Foxwoods Theatre
Wicked on Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 1pm at the Gershwin Theatre
Disney Junior Live on Tour - Pirate and Princess Adventure on Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 11am at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden.
Click "sign up for info on future performances" (link on top right) to be notified when tickets will be going on sale.
Read about "Elf" on Narratively
WNYC Soundcheck on TDF's Autism-Friendly Spiderman
TDF wishes to acknowledge the following donors
for their generous support of the Autism Theatre Initiative:
Bank of America Charitable Gift Fund - General Fund, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee
Helene Berger Foundation
Bulova Stetson Fund
The Cottonwood Foundation
The FAR Fund
Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism
The Flom Family Foundation
Bellanca S. Rutter
Seventh District Foundation
The Schafer Family Foundation*
Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation
The Joseph LeRoy and Ann C. Warner Fund, Inc.
The Winter Family Fund
*Donation made in honor of Charles T. Locke III and Ronald J. Weiss
If you would like to support the work of this new initiative, please click here to make a donation.
TDF also advises theatres worldwide on how to best provide Autism Friendly performances at their own theatre. Click the logos below for more information.
Current Advisory Partnerships:
TDF is proud to support Great Lakes Theater for their upcoming autism-friendly performance A CHRISTMAS CAROL on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 11:00 AM.
TDF is proud to support Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA for their upcoming autism-friendly performance of THE NUTCRACKER at The Benedum Center on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 2:00 PM.
Past Advisory Parnerships
TDF was proud to support The Hobby Center in Houston, Texas for their successful autism-friendly performance of Disney's THE LION KING in July 2012.
TDF was proud to support The Ark, a Cultural Centre for Children in Dublin, Ireland for their successful autism-friendly performance of WHITE in September 2012.
TDF was proud to support The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California for their successful autism-friendly performance of DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! in November 2012.
TDF was proud to support Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in Pittsburgh, PA for their autism-friendly performance of Disney's THE LION KING at The Benedum Center on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 2:00 PM.
TDF was proud to support Boston Conservatory in Boston, MA for their autism-friendly performance OKLAHOMA on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 2:00 PM.