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TDF Open Doors graduation to be attended by over 400 guests including mentors and current and former graduations from NYC high schools on Monday, June 1 at 5:30pm

Date: May 27, 2015
Press Release


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Over 400 guests including current and past New York City high school students, and the performing arts professional mentors who have participated in TDF's Open Doors, the theatre arts mentoring program that TDF founded in 1998 with playwright Wendy Wasserstein, will attend this year's graduation at 5:30pm on Monday, June 1 at The Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College (524 West 59th Street, NYC).  TDF’s Open Doors was the first arts education program to receive a special Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre when it received the special honor in 2012. This year, Open Doors had 30 mentors working with 24 groups of students from New York City high schools.

Open Doors operates on the belief of its co-founder, playwright Wendy Wasserstein, that “theatre going is the birthright of every New Yorker.” In Open Doors, dedicated theatre and dance professionals each mentor eight underserved New York City high school students and bring their groups to six Broadway and/or Off Broadway performances over the course of an entire school year. These performances are followed by lively post-performance discussions. The students also keep a journal of their theatre experiences over the course of the year which are reviewed by and discussed with their mentors.

"Open Doors sounds so simple in concept. Take a theatre artist who volunteers as mentor, add eight high school students who attend six Broadway shows then toss in a few pizzas to eat over 90 minutes as they delve into what they experienced, what connections they made to their lives," said Daniel Renner TDF Education Director. "But the recipe is far more complex and the results far reaching. Mentors who are reinvigorated by the students perceptions and probing questions...students who discover a larger world through live theatre as well as a new found confidence to pursue their dreams.”

The 2014-15 TDF Open Doors Mentors and the schools where their students are from:

Adam Bock, playwright - Brooklyn HS for the Arts
Mark Brokaw, director – DeWitt Clinton HS, The Bronx
Kathleen Chalfant, actress - Telecommunications HS, Brooklyn
Rachel Chanoff, producer/performing arts programmer
  and Keith Randolph Smith, actor – Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts, NJ
Kirsten Childs, composer/lyricist/playwright – Fannie Lou Hamer HS, The Bronx
Alexander Dinelaris, playwright/director – Community School for Social Justice, The Bronx
Joe DiPietro, playwright/lyricist – High School for Economics and Finance, Manhattan
Alan Eisenberg, former Executive Director of Actors’ Equity – Repertory High School,   
Scott Ellis, director – All Hallows High School, The Bronx
Peter Friedman and Caitlin O’Connell, actors – Pan Am International HS, Queens
Miguel Gutierrez, choreographer/dancer – Flushing HS, Queens  
Natasha Katz, lighting designer, Frank Sinatra HS, Queens
James Lapine, writer/director – McKinney HS, Brooklyn
Kenny Leon, director – Renaissance HS, The Bronx
Robert Longbottom, director/choreographer – Gaynor McCown ELS, Staten Island
Aubrey Lynch, dancer/choreographer- Talent Unlimited HS, Manhattan
Joe Mantello, director and Dominique Morisseau, playwright   – Queens HS for Science and  
 Math, Queens;
Kathleen Marshall, director/choreographer and Scott Landis, producer- Maspeth HS, Queens
Michael Mayer, director and Dawn Chiang, lighting designer – Leadership and Public Service HS, Manhattan
Derek McLane, set designer- Edward R. Murrow HS, Brooklyn
Dominique Morisseau, playwright- Bronx Community HS, The Bronx
Marc Platt, producer- West Bronx Academy, The Bronx
Thomas Schumacher, producer and President of Disney Theatricals – Knowledge & Power
  Preparatory Academy Int’l, Manhattan
Leigh Silverman, director – Millennium HS, Manhattan
David Zippel, composer/lyricist – Young Women’s Leadership School, Manhattan

Sheldon Best, actor and former Open Doors student

These talented mentors understand the importance of live performance in the cultural education of today’s youth and engage their groups in lively, in-depth post-performance discussions.  Open Doors has proven that, through this personal and dynamic interaction, it fosters a deep appreciation of theatre and an understanding of its relevance in the students’ lives.
To see a brief video of Wendy Wasserstein at the 2003 Open Doors graduation speaking of how she and TDF founded the program, go to: (Wendy's comments begin 59 seconds into the video).
The ceremony will feature a short film titled, The Life of an Open Doors Alum. Additionally, there will be live personal reminiscences from current Open Doors students. All graduating students will receive three $50 TKTS gift certificates to help ensure their future theatre going.
In addition to Open Doors, TDF operates the following Arts Education Programs with the 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 see live performances of great theatre:
Stage Doors
Serves 7,200 students in 80 schools

Stage Doors is a project-based arts education program that provides middle and high school students with a meaningful introduction to live theatre. Each participating class attends a Broadway or Off Broadway performance and participates in eight in-class workshops: four workshops conducted by a TDF teaching artist and four conducted by the classroom teacher. During these workshops, the students are engaged in a project which prepares them for the performance while providing an opportunity to experience the creative process.

Residency Project (RP)

Serves 700 students in 10 schools

In response to the need for curriculum-based arts programming, TDF developed the Residency Project (RP), an intensive residency that brings the craft of live performance to young people who have little or no exposure to theatre. Through extensive collaboration, the tdf teaching artist and classroom teacher develop a curriculum that best serves their population of students. The residency consists of:
•    twelve workshops per semester conducted by a teaching artist;
•    attendance at a Broadway or Off Broadway play;
•    a staged reading by professional actors of selected original student pieces at the end of the semester or school year.

RP is an annualized program so the classroom teachers, the teaching artists and the students have a chance to really experience a fully immersive residency.

Summer Playwriting Intensive
In 2010, RP was expanded to include the Summer Playwriting Intensive. Each summer, a small group of students from the RP school-year program are selected to take playwriting to the next level. During the two-week intensive, students:
•    attend playwriting workshops,
•    have small group seminars with professional playwrights,
•    attend two Broadway or Off Broadway productions.  
The program culminates in the students’ work being presented at an Off Broadway theatre with professional actors.

Summer Teacher Intensive
In 2011, SPI inspired the addition of the Summer Teacher Intensive. A week-long intensive playwriting workshop for teachers interested in integrating playwriting into middle and high school classes.


In 2012, the program grew to include WORDlab. WORDlab is a year-long weekly after school playwriting workshop with students from every borough. The ensemble meets to continue writing and workshopping their original plays that are showcased each June.

PXP – ( is TDF’s new site for students and young theatregoers. It is a student run forum exploring the complete theatre experience; from the pre-show to the post-show, and from artist to audience. The site is a democracy where all thoughts and comments are encouraged in hopes of creating a dynamic conversation -

THEATRE DEVELOPMENT FUND (TDF), a not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts, was created in the conviction that the live theatrical arts afford a unique expression of the human condition that must be sustained and nurtured. It is dedicated to developing diverse audiences for live theatre and dance, and strengthening the performing arts community in New York City. Since 1968, TDF’s programs have provided over 87 million people with access to performances at affordable prices and have returned over $2.4 billion to thousands of productions. Best known for its TKTS Discount Booths, TDF’s membership, outreach, access (including its Autism Theatre Initiative) and education programs — as well as its Costume Collection — have introduced thousands of people to the theatre and helped make the unique experience of theatre available to everyone, including students and people with disabilities. Recent TDF honors include a 2011 Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture, a 2012 Tony Honor for Excellence for its Open Doors Arts Education Program, a 2012 New York Innovative Theatre Award for its support of the off-Off Broadway community and a 2013 Lucille Lortel honor for “Outstanding Body of Work” in support of the Off Broadway community.  For more information about everything TDF does, please visit

TDF gratefully acknowledges the following major donors for their generous support of the Open Doors program:

Bay and Paul Foundations, Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Continental Grain Foundation, Home Box Office, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, The Pinkerton Foundation, Serino Coyne, Inc., SONY Corporation of America, The Max & Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Rudin Foundation, TJX Companies, Inc.