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TDF's Autism Theatre Initiative (ATI) announces upcoming autism-friendly performances on Broadway for 2013

Date: Nov 16, 2012
Press Release


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TDF’s Autism Theater Initiative (ATI) announces a slate of autism-friendly performances of Broadway shows for 2013. The Initiative, which operates under the auspices of Theatre Development Fund’s Accessibility Programs (TAP), will present autism-friendly performances of four Broadway shows in 2013:  ELF, The Musical on Saturday, January 5 at 2pm at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre; Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark on Saturday, April 27 at 2pm (during Autism Awareness month) at the Foxwoods Theatre; and Disney’s The Lion King at the Minskoff Theatre and Newsies at the Nederlander Theatre will have autism-friendly performances in the fall of 2013 (exact dates for these matinee performances to be determined). Tickets for the first autism-friendly performance of 2013, ELF, The Musical; will go on sale on Monday, November 19 at

These performances illustrate TDF’s commitment to presenting autism-friendly performances in New York City. TDF has also been consulting with other theatre organizations across the United States who would like to present their own autism-friendly performances.
“When we piloted this program we had a sense that there was a large audience of families in need of this service,” said Victoria Bailey, TDF’s Executive Director. “After the first performance it was clear that our presumption was true. Watching families experience live theatre together for the first time in an environment that was safe and supportive is a truly emotional and gratifying experience. We thank everyone at Disney Theatrical Productions for their professionalism and care as we piloted this program, as well as the Broadway producing community for allowing us to present these upcoming special performances.”

“The feedback from the autism community continues to be extraordinary,” said Lisa Carling, TDF’s Director of Accessibility Programs (TAP).  “With the Autism Theatre Initiative we strive to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming families with children and adults on the autism spectrum, including Asperger’s syndrome, as well as other developmental disabilities, to enjoy the theatrical experience and to be assured that everyone involved with the production—from the cast, production crew and theatre staff—is united in making the show an unforgettable experience for all.”

In order to be “autism-friendly,” 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 or other sensitivity issues. Slight adjustments to the productions include reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience.  In the theatre lobby area there are designated quiet and activity areas, staffed with autism experts, if anyone needs to leave their seats during the performance. To get a clearer idea of what an autism-friendly performance is, here is a link to a feature on the recent Mary Poppins performance from TDF Stages:

Theatre Development Fund (TDF), the not-for-profit performing arts service organization whose mission includes making theatre accessible for all audiences, first piloted this program to make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and their families with the first-ever autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show at Disney’s landmark The Lion King on October 2, 2011.  That sold-out performance and subsequent autism-friendly performances of Mary Poppins and a second performance of The Lion King in 2012 were successful in opening up the world of live theatre to this underserved community. To ensure that TDF will meet the needs of this audience, TDF works with an advisory panel of experts in the field of autism.  The panel has provided TDF with expertise and counsel throughout the development and implementation of this program. 

For these performances, TDF purchases every seat in the theatre for sale at discount prices to families whose members include individuals on the autism spectrum. Tickets to these special performances are sold only through TDF’s website. Tickets to ELF, The Musical will go on-sale on Monday, November 19 at and on-sale dates for tickets to the other performances will be announced shortly.  TDF recommends that interested patrons sign up at to be notified when the future performances go on sale, as well as to be notified about the scheduling of future autism-friendly performances.

TDF Accessibility Programs (TAP) was established in 1979 to provide access to the performing arts for people with physical disabilities.  TAP serves theatregoers with mild to profound hearing loss with regularly scheduled open captioned and American Sign Language interpreted performances of Broadway and Off Broadway shows; theatregoers who are partially sighted or blind with special audio described performances; people who for medical reasons cannot climb stairs; and, people who require aisle seating or use wheelchairs.

Through TAP, TDF offers discount orchestra tickets that are chosen with the customer’s specific seating needs in mind. TAP made Broadway history when it presented the first sign interpreted performance of a Broadway show with The Elephant Man in 1980. TAP again made Broadway history in 1997 with the first open captioned performance of a Broadway show, Barrymore, thus opening up theatre to an entire population of deaf and hard of hearing individuals who are unable to utilize American Sign Language or receive only partial help from assistive listening devices. This is the third season that TAP has added audio described performances to its services for theatregoers who are blind or have low vision. TAP's Access for Young Audiences Program make theatre accessible to students with mild to severe hearing loss with simultaneously open captioned and sign language interpreted performances, as well as audio described performances for students who are blind or have low vision.  TAP launched the Autism Theatre Initiative in 2011 which presents sensory-friendly performances for families with children on the autism spectrum. For more information on TAP’s services, go to

Theatre Development Fund (TDF) 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 being founded in 1968, it has become the largest nonprofit performing arts service organization in the United States, returning over $150 million annually to hundreds of productions through a variety of programs. TDF’s programs have provided over 83 million people with access to performances at affordable prices. Best known for its TKTS Discount Booths (now in its 40th year of service), TDF’s membership, outreach, access and education programs — as well as its Costume Collection — help to make the unique experience of theatre available to everyone. 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 and a 2012 New York Innovative Theatre Award for its support of the off-Off Broadway community. For more information about TDF, go to:

TDF wishes to acknowledge the following donors for their generous support of the Autism Theatre Initiative:
7th District Foundation
Helene Berger Foundation
Christopher Bullock
Bulova Stetson Fund
The FAR Fund
The Flom Family Foundation
Robert Fried
Caryn Rosenberg
Susan Ruzzo
The Joseph LeRoy and Ann C. Warner Fund, Inc.
The Schafer Family Foundation*
The Adolph and Ruth Schurmacher Foundation
*Donation made in honor of Charles T. Locke III and Ronald J. Weiss

In kind support provided by:
Autism Friendly Spaces, LLC