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TDF's Autism Theatre Initiative begins its seventh season with the first-ever autism-friendly performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS on July 16 at 2pm

Date: Jun 07, 2017


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TDF’s Autism Theatre Initiative (ATI), which presents autism-friendly performances of Broadway shows for an audience of families with children and adults on the autism spectrum, launches its seventh season with the first-ever autism-friendly performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical, CATS. This special performance will take place on Sunday, July 16 at 2pm at the Neil Simon Theatre (250 West 52nd Street, NYC).  The rest of the 2017-18 ATI season will be announced later this summer.

ATI’s sixth season presented sold out autism-friendly performances of Broadway’s Aladdin, Kinky Boots, The Lion King and The Phantom from the Opera

“We’re thrilled to be able to begin our seventh season with this amazing production,” said TDF’s Director of Accessibility Programs, Lisa Carling. “After each performance we survey our audience members to find out which shows they’d like to see. The overwhelming response this year was for CATS, and we’re grateful to the production for allowing us to be able to share this classic with this new audience.” 

Each autism-friendly show is performed in a friendly, supportive environment for families and friends with children or adults who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensitivity issues. Slight adjustments to the production are made, including reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. Quiet and activity areas staffed with autism specialists are available in the lobby areas for those who need to leave their seats during the performance. To personalize the experience for attendees, downloadable social narratives with pictures of the theatres and productions are available in advance of the performances. TDF also produced a video social narrative that describes how best to navigate Times Square.  

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. 

For tickets to this July 16 autism-friendly performance of CATS, more information on Autism Theatre Initiative or to sign up to hear about upcoming autism-friendly performances, go to:


Since its world premiere, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS has been presented in over 30 countries, has been translated into 15 languages, and has been seen by more than 73 million people worldwide. Originally directed by Trevor Nunn with choreography and associate direction by Gillian Lynne, scenic and costume design by John Napier, lighting design by David Hersey, and sound design by Abe Jacob, CATS opened in the West End in 1981. The musical debuted on Broadway in 1982 where it won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Both the original London and Broadway cast recordings won Grammy Awards for Best Cast Album. CATS hit song “Memory” has been recorded by over 150 artists from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace and Barry Manilow. The Tony Award-winning Best Musical held the title of longest-running musical in Broadway history until it was surpassed in 2006 by Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. The original Broadway production closed on September 10, 2000 and is currently the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history. This marks the first New York revival of the beloved musical. The creative team for the new Broadway production of CATS includes John Napier (Scenic & Costume Design), Natasha Katz (Lighting Design), Mick Potter (Sound Design), choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne, and direction by Trevor Nunn.


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 94 million people with access to performances at affordable prices and have returned over $2.8 billion to thousands of productions. 

Best known for its TKTS Discount Booths, TDF’s membership, outreach, access (including the 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, a 2016 “Friend of Off-Broadway” honor from The Off-Broadway Alliance, and New York City’s 2016 TITLE II ADA Sapolin Public Service Award. With the Broadway League, TDF recently launched the website, Theatre Access NYC ( which assists theatregoers with disabilities in finding accessible performances of Broadway shows. To learn more about TDF, go to:

TDF’s Autism Theatre Initiative receives major support from: The Helene Berger Foundation; The FAR Fund; The Joseph H. Flom Foundation; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York State Council on the Arts; Stavros Niarchos Foundation; Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation; Vincent and Patricia Schuman; Seventh District Foundation; The Shubert Foundation; The Taft Foundation; The Joseph LeRoy and Ann C. Warner Fund.

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