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TDF's Open Doors Program to be honored with a special 2012 Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre

Date: Mar 12, 2012


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Today, the Tony Award’s Administration Committee announced that Theatre Development Fund’s Open Doors program will be among those honored with a special 2012 Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre.

The Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre were established in 1990 and are awarded annually to institutions, individuals and/or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theatre, but are not eligible in any of the established Tony Award categories.

“When TDF first piloted the program in 1998 with the incredible Wendy Wasserstein, no one ever imagined the impact it would have,” said Victoria Bailey, TDF’s executive director. “Wendy and her friend and colleague Roy Harris took eight DeWitt Clinton High School students to six Broadway shows over the school year and had post-performance discussions over pizza. Since then, dozens of theatre professionals, all accomplished and extremely active in their careers, have volunteered their time, wisdom and commitment to over 1500 students who have participated in the program. Today, Open Doors has grown to 21 groups, and although Wendy is sadly no longer with us, her legacy is felt each and every season in this life changing program.”

Through Theatre Development Fund’s arts education program, TDF Open Doors, mentors introduce New York City public high school students to theatre.  These mentors are working theatre professionals (directors, actors, producers, playwrights, etc.) rich with knowledge of theatre craft and history, Founded in 1998 by TDF and playwright Wendy Wasserstein, the program operates on the belief that theatregoing is the birthright of every New Yorker. Each mentor is matched with eight high school seniors from an underserved New York City high school, and brings the students to six Broadway and/or Off Broadway performances over the course of an entire school year. These talented and accomplished mentors are the best possible ambassadors to introduce the arts to young people as they engage their groups in lively, in-depth post-performance discussions and journaling.  TDF Open Doors has proven that through this personal and dynamic interaction, a deep appreciation of theatre and an understanding of its relevance is fostered in the students’ lives.

See a brief video of Wendy Wasserstein at the 2003 TDF Open Doors graduation speaking of how she and TDF founded the program.

TDF Open Doors Mentors 2011-12 include:
Adam Bock, playwright; Mark Brokaw, director; Kathleen Chalfant, actress; Rachel Chanoff, producer/performing arts programmer; Kirsten Childs, composer/lyricist/playwright; Graciela Daniele, choreographer/director; Alan Eisenberg, former President of Actor’s Equity; Scott Ellis, director; Miguel Gutierrez, choreographer/dancer; David Henry Hwang, playwright; James Lapine, writer/director; Robert Longbottom, director/choreographer; Aubrey Lynch, dancer/choreographer; Joe Mantello, director/actor; Kathleen Marshall, director/choreographer; Derek McLane, set designer; Marc Platt, producer Frank Rich & Alex Witchel, journalists; Thomas Schumacher, producer and President of Disney Theatricals; Rachel Sheinkin, book writer/producer/educator; Tracey Scott Wilson, playwright; David Zippel, composer/lyricist

TDF Open Doors Guest Mentors 2011-12 include:
Luciana Achugar, choreographer/dancer; Lemon Andersen, actor/poet; Vanessa A. Jones, actress; Tom Fontana, producer; Robert La Fosse, choreographer/dancer Keith Randolph Smith, actor; Theresa Rebeck, playwright; David Stone, producer.

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 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 guest teaching artist and the other four led by the classroom teacher.  During these workshops the students are engaged in a classroom project which serves as preparation for the performance while giving them an opportunity to experience the creative process first hand.  This program is offered at no cost to the school or students.

In response to the need for curriculum-based arts programming, TDF developed RAP, an intensive playwriting program that brings the magic and craft of live theatre to young people who have little or no exposure to theatre.  Through extensive collaboration, the teaching artist and classroom teacher develop a playwriting curriculum that best serves their population of students.  The residency consists of: ten to twelve playwriting workshops conducted by a teaching artist; attendance at a top Broadway or Off Broadway play; and staged readings by professional actors of selected original student plays at the end of the semester. 

Youth Theatre Initiative (YTI) is TDF’s after school arts education program aimed at students who have a strong interest in theatre, writing and performing. The program allows students to explore the skills essential in creating an original piece of theatre. Each YTI is conducted by a theatre professional who is an experienced TDF teaching artist, with the assistance of a cooperating teacher from the school and an assistant teaching artist. The semester long project meets once a week after school on site at a NYC public high schools for 12 weeks and culminates in a performance of the work created by the students.  In the course of exploring the various concepts involved in performance, direction and playwriting the students will gain a greater understanding of the theatrical arts.

PxP (Play by Play)
NYC’s only theatre magazine written by and for high school students, PxP aims to help make students aware of the treasure of student-friendly theatre–not only on Broadway, but also the Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions that are in their own backyards.  Play by Play is free to students, teachers and the theatre community.  It is issued quarterly, with each edition including student written reviews, features, and interviews with theatre artists.  Each issue also contains a listing of productions that would appeal to high school students and offer a ticket price of $25 or less.  Twice a year an Internship Guide is included to help students learn about opportunities to gain hands-on experience in New York City theatres both during the school year and in the summer.  A Guide to Summer Theatre is inserted in the May-June issue, which details festivals and free outdoor theatre in all five boroughs, as well as Broadway productions that will be playing in July-September. 

THEATRE DEVELOPMENT FUND (TDF), which recently received a 2011 Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture, is the largest nonprofit performing arts service organization in the United States, returning over $130 million to hundreds of productions annually through a variety of programs. It is dedicated to developing diverse audiences for live theatre and dance and strengthening the performing arts community in New York City. Created in 1968, TDF’s programs have provided over 80 million people with access to performances at affordable prices.  Best known for its TKTS Discount Booths, 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.

Thank you to our Open Doors Donors:  Helene Berger Foundation, Bespoke Theatricals, Carole G. Donlin, Home Box Office, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, Sheila and Bill Lambert, The Herman Lissner Foundation, F. Richard Pappas, Marc Platt Productions, The Segal Company, Tom Schumacher, Sarah Saltzberg and Serino Coyne, Inc.


Download the pdf below for a photo of Wendy Wasserstein with one of her students from DeWitt Clinton High School during an Open Doors post-performance discussion in 2000.