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5 Stories That Capture the Irreplaceable Joy of Live Theatre

Date: May 03, 2020


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If you've been missing the thrill of live performance, you're not alone. We asked members who use our TDF Accessibility Programs to email us their most cherished theatre experiences, and their stories warmed our hearts. Some anecdotes are amusing, others are moving, but every one is a testament to the power of the performing arts. TDF runs a variety of programs that help make theatre and dance events accessible to thousands of individuals annually, including open caption performances for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, audio described performances for those who have low vision or are blind, and Autism Friendly Performances. We may not be able to gather together in person at the moment, but these poignant memories remind us that the performing arts continue to be essential. We hope reading these recollections will inspire you to share your own transformative theatre tales in the comments.


My first Broadway show was Gypsy with Ethel Merman for my 12th birthday and I am still enjoying Broadway at 71. Since my family lived on Long Island, we saw at least two shows a year. When I graduated from college, I moved to Connecticut and continued seeing a couple of shows a year. I would take Metro-North into NYC and walk to the Times Square TKTS Booth to see what was available. Usually, I would see a musical in the afternoon, and then go back to TKTS to buy a ticket for an evening performance. Between the shows I would find a restaurant that was unique to NYC.

I now share my love of Broadway with my son. His first show was the original Cats. We try to see at least two shows a year together. I have taken him to revivals of some of my favorite shows such as Hair and Miss Saigon. But it is a little more difficult because he is a power wheelchair user. Since he needs accessible seating, we can't be spontaneous. We have to plan and order tickets in advance. Broadway theatres have gotten so much better with their accessibility. Many theatres now have wheelchair seating in different locations. We saw Hamilton from the ninth row. Also, most theatres have a bathroom on the main level now. The Shubert Theatre does not due to its historic structure. If you need to use a bathroom there, you are invited to go across the street to Sardi's to use their accessible bathrooms. When my son and I saw Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! at the Shubert, we went to Sardi's. I never ate there, but I peed there! TDF's Theatre Access NYC is a GREAT website. It shows all the Broadway theatres. You can look up any show or theatre and get all the info about accessibility you need so you are not surprised when you go and find you can't get in the front door or can't use the bathroom. I have so many memories of the shows I saw on Broadway. I can't wait until the lights go back on and my son and I can continue seeing wonderful performances. Our first will be West Side Story. We were supposed to see it on May 23.—Fran Sinish


One of my most outstanding moments was when I went to see Lily Tomlin in [Appearing Nitely] on Broadway. During intermission, a gentleman came over to me in the lobby and invited me backstage after the show, explaining that Lily Tomlin wanted to meet me. Well, I became so excited I could hardly concentrate on the show. After it ended, I went backstage with my friend. It turned out Lily Tomlin couldn't understand why she couldn't make eye contact with me. When she met my Seeing Eye dog Koko, she understood I was blind. She then put on a mini-show for me, acting and doing her famous Ernestine operator routine, "one ringy-dingy... two ringy-dingy," and held a conversation. She signed my Playbill, and I asked her where she bought the clothes she wore in the show. She told me The Gap. One moment I will never forget.—Myra Brodsky


TDF’s Accessibility Programs have been valuable to me as a blind theatregoer. On my birthday last April, I took a sighted friend to The Cher Show. Cher showed up! I could feel her presence and it made it a memorable birthday.—Brooke Levy


A few years ago, there was a list of Off-Broadway shows to watch out for. There were ten, or maybe a dozen shows on the list, and I knew I would never have enough time or money to go to all, or even most of them. So I narrowed the list down to just two or three that caught my eye. One looked particularly interesting to me. I thought it was a play, but it was a musical. What a strange idea for a musical I thought. But it was at The Public Theater, and I always liked everything I saw there. And I had really enjoyed another political musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, so why not give this musical a shot? And hey, that's Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote In the Heights, isn't it? I loved that show! Let me see if I can get tickets to this musical about Alexander Hamilton; could be interesting. I had no problem getting tickets. There was an organization that was offering tickets to the one AD (audio described) performance for the vision impaired, and when I checked to see if they had any left, they said they had plenty (yes, I am vision impaired). We sat in the fifth row, not having any idea what to expect. In all my years of going to the theatre, I have never seen anything like that. The audience was spellbound. No one took their eyes off the stage. You could feel an electricity running through the crowd. When it was over, the audience stood, cheered, stomped and screamed, "Bravo!!" I've never seen a curtain call like that. I told everyone who I knew loved musicals to go see Hamilton. The people I told didn't pay the slightest attention to me. No one thought a musical about Alexander Hamilton, whoever he may have been (the guy on the $10?) was even vaguely interesting. Thank you!—Tracey Starin


My father took me to the first show I ever went to when I was 12. I am now an up-in-years senior, but I have never forgotten that day. It made me a theatregoer for life. The show was Tomorrow, the World! starring Skip Homeier, and was about a young orphan from Germany taken in by an American family. He believed in Hitler but, by the end of the show, he understood what was wrong with his beliefs and saw the different way of life in America. A bit cliché, but not for a naive 12-year old as I still remember it. As a married woman, I attended Death of a Salesman starring Lee J. Cobb with my husband. It was so powerful I never forgot that either. So many years of wonderful and some not-so-wonderful theatre, but it has been a passion all of my life. Looking forward to when we can resume our theatregoing.—Belle Heller


Click here to read all the TAP member theatre memories we received.


Raven Snook is the Editor of TDF Stages. Follow her at @RavenSnook. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

Top image: a participant in TDF's Veterans Theatregoing Program with her daughter at the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes in 2019. Photo courtesy of TDF.