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TDF: All in a day's work

Date: Mar 07, 2007


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This winter, with all of TDF's programs in full swing, we give you a snapshot of Wednesday, March 7. Even the wind and the snow couldn't keep the students, tourists, TDF members and theatregoers of all stripes away from the stage door.

The tally? In one day, TDF helped more than 7,300 theatregoers enjoy dozens of productions on, Off-, and Off-Off-Broadway. Here's a look at a day in the life of an organization that both serves and depends on the theatregoing passion of its constituents.

11:30 a.m.: The TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square bustles with activity as patrons check their options and take advantage of half-price deals on shows big and small. TKTS itself is such a Manhattan landmark, in fact, that many tourists were seen taking pictures of each other in front of the big red letters. By day's end, 3,797 patrons went to the theatre with tickets from TKTS.


1 p.m.: 37 Arts Theatre. TDF's Stage Doors program has packed the house for the vibrant musical In the Heights with 445 students from six high schools--and not just from any randomly chosen New York schools, but high schools from neighborhoods celebrated in the show, Washington Heights and the Bronx. By all accounts it was a festive, happy, and demonstrative crowd: As Tim Murphy will report in New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer, the full house of mostly black and Latino teens "screamed and stomped wildly through the show."

2 p.m. The Richard Rodgers Theatre. 170 deaf or hard-of-hearing students and their chaperones from five New York schools and two New Jersey schools enjoy a "Talking Hands" performance of the Disney hit Tarzan. Open captioning and sign interpretation allow the students to follow every bounce and swing of the story. Afterwards, leading jungle man Josh Strickland joins some of the students to say hello and sign autographs.

1 p.m. The Barrow Street Theatre. Another Stage Doors crowd of 199 students enjoys Nilaja Sun's long-running one-woman show No Child… Among this exuberant crowd are eight students shepherded by the acclaimed actress Kathleen Chalfant, a mentor in TDF's Open Doors programs, in which groups of exceptional high schoolers attend half a dozen shows throughout the school year with the guidance of theatre pros. In a talkback with author/performer Sun after the show, one student blurts out, "That was nothing like Mary Poppins or Spring Awakening!" Indeed, given that the show is based on Sun's own experiences as a theatre teaching artist in New York's public high schools, the parallels between students' real-life school experiences and the show are the hot topic of the post-show discussion, moderated by Michael Wiggins. Meanwhile, on Broadway, it's a busy day for Open Doors: Disney Theatricals honcho Thomas Schumacher took his eight students to Mary Poppins, and scenic designer Derek McLane joined his group at A Chorus Line.

Pictured left: Actress Kathleen Chalfant with Open Doors students Leon Watterson, Melinda Garcia, Oscar Feliz, Alexandra Espinal, Sandy Merilan, Steven Sowell, Zachary Poots and Nelson Vidals, and teacher Caroline Reddick.

4:30 p.m.: Derek McLane gathers over pizza with his Open Doors students--eight sharp, theatrically inclined youngsters from Brooklyn's Edward R. Murrow High School--to discuss A Chorus Line. It's a show the students know well, because Murrow's theatre department did it recently. Amid comparisons between their own high school production and the Broadway revival, and McLane's illuminating contrast of filmic and theatrical techniques, one teen offers a comment that could sum up the primary goal of TDF's student programs. She says simply: "A lot of the songs really made me think."

7:45 p.m.: The Hilton Theatre. Theatregoers stream into a preview of Boublil & Schonberg's swashbuckling new musical The Pirate Queen--just one of many Broadway shows offered to TDF members (upwards of 3,500 purchased tickets for Wed., Mar. 7) and TKTS customers on a given day.


And so the curtain rings down on another busy Wednesday at TDF, where the theatregoers of today--and tomorrow--are always centerstage.