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Theatre Development Fund's offices were buzzing with gratitude yesterday as the Tony Award's Administration Committee announced that TDF's Open Doors program will be among those honored with a special 2012 Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre.
The Tony Honor for Excellence, which is awarded to groups that are not eligible in any of the established Tony Award categories, is a welcome celebration of a program that was piloted in 1998 with the late, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein.
Recalling Open Door's modest (but passionate) beginnings, Victoria Bailey, TDF's executive director, says, "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. No one ever imagined the impact that would have,"
Since then, however, dozens of theatre professionals have followed Wasserstein's lead by joining Open Doors to mentor small groups of high school students at schools across the city. The groups see and discuss performances, and more than anything, they celebrate theatre as the birthright of every New Yorker.
Wasserstein used the idea of "theatre as a birthright" to guide the creation of Open Doors . It continues to inspire participants today, and it underscores the passion that will keep the program going for years to come.