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Theatre Development Fund

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Theatre Development Fund
PurposePromotion of theatre/dance and its development, especially in New York City
  • New York City, United States
ServicesTicket subsidies, disability services, among others
MethodsUse of private and government funding
Award(s)Special Tony Award[1]

The Theatre Development Fund (TDF) is a not-for-profit performing arts service organization in New York City. Created in 1968 to help an ailing New York theatre industry, TDF has become one of the largest beneficents for the performance arts. The TDF heavily subsidizes Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-off-broadway theatre and dance productions that it deems to be of cultural value, with their most prominent program of this type being TKTS discount ticket booths. The organization also assists Broadway with complying with the ADA, provides educational outreach programs to secondary and college students, and rents out costumes to productions and other non-profits. It has received a Special Tony Award for its work.

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The TDF was founded in 1968 in order to originally provide assistance to Broadway productions that were viewed as not likely to survive without some financial assistance, but would likely have some significant cultural impact. This came in the wake of productions on Broadway seemingly becoming more and more formulaic. The original goal of the organization was thus to buy up tickets of those plays and give them away for free. The organization first bought 1,112 seats to The Great White Hope and gave them away to students for free using grant money from the Rockefeller Foundation.[2][3][4] After this first initiative was successful, the TDF set up the TKTS booth in Duffy Square in 1972 that sold tickets to shows at discounted prices, which turned out to be a more effective way of subsidizing the plays.[5][6] The TDF has continued to expand the network of TKTS discount ticket booths to other sites such a satellite booth at the Lincoln Center and another franchized booth in London.[7]

Starting in 1972, the TDF began subsidizing Off-off-Broadway productions by offering vouchers[8] to people that would be typically unlikely to see them, such as teachers and retired persons. At the time, the vouchers would cost 80 cents for the consumers and would entitle the playhouse to $2.50. In 1974, the fund sold over 40,000 vouchers and estimated that 300,000 people were supported by the program, which resulted in recoginition from industry groups of the program.[9] The TDF continues to offer Off-off-Broadway vouchers, but in a different format.[10]

In 1974, the TDF Costume Collection opened, renting costumes to nonprofit and commercial productions. TDF Costume Collection houses over 65,000 costumes and accessories providing professionally designed costumes to not-for-profit organizations at affordable prices.[11][12]

In 1979, the TDF created the TDF Accesibility Program (TAP), which offers services to theatergoers with disabilities.[8] The first service that was provided to deaf people was a live ASL translation of the performance of The Elephant Man in 1980.[13] Since the implementation of the Americans with Disabilites Act it has expanded its programs for the disabled by assisting theatres in their compliance of the law. This includes offering open captioning, discounted seats that are closer to the stage, as well as live description of the performance (introduced in 2008) to the deaf and blind respectively.[14][15][16] In 2011, the program also started providing services to adults and children on the autistic spectum by providing autism friendly sources.[17]

In 1995, the TDF began to offer theatrical educational programs and opportunities in the community.[8] They offer an introduction class for theatre called "Introduction to Theatre", which is offered to about 10,000 high school students in New York City. Students receive eight workshops provided by TDF and are offered a trip to see a Broadway or Off-Broadway production.[18] In 1997, TDF introduced the Wendy Wasserstein/Open Doors program, which provides select students interested in theatre the chance to see a variety of plays over the course of a year with "accomplished theatre professionals" and discuss them afterwards.[19][20]

Current programs

TKTS Times Square

The current programs of the fund thus include:[21]

  • TKTS discount ticket booths for Broadway plays, which are apart of its broader program to subsidize Dance and Theatre[22]
  • Off-off-broadway vouchers
  • TDF Accessibility program
  • Educational programs for secondary and college students and aspiring playwrights
  • Costume leasing
  • Awards for costume design[23]


Most of the criticism the organization receives has to do with a broader debate on whether Broadway needs subsidization. This is due to the fact that the organization sometimes uses federal grant money in order to subsidize Broadway, which some question as a good use of taxpayer money (especially since doing so constitutes a bailout of a commerical enterprise).[6][24] The TKTS booth itself also receives unrelated criticsm because of its marketing tactics, specifically over its claims of whether the tickets it sells are in fact sold at a 50% discount.


  1. ^ "1974 Winners and Honorees". The Tony Awards. The American Theatre Wing. Retrieved 21 June 2024.
  2. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie (October 18, 2018). "Celebrating 50 Years of TDF".
  3. ^ Beling, Sarah (2023-05-13). "TKTS Turns 50: "A Lot of People Said It Would Never Work"". W42ST. Retrieved 2024-06-18.
  4. ^ Taubman, Howard (1972-02-08). "Audience Growth Stimulated by Theater Fund". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-06-19.
  5. ^ "How Theater Development Fund [sic] develops theater". The New York Times. 1986-03-14. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-06-18.
  6. ^ a b Hershberg, Marc (April 2, 2018). "TDF To Celebrate Five Decades of Building Broadway Audiences". Forbes. Retrieved 2024-06-18.
  7. ^ Viagas, Robert (January 26, 2017). "Lincoln Center TKTS Discount Booth Will Become Permanent". Playbill.
  8. ^ a b c "History". Theatre Development Fund. Archived from the original on 2024-06-01. Retrieved 2024-06-18.
  9. ^ "Off Off Broadway Emerging From Wings". The New York Times. 1974-07-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-06-18.
  10. ^ "TDF [Theatre Development Fund]". Office of the Arts at Hunter College, City University of New York. 2017-07-03. Archived from the original on 2022-05-21. Retrieved 2024-06-18.
  11. ^ Hogan, Jane (March 1, 1999). "The TDF Costume Collection". LiveDesign.
  12. ^ McEvers, Kelly; Lewin, Naomi; Stephen (September 29, 2017). "The Theater Development Fund In New York Takes Playing Dress-Up To Another Level". NPR.
  13. ^ "'The Elephant Man' To Be Interpreted In Sign Language". The New York Times. November 20, 1980.
  14. ^ Tyler, Dana (2008). "Audio Described Performance of "Grease"". CBS News.
  15. ^ Piepenburg, Erik (2010-03-02). "Making Broadway Accessible for the Disabled". ArtsBeat, The New York Times. Retrieved 2024-06-19.
  16. ^ Lunden, Jeff (March 14, 2017). "A Blind Theatergoer's 'Hamilton' Lawsuit Aims Spotlight On Broadway Accessibility". NPR.
  17. ^ "Theatre Development Fund Pilots Autism Theatre Initiative at Disney's The Lion King Oct. 2". Playbill. 2011. Retrieved 2023-08-12.
  18. ^ Rabinowitz, Chloe (April 6, 2023). "TDF School Programs Serve 10,600 NYC Public School Students in 2022-23 School Year". Broadway World. Archived from the original on 2023-04-07. Retrieved 2024-06-19.
  19. ^ Wasserstein, Wendy (1999-06-20). "A Place They'd Never Been: the Theater". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-06-19.
  20. ^ Gans, Andrew (June 13, 2019). "Open Doors Program Renamed TDF Wendy Wasserstein Project". Playbill. Archived from the original on 2020-08-12. Retrieved June 19, 2024.
  21. ^ See above references for source information on these programs.
  22. ^ "TDF Subsidy: Keeping shows running while word of mouth builds". TDF. Archived from the original on 2024-04-04. Retrieved 2024-06-21.
  23. ^ "TDF Announces 2018 Irene Sharaff Awards for Costume Design". American Theatre. 2018-03-05. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  24. ^ Root, Jay; Paulson, Michael (2024-05-17). "Does a Smash Hit Like 'Lion King' Deserve a $3 Million Tax Break?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-06-21.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 June 2024, at 04:15
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