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TDF's Autism Theater Initiative Hosts Autism Friendly Performance of THE LION KING Today, 9/30

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TDF's Autism Theater Initiative will present an autism-friendly performance of Disney's The Lion King today, September 30, at 1pm, at the Minskoff Theatre (1515 Broadway, NYC). This performances illustrates TDF's commitment to continuing to present autism-friendly performances in New York City. TDF is also available to consult with other theatre organizations across the United States who would like to present their own autism-friendly performances.

Last fall, Theatre Development Fund (TDF), the not-for-profit performing arts service organization whose mission includes making theatre accessible for all audiences, piloted the new program, Autism Theatre Initiative (which is part of TDF's Accessibility Programs [TAP]), to make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and their families. They presented the first-ever autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show at Disney's landmark The Lion King on October 2, 2011. That sold-out performance was successful in opening up the world of live theatre to this underserved community. These autism-friendly performances are presented with the cooperation of Disney Theatrical Productions. NBC Nightly News did a feature on that performance which illustrates the impact on the children and their families. 

For this performance of The Lion King, TDF has purchased every seat in the theatre for sale at discount prices to families whose members include individuals on the autism spectrum. Tickets to these special performances are sold only through the TDF website at www.tdf.org/autism.

"The pilot autism-friendly performance of The Lion King was successful beyond our greatest expectations," said Victoria Bailey, TDF's executive director. "It was tremendously emotional watching families experience live theatre together for the first time in an environment that was safe and supportive. Special thanks to Thomas Schumacher and everyone at Disney Theatrical Productions for their professionalism and dedication to expanding audiences and allowing us to continue to present these special performances."

"The feedback from the autism community has been extraordinary," said Lisa Carling, TDF's director of accessibility programs (TAP). "Our goal with Autism Theatre Initiative is to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming families with children and adults on the autism spectrum, including Asperger's syndrome, to fill the entire theatre and be assured that everyone involved with the production-from the cast, production crew and theatre staff-is united in making the show an unforgettable experience for all."

"I can think of few other events in Disney Theatrical Productions' history that have moved and gratified us and The Lion King family more than the autism-friendly performance we did with TDF at the Minskoff last fall," said Thomas Schumacher, Producer and President Disney Theatrical Productions. "We are honored to be able to collaborate on these upcoming performances and to be part of something that opens up the epic experience of theatre to a whole new audience."

"Nothing could be better than to have an autism-friendly theatre that is a totally safe place for a family to be with their child with autism," said Mark Roithmayr, President of Autism Speaks.

In order to be "autism-friendly," the shows are being performed in a friendly, supportive environment for an audience of families and friends with children or adults who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensitivity issues. Slight adjustments to the productions include reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. In the theatre lobby area there are designated quiet areas, staffed with autism experts, if anyone needs to leave their seats during the performance.

To ensure that TDF will meet the needs of this audience, TDF is working with an advisory panel of experts in the field of autism. The panel has provided TDF with expertise and counsel throughout the development and implementation of this program.

ABOUT TDF ACCESSIBILITY PROGRAMS (TAP)
TDF Accessibility Programs (TAP) was established in 1979 to provide access to the performing arts for people with physical disabilities. TAP serves theatregoers with mild to profound hearing loss with regularly scheduled open captioned and American Sign Language interpreted performances of Broadway and Off Broadway shows; theatregoers who are partially sighted or blind with special audio described performances; people who for medical reasons cannot climb stairs; and, people who require aisle seating or use wheelchairs.

Through TAP, TDF offers discount orchestra tickets that are chosen with the customer's specific seating needs in mind. TAP made Broadway history when it presented the first sign interpreted performance of a Broadway show with The Elephant Man in 1980. TAP again made Broadway history in 1997 with the first open captioned performance of a Broadway show, Barrymore, thus opening up theatre to an entire population of deaf and hard of hearing individuals who are unable to utilize American Sign Language or receive only partial help from assistive listening devices. This is the third season that TAP has added audio described performances to its services for theatregoers who are blind or have low vision. TAP's Access for Young Audiences Program make theatre accessible to students with mild to severe hearing loss with simultaneously open captioned and sign language interpreted performances, as well as audio described performances for students who are blind or have low vision. For more information on TAP's services, go to www.tdf.org/tap.

ABOUT Theatre Development Fund (TDF)
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.

ABOUT The Lion King
In its 15th year, The Lion King remains ascendant, continuing to reign as a cultural phenomenon and one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. Since its Broadway premiere on November 13, 1997, 19 productions around the globe have been seen by more than 63 million people, grossed over $4.7 billion and cumulatively have run a staggering 89 years. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King is the seventh longest-running musical in Broadway history and one of only six productions in theatre history to play for ten years or more both on Broadway and in The West End. Translated into seven different languages (Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Mandarin, Spanish), the show has been performed in 15 different countries on five continents. The Lion King can currently be seen on Broadway, on stages across North America, and in Tokyo, London's West End, Hamburg, Madrid and Sapporo.

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