THE LION KING, SPIDER-MAN and WICKED to Offer 2013-14 TDF Autism Theatre Initiative Performances

TDF's Autism Theater Initiative (ATI) announces a slate of autism-friendly performances on Broadway for the 2013-14 theatre season. The Initiative, which operates under the auspices of Theatre Development Fund's Accessibility Programs (TAP), will present autism-friendly performances of three blockbuster Broadway musicals. They are: Disney's THE LION KING on Sunday, September 29, 2013, at 1pm at the Minskoff Theatre; SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Darkon Saturday, November 16, 2013, at 2pm at the Foxwoods Theatre; and WICKED on Sunday, March 2, 2014, at 1pm at the Gershwin Theatre.

Tickets for the September 29 performance of Disney's THE LION KING are currently on sale at www.tdf.org/autism. At that webpage you may also sign up to get information on when the other performances will go on sale, as well as receive information about future autism-friendly performances offered through TDF's Autism Theatre Initiative.

These performances illustrate TDF's commitment to presenting autism-friendly performances in New York City. TDF has also been consulting with other theatre organizations across the United States that would like to present their own autism-friendly performances.

"As TDF's Autism Theatre Initiative moves into its third season, we are finding the excitement for these performances growing," said Victoria Bailey, TDF's Executive Director. "As with all of our TDF programs it is important that the widest spectrum of the community have access to tickets. We are gratified that we have received generous funding from The Joseph LeRoy and Ann C. Warner Fund, Inc., among other donors that allows us to distribute several hundred tickets per performance, at no cost, to organizations that help low-income families with children and adults on the spectrum."

"With the feedback we get from the audiences, specialists working in the autism field, performers and theatre staff, we are constantly learning new ways to fine-tune the program," said Lisa Carling, TDF's Director of Accessibility Programs (TAP). "Our goal with the Autism Theatre Initiative remains to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming families with children and adults on the autism spectrum, including Asperger's syndrome, as well as other developmental disabilities, to enjoy the theatrical experience and to be assured that everyone involved with the production is united in making the show an unforgettable experience."

In order to be "autism-friendly," the shows are 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 and activity areas, staffed with autism specialists and trained volunteers, if anyone needs to leave their seats during the performance. To get a clearer idea of what an autism-friendly performance is, here is a link to a feature on a performance of Mary Poppins from TDF Stages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrb-opIcMWw.

For these performances, TDF purchases 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 TDF's website. TDF recommends that interested patrons sign up at www.tdf.org/autism to be notified when the future performances go on sale, as well as to be notified about the scheduling of future autism-friendly performances.

Autism Theater Initiative (ATI), founded by Theatre Development Fund (TDF), the not-for-profit performing arts service organization whose mission includes making theatre accessible for all audiences, was originally piloted to make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and their families, with 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 and subsequent autism-friendly performances of Mary Poppins and a second sold-out performance of The Lion King in 2012 were successful in opening up the world of live theatre to this underserved community. Since then, autism-friendly performances of the Broadway musicalsELF and SPIDER-MAN Turn Off the Dark have also performed to sold-out audiences. To ensure that TDF will meet the needs of this audience, TDF works with an advisory panel of specialists in the field of autism. These advisors have provided TDF with expertise and counsel throughout the development and implementation of this program. Since ATI's original successes, TDF has consulted with theatres in Houston, San Diego, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston and London on how to present their own autism-friendly performances.



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