Yesterday, the Theatre Development Fund, presented as a part of TDF's Accessibility Programs (TAP), the first ever autism-friendly performance in Broadway history at Disney's landmark musical The Lion King.
In order to be "autism-friendly," the show was 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 production included reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. In the theatre lobby area there were designated quiet areas, staffed with autism experts, if anyone needed to leave their seats during the performance.
According tot he NY Times, the special presentation was a great success, as the children in attendence were quite responsive. Jesse Howarth, father of seven-year-old, autistic sons, said of the performance: "It's a long show but they stayed through to the end, which was impressive for them. We couldn't otherwise come to a show like this out of consideration for someone who paid a lot of money for a ticket, and they want to see an uninterrupted Broadway show."
Mother Cheryl Gray Mitchell added, "I'm always concerned about people around us, about imposing on their time if Layla is kicking chairs or making noises. It's difficult for them to have a good time and for us to have a good time."
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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 theatergoers 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.
Theatre Development Fund (TDF) has played a unique role in strengthening live theatre and dance in New York City for the past 43 years. This not-for-profit service organization's programs have filled over 78 million seats at discount prices (with theatre lovers who would normally not be able to attend live performance) and returned nearly two billion dollars in revenue to thousands of theatre, dance and music productions. Best known for its TKTS Discount Booths, TDF's membership, voucher, access and education programs as well as its Costume Collection, help to make the unique experience of theatre available to everyone. TDF's book, Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play has spurred a national conversation about the way playwrights and theatre companies interact. TDF recently launched the Official TKTS app for iPhone and Android which has been embraced by theatre fans the world over.
As it begins its 14th 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 1997 Broadway premiere, 18 global productions have been seen by more than 60 million people, and grossed over $4.3 billion to date. 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 five 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 14 different countries on five continents. The Lion King can currently be seen on Broadway (its flagship production), on stages across North America, and in Las Vegas, London's West End, Hamburg, Tokyo and Singapore. In October 2011, the first Spanish production will bow in Madrid. To learn more visit, LionKing.com.