Given the shocking statistics revealed by the Broadway League last December that audiences for the Great White Way are whiter than ever (just 2.4% of Broadway theatergoers last season were African-American, for example), it was clear that leadership was needed from the industry to ameliorate the situation. Theatre Development Fund’s ambitious initiative, outlined in the release below, is a huge first step.
True, to bring underserved communities just to Broadway makes the mistake of not acknowledging the immense amount of quality theater mounted Off- and Off-Off-Broadway. Perhaps the thousands of actors, writers, directors and producers, nonprofit or commercial, who work in those arenas can lobby TDF to broaden its mind a little bit.
But in recognition of the fact that a nearly all-white theatergoing audience in New York is offensive as well as economically suicidal, TDF deserves tremendous applause for taking the reins. Bravo to them! They have our support.
Here is the 411:
Theatre Development Fund
“New Audiences for New Work”
An Audience Development Initiative
To Help Build Theatre Audience
In Underserved Community Groups
Throughout New York City
Theatre Development Fund, the not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts, announced the commencement of a new audience development initiative, “New Audiences for New York,” which is designed to build new audiences for Broadway among diverse and underrepresented New Yorkers across the City.
For “New Audiences for New York,” TDF has selected 20 community groups located throughout the City to participate in this new initiative. During the first year of the program, each participating group will have the opportunity to attend two Broadway productions at prices they can afford. Each performance will be preceded and followed by a moderated discussion with a TDF teaching artist as well as TDF trained group leaders from each of the 20 organizations.
By training group leaders from each organization, TDF seeks to provide the individual groups with the skills to offer a theatre experience to future group participants. Additionally, TDF is educating each organization on how to research and conduct the pre- and post-performance discussions, how to research and select appropriate shows for their group and how to handle the logistics of a group theatre outing.
“We’ve been looking for a way to help bring New Yorkers to the theatre who don’t attend Broadway theatre. We want to help a wide group of New Yorkers realize how theatre can be accessible to them. ‘New Audiences for New York’ is a first step in that direction,” said Victoria Bailey, TDF’s Executive Director. “In working with community groups with strong leaders, we will train individuals to lead theatregoing in their communities. We have adapted the methodology used in our education programs — pre- and post-performance discussions aimed at helping new audiences engage with a play or musical — and combined it with our expertise in programs that make theatre affordable to those who couldn’t otherwise attend due to cost. We will give the community groups the tools to continue providing their members with theatregoing experiences long after our partnership ends.”
The first participating organizations in “New Audiences for New York” are:
Manhattan: Blessed Trinity Community Baptist Church, Delta Sigma Theta (an African American sorority), The Educational Alliance (youth program), Henry Street Settlement (senior center), Korean Catholics United @ NYU, New York Urban League Young Professionals, The River (inter-denominational faith-based church), Metropolitan College of New York and Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Brooklyn: Clara Muhammad School of Masjid Khalifad; Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, Mt. Pisgah Church, Purelements (dance school for children ages 3-18), St. Paul Community Baptist Church and SURF Solomon Seniors Center.
The Bronx: Bay Eden Senior Center, Claremont Neighborhood Center, Green Chimney (center for displaced gay, lesbian and bi-sexual teens).
Queens: SNAP Bell Park and SNAP Eastern Queens (both senior centers).
Among the shows that the groups will attend are: Fela, Fences, God of Carnage, Hair, Mary Poppins, Memphis, The Miracle Worker, The Phantom of the Opera and Race.