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How the Theatre Development Fund Works


Customers line up at the TKTS booth to buy discounted theater tickets in New York. Hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers line up at the booth daily to buy same-day tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows.
Customers line up at the TKTS booth to buy discounted theater tickets in New York. Hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers line up at the booth daily to buy same-day tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Once upon a time, if you wanted an evening's entertainment and you lived in or near New York City, you went to the theater. That was where you found the biggest stars, the most exciting shows and the best value for your entertainment dollar. New York theater was glamorous, exciting and world famous. If you wanted to be involved with the performing arts, New York was where you wanted to live.

This hasn't exactly changed. New York theater is still exciting and glamorous, and if you find yourself in New York City, one of the most thrilling things you can do is go to a Broadway show. But after the first half of the 20th century, the art of live theater began moving to the margins of the entertainment industry. When people wanted to be entertained, they went to a movie or watched television instead. An evening in the theater became an occasional indulgence and the number of plays and musicals in New York shrunk from hundreds to just a few dozen big Broadway shows, plus several dozen more off-Broadway shows.

The Theatre Development Fund (TDF) was created in 1968 to help bolster the sagging fortunes of live theater in New York. The most visible part of the TDF's mission is the TKTS booths, where both New Yorkers and visitors can buy discounted tickets to Broadway shows. But the TDF also provides support for the theater industry by buying large blocks of tickets as well as sponsoring educational programs to help students become more aware of the theater as a form of entertainment -- assuring that live theater will always have an audience. They also offer a variety of services for handicapped theatergoers. TDF members get discounted tickets for a large number of New York shows, both on and off-Broadway.

Thanks in part to the Theatre Development Fund, the New York theater industry is still alive and well and offering entertainment to new generations of theatergoers. And while Broadway theaters may never return to the glory days of the early 20th century, the shows are still there and you can take advantage of the opportunity to see them if you're ever in New York. In the rest of this article, you'll see how the TDF supports the theater and how you might be able to become a member.