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How the Theatre Development Fund Works

Theatre Development Fund Mission
TKTS booths are open 365 days a year for theater-goers hoping to buy discounted tickets.
TKTS booths are open 365 days a year for theater-goers hoping to buy discounted tickets.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

If you've been to see a Broadway show anytime during the last four decades, there's a good chance you bought a discounted ticket at the TKTS booth in the Father Duffy Square portion of New York's Times Square. Or maybe you got it at the TKTS booth in Brooklyn or the one at South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan. Whichever booth you bought it at, there's a good chance you paid half price for your evening at the theater. If so, you can thank the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) for your discounted ticket. The TKTS booth in Times Square opened in 1973, five years after the TDF's founding in 1968.

The TKTS booths are just one way that the TDF accomplishes its twin missions. Those missions are to provide support for performing arts in New York and to encourage audiences to attend live shows. The TDF has several programs that help accomplish these goals. They include:

  • The TKTS Booths --This program encourages theaters to offer blocks of tickets to shows for 20 to 50 percent off the normal price. On any given day, tickets for all but a few Broadway shows are available at the TKTS booths. The catch is that you can't get tickets for shows in advance. You have to purchase them on the day of the show and you need to show up in person at the TKTS booth. And be warned that during busy holiday seasons, fewer shows may be available.
  • TDF Accessibility Services -- TDF works to make live theater accessible to the handicapped in a number of ways. These include Open Captioning, an electronic text display next to the stage and Sign Language Interpreting, with an interpreter next to the stage signing dialog and song lyrics. Audio Description provides a real-time description of the action on the stage for visually impaired audience members. TDF will also supply special seating for the physically impaired.
  • TDF Membership Program -- The TDF Membership Program offers discount prices of $35 or less for theater tickets to TDF members. (We'll tell you how to become a member on the next page.)
  • Theater Subsidy Program -- TDF subsidizes Broadway and off-Broadway shows by agreeing to buy large blocks of tickets in the early weeks of the performance and then reselling the tickets to its members. To get this subsidy, producers submit scripts or audition tapes to TDF for review. The TDF subsidy not only guarantees that the show will have an audience, but provides time for word of mouth to bring in a larger audience, too.
  • Educational Programs -- TDF has a number of educational programs intended to introduce students to theatergoing. These include, Stage Doors, where students attend plays followed by workshops in playwriting and acting, Open Doors, where students work with theater professionals and the Residency Arts Project (RAP), which is a training program for budding playwrights.
  • TDF BackStage -- A collection of feature articles on the art of theater.
  • Play by Play -- A magazine written by young theater fans and distributed (free) in high schools.
  • The Costume Collection -- A collection of more than 75,000 costumes from Broadway and off-Broadway productions that the TDF rents to non-profit productions for a nominal fee.

Take a look at the Theatre Development Fund's Web site to learn more ways in which they support Broadway and off-Broadway theater. In the meantime, you may be interested in becoming a TDF member. On the next page we'll talk about how you can do that.