NYC Is Closed, But TDF Is Open

How we're fulfilling our mission during the pandemic

Letter posted: 1/20/21

Dear Friends of TDF,

As we start the new year with renewed hope, I wanted to update you on what TDF has been up to. As we all know, the world has changed drastically from a year ago—or even a few weeks ago! But as I reflect on our work over the past few months, I am heartened by how TDF's transformed programs look different but feel as vital as ever. Let’s take December as an example:

December 9 was like many Wednesday afternoons. All of the students participating in TDF’s Wendy Wasserstein Project—our award-winning mentorship program for high schoolers—watched a virtual performance of This Is Who I Am. Co-produced by PlayCo and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Amir Nizar Zuabi's play centered on an estranged father and son reconnecting in real-time on Zoom to cook a family recipe. It’s not Wednesday at TDF if we don’t have young people attending a matinee.

On December 13 and 20, nearly 300 families from TDF’s Autism Friendly Performances (AFP) community enjoyed virtual performances of Santa and Little B: Zoom for the Holidays. This interactive musical featured a neurodiverse child asking Santa how the pandemic would impact the holidays, and provided families with some seasonal entertainment and joy. It’s not Sunday at TDF if we aren’t hosting our AFP families.

Also on December 20, Bronx residents participating in Create New York, TDF’s community theatergoing program, attended an online performance of The Hip Hop Nutcracker, followed by a lively Zoom discussion about the production. It's not December at TDF without The Nutcracker.

And on December 23, 148 homebound senior citizens watched highlights from past editions of the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes as part of TDF’s partnership with the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens. It's not December at TDF without the Radio City Rockettes.

The TDF Costume Collection Rental Program, which has been open for business since August with strict safety protocols, costumed a dozen performances of A Christmas Carol and other virtual holiday spectacles around the country. It's not December at TDF… you get the drift!

These events represent a sliver of the programming TDF has offered during this challenging period, ensuring that theatre and dance are still enriching lives, albeit at a distance. Working with public school teachers and teaching artists we served more than 2,600 students this past fall, and we expect to expand our education programs this spring to reach another 2,600 students. To keep our loyal members engaged, we’ve been offering affordable tickets to virtual productions and exclusive discounts on theatre-related merchandise and streaming subscriptions, as well as daily roundups highlighting what to watch online.

TDF is also focused on the future. We are developing plans to broaden awareness of our membership program throughout New York City in order to increase the diversity of theatre and dance audiences. Some of these efforts will require additional funding, but many are happening right now as we strengthen our relationships with community partners across the five boroughs. Our staff Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) working group is in the final stages of drafting a statement of change to guide our practices and principles moving forward, and our Board working group has identified three immediate priorities: implicit bias and anti-racism education for Board and staff; plans for leadership succession and diversification; and creating mentorship opportunities for people of color in the field.

As we look toward the months ahead, we know that rebuilding the theatre alongside our neighborhoods and our city is a daunting task. We cannot do our part of this work alone. We have established new partnerships with organizations across NYC and beyond who are helping us do more with less. We recently welcomed two new members to our Board of Trustees: Dr. Carol Moore and Zak Karim. Dr. Moore is a professor at The Sophie Davis/CUNY School of Medicine, and Mr. Karim comes to us from Bank of America. Their unique perspectives will bring new ideas to our leadership, and I am thrilled to have them join us as we face the unknowns ahead.

In closing, please know that TDF is open for business even as theatres remain closed. Many of you have supported us with contributions, membership renewals, and inspiring emails and letters as we have navigated these treacherous times. We are so grateful. Rest assured our activities will continue while we wait for theatres to reopen. And when they do, we will do our part to make attending performances accessible, affordable and welcoming for all.

Best wishes for a healthy and rewarding new year,

Tory Bailey
Executive Director, TDF

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