Theatre Development Fund Will Pilot Autism Theatre Initiative at Disney's The Lion King

News   Theatre Development Fund Will Pilot Autism Theatre Initiative at Disney's The Lion King
Theatre Development Fund, the not-for-profit performing arts service organization whose mission includes making theatre accessible for all audiences, will pilot a new program, Autism Theatre Initiative, at the Oct. 2 performance of Disney's The Lion King at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre.

The program, which is a part of TDF’s Accessibility Programs (TAP), will present the first ever autism-friendly performance in Broadway history. TDF has purchased every seat at the 1 PM performance for sale to families whose members include individuals on the autism spectrum.

“Our goal is to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming families with children and adults on the autism spectrum, including Asperger’s syndrome, to fill the theatre and be assured that everyone involved with the production—from the cast, production crew and theatre staff—is delighted to have the audience there," said TAP director Lisa Carling in a statement. "No judgments—just united support in making the theatre experience as enjoyable as possible for its audience.”

TDF is working with an advisory panel of experts in the field of autism, and in order to be “autism-friendly,” the show will be performed in a friendly, supportive environment. Slight adjustments to the production will include reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. In the theatre lobby area there will be designated quiet areas, staffed with autism experts, if anyone needs to leave his or her seats during the performance.

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. For more information on TAP’s services, go to

The Lion King began as a 1994 animated feature-length film developed and produced by the Walt Disney Company. The story, a coming-of-age parable set among animals indigenous to its setting, the African savanna, tells the tale of Simba, the lion cub who rises to be the King of the jungle. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, 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.

The musical won six 1998 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical.

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