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More New Audiences for New York

With a lively orientation session, TDF kicks off the second year of the NANY program

You know you’re at a theatre event when people introduce themselves by touching elbows, knees, and hands, and then boisterously shouting, “Hello!”

Those lively greetings echoed through midtown earlier this month, when TDF gathered the group leaders for the second year of New Audiences for New York.

A program designed to encourage theatregoing among those who don’t regularly attend live performances, NANY sends groups from all five boroughs to see at least two Broadway shows. Before and after each performance, the groups meet with a TDF teaching artist, who facilitates discussions about everything from the themes in a production to the acting and costumes to the value of theatre itself.

Last year, the inaugural season of NANY was a rousing success , sending over thirty groups from churches, schools, community centers, and beyond to experience Broadway for the first time. It quickly became clear that along with the group members and teaching artists, each group’s leader was an indispensible part of the program, and that was the message behind this year’s orientation session.

Welcoming over thirty group leaders from around the city, Robert Gore, TDF’s program outreach coordinator, said, “As group leaders, you are one of the most important links between the theatre and your community. You’re advocates and educators.”

For the rest of their session, the group leaders were also artists and students.

First, TDF teaching artists led the group leaders in a series of icebreakers with a theatrical flair. After greeting each other with elbows and knees, they walked around to various pieces of music, changing their pace and posture to suit the mood. Once they were fully warmed up, they even created and performed short scenes based on their own lives

These activities demonstrated how accessible the theatre can be, how anyone can experience the joy of live performance. Next, the group leaders realized how easy it is to become a theatre student.

A pair of professional actors arrived to perform a powerful scene from August Wilson’s play Fences. Afterward, the group leaders debated what they’d seen.

Finally, they discussed the logistics of getting their groups from, say, Staten Island or Harlem to a Broadway theatre. Combined with the artistic and educational components of the session, these practical conversations gave the leaders a vivid sense of what they and NANY would be bringing to their communities this spring.

(For more information on New Audiences for New York, contact Robert Gore at robertg@tdf.org)

Mark Blankenship is TDF’s online content editor

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