On Monday, June 6 at 5 pm, TDF will host its annual Wendy Wasserstein Project ceremony at The Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College (524 West 59th Street). Founded as Open Doors in 1998 by TDF and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, this unique arts mentorship program pairs top theater professionals with NYC-area public high school students for a season of shows and conversation. This special celebration of all they saw and learned will open with performances the cast of Rent from Brooklyn High School of the Arts.
“The TDF Wendy Wasserstein Project honors Wendy’s vision of accomplished theater professionals taking small groups of students to the theatre, meeting afterwards and chatting-a simple yet eloquent way to celebrate the joy of live theatre. This year we transitioned back to that, slowly stepping into lit houses and seeing each other with new eyes,” said Ginger Bartkoski Meagher, Director of TDF Education Programs. “As a group, we got the chance to investigate what is meaningful, personal and lasting about attending live performance. We explored our resilience and new normal together. Amazing students and mentors journeyed through the season, inspiring one another and learning about the world as it’s reflected through art and through each other.”
Wendy Wasserstein always said that “theatregoing is the birthright of every New Yorker,” and TDF’s Wendy Wasserstein Project operates on that belief. Every season, dedicated theater and dance professionals mentor groups of eight underserved New York City high school students, bringing each cohort to six performances on Broadway and beyond throughout the school year. Every outing is followed by a lively post-show discussion, and the students keep journals of their theater experiences, which are reviewed by and discussed with their mentors. Through this personal and dynamic interaction, TDF’s Wendy Wasserstein Project fosters a deep appreciation of theater and an understanding of its relevance in the students’ lives.
In 2012, TDF’s Wendy Wasserstein Project became the first arts education program to receive a special Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre. During the 2021-2022 season, 29 mentors worked with 23 groups of students from NYC-area public high schools. To help continue their theater-going journey, all participants received free TDF memberships.
The 2021-22 TDF Wendy Wasserstein Project mentors and the schools the students attend:
Marc Acito, playwright – Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & the Arts, the Bronx
Kathleen Chalfant, actress – High School of Telecommunication Arts & Technology, Brooklyn
Rachel Chanoff, producer/performing arts programmer, and Keith Randolph Smith, actor – Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts, East Orange, NJ
Dawn Chiang, lighting designer – KAPPA International High School, the Bronx
Mindi Dickstein, lyricist – Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School, Staten Island
Alexander Dinelaris, playwright/director – Community School for Social Justice, the Bronx
Joe DiPietro, playwright/lyricist – High School of Economics & Finance, Manhattan
Ira Mont, stage manager – Repertory Company High School for Theater Arts, Manhattan
Scott Ellis, director – All Hallows High School, the Bronx
Peter Friedman and Caitlin O’Connell, actors – Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, the Bronx
Anne Hamburger, producer – The Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts, Manhattan
Natasha Katz, lighting designer – Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School, Queens
James Lapine, writer/director, and Stephen Karam, playwright – William Cullen Bryant High School, Queens
Robert Longbottom, director/choreographer – Millennium High School, Manhattan
Aubrey Lynch II, dancer/choreographer – Talent Unlimited High School, Manhattan
Derek McLane, set designer – Edward R. Murrow High School, Brooklyn
Kathleen Marshall, director/choreographer – Bronx Health Sciences High School, the Bronx
Justin Paul, composer/lyricist, and Marc Platt, producer – West Bronx Academy for the Future, the Bronx
Seth Rudetsky, musician/actor/writer/radio host, James Wesley, actor/producer, and Eric Ulloa, actor/playwright – Brooklyn High School of the Arts, Brooklyn
Dick Scanlan, playwright/director/actor – Robert F. Kennedy Community High School, Queens
Sergio Trujillo, choreographer – Pan American International High School, Queens
Serena Wong, lighting designer, and Leonardo Sandoval, dancer/choreographer – Flushing International High School, Queens
David Zippel, lyricist/director – The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, Manhattan
To watch a brief video of Wendy Wasserstein in 2003 talking about co-founding the program with TDF, go to: http://bit.ly/1hAIvN9 (Wendy’s comments begin 59 seconds into the video.)
ABOUT TDF: Founded in 1968, TDF is a not-for-profit service organization dedicated to bringing the power of the performing arts to everyone. TDF’s mission is to sustain live theater and dance by engaging a broad and diverse audience and eliminating barriers to attendance. TDF fulfills its mission with a variety of programs that expand access, cultivate communities and support the makers of the performing arts.
TDF is known for its theatre-going programs, including the TKTS Discount Ticket Booth and TDF Membership program; Accessibility programs (including open captioned, audio described and Autism Friendly Performances), Education & Community Engagement programs (serving more than 12,000 New York City students annually and thousands of underserved individuals and veterans), as well as the TDF Costume Collection Rental and Research Programs . During the COVID-19 theater shutdown, TDF continued to serve its constituents by creating virtual adaptations of its programs via Zoom and other streaming platforms. TDF envisions a world where the transformative experience of attending live theater and dance is essential, relevant, accessible and inspirational. To learn more about TDF, go to tdf.org. Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: @tdfnyc.