New York Mayor de Blasio Launches New Initiatives To Bring Free Live Theater To Low-Income Families

The city's latest initiatives are taking Broadway further than ever before.

At yesterday’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), charitable initiatives took center stage.

During a kickoff event at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, and the mayor's MOME Commissioner Julie Menin announced three initiatives to make theater more accessible to low-income families all over the city. 

"We are thrilled to present this year of events and initiatives aimed at exposing New Yorkers from all backgrounds to everything that the media and entertainment sectors have to offer," Menin said.

The first program, Access Broadway, promises to provide low-income residents with 1,000 free tickets to family-friendly Broadway shows.

Hamilton, always blazing a new trail down Broadway, gave 1,300 tickets to students from high poverty schools back in April. But ever since Lin-Manuel Miranda's imminent leave has sent individual ticket prices upwards of $10,000, an industry-wide initiative is more important now than ever. 

Partnering with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and members of the Broadway League, MOME will provide NYCHA residents with 100 tickets per month for 10 Broadway shows. 

Funded by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 817, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), and the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Foundation, the initiative aims to expand the positive cultural impact of live theater. 

The president of Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, Thomas J. O'Donnell, said, "The members of Local 817 are proud to sponsor 'Access Broadway,' bringing world-class theater to those New Yorkers and their families who ordinarily wouldn't have the opportunity to enjoy." 

Though MOME can't afford to bring everyone to the theater, it can — and is — bringing the theater to them.

Its Broadway in the Boros initiative will bring live Broadway theater to every neighborhood for the first time in city history. In the form of vignettes performed by current cast and orchestra members, selected hit musicals will take place during free and open to the public lunchtime shows.

One performance will take place in each borough all summer long. Beginning on Friday, June 24, at National Lighthouse Point Plaza in Staten Island, favorite shows such as Fiddler on the Roof will be playing on the pavement. 

Besides live theater, MOME is also enabling low-income families to spend an afternoon at the movies.

During the month of August, MOME Movie Matinees will give low-income New York City families in all five boroughs movie vouchers to matinee screenings of family-friendly films.  

In another partnership with NYCHA, as well as Sony Pictures Entertainment, AMC Theatres, Bow Tie Cinemas, National Amusements Inc., Reading International Inc. and Regal Entertainment Group, the program aims to provide NYCHA residents with a free and fun way to explore their creative interests.

New York is just the latest city to expand its arts and culture outreach programs, but it's already in good company.

In April, Cleveland Public Theatre received a $500,000 grant to launch a new arts education initiative for children of low-income families and increase participation in its Brick City program. 

Burbank, Calif.'s EngAGE in Creativity nonprofit program provides college-level arts and creativity classes, programs, and events to more than 3,000 low- and moderate-income older adults. 

Now that New York has joined the cast of cities empowering and enabling their citizens to experience the arts, hopefully others will take the cue and hit their mark.