Beneficiaries of Lantern Tix hit the red carpet on opening night of "Into the Woods" (Photo credit: Courtesy of Harriet Tubman Effect)

Last week, the Harriet Tubman Effect announced a partnership with multiple Broadway shows to launch Lantern Tix, an accessible ticketing initiative. HTE, founded by Nicole Javanna Johnson, is a human resource center and institute for justice advocacy and research that works to dismantle systemic oppression.

Through the new program, groups and individuals from participating New York community-based organizations, schools and under-resourced communities will be given the opportunity to attend a Broadway show for just $22.50. These organizations are communities that are in alignment with the principles of HTE, which include dismantling systemic oppression. HTE founder Nicole Javanna Johnson told Broadway News there are over 80 communities building partnerships with the organization.

“Communities are determined as eligible after they’ve engaged in a community partnership meeting with one of our Harriet Tubman Effect researchers and discussed their commitment to our five values (resisting white supremacy culture, research as learning, reallocation of wealth, culture of empathy and efficacy),” Johnson said. Lantern Tix is just one way HTE supports partner organizations; they also connect them to mental health resources, support DEI work and more. “We seek to enter into intentional partnership with these communities beyond the ticketing initiative, so an intentional meeting with our researchers is the first step to finding shared goals and purpose.”

On the ticketing front, Johnson said that on GivingTuesday eve, about 30 industry professionals — including producers, general managers, company managers, DEI consultants, accessibility consultants and nonprofit theater managers — met to discuss accessible ticketing and how it can be sustained. During the call, HTE broke down their definition of wealth into four pillars: financial, social, time and health. The organization works to reallocate wealth within these four areas.   

Barriers to sustained accessible ticketing initiatives were also addressed. As a result, an affinity group of theater industry professionals was established to meet monthly to discuss accessibility and DEI.

The ticketing initiative began with a partnership between Sara Bareilles, Gavin Creel and the producers of “Into the Woods” and continues to grow. So far, “Into the Woods” has donated 1,000 tickets to communities that don’t typically have access to Broadway. More than two dozen schools and organizations have benefitted from those tickets, including Professional Performing Arts School, Waterwell, Apex for Youth, Covenant House, Leadership Prep, Queens Metropolitan, Creo College Prep and WEPA (We Engage in Prevention Awareness).

Additional participating Broadway productions now include “Kimberly Akimbo,” “Leopoldstadt” and “Topdog/Underdog.” These shows “engage in an accessible ticketing philosophy meeting and ongoing sessions that help us to develop the correct line of engagement for their accessible ticketing work,” Johnson said. “They must designate (ahead of time) an amount of tickets and engage with a Harriet Tubman Effect researcher for all accessibility needs, development of the ticketing technology that will support our community and navigate any needs for audience communication alongside Harriet Tubman Effect.”

To launch the Lantern program, participating Broadway shows made tickets available for $22.50 to partner organizations for select performances in November. Johnson said the shows sell the discounted tickets directly from their allotment of seats. The Harriet Tubman Effect distributed 900 tickets throughout the month.

“There was a group of children from the Harriet Tubman Effect that sat in the first and second row on our opening night for ‘Into the Woods,’” Bareilles said in a statement. “I will never forget the way they looked up at Patina Miller singing ‘Children Will Listen.’ It was like watching them watch an extraordinary magic trick.”

HTE aims to grow Lantern Tix into a permanent, ongoing program. A group of community members or an individual’s night at the theater can be underwritten at $22.50 a ticket. Individuals or groups interested in sponsoring a $22.50 ticket on behalf of a community can contribute to HTE’s Lantern Fund.