Playbill makes return as curtain rises on Broadway again

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Friday, October 29, 2021
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In 2019, they printed 3.4 million copies of playbill every month. But when the pandemic hit and Broadway went dark, the presses stopped for the first time in 135 years.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- If theater in New York has a brand, it's probably the iconic and free playbill - which is an integral part of the Broadway experience that starts even before the curtain rises.

"They read their playbills, they want to know who's in the show, they want to know what's been at that theater, they want to know if there's intermission, they want to know what songs, they want to know who's in the cast," said Playbill owner Philip S. Birsh.

The job of Playbill is to honor the achievement of actors and artists. And it's a job that Birsh is committed to.

"These people are building something from nothing, something glorious, a piece of artwork and they deserve our support," he said.

The dimensions have not changed in decades and the logo has never changed.

Playbill is a family owned company that, amid a thunderous din of mechanical precision, prints in Woodside, Queens.

Alex is the third-generation of the Birsh family to work there.

"I wanted to contribute to this amazing legacy that we have," he said.

In 2019, they printed 3.4 million copies of playbill every month. But when the pandemic hit and Broadway went dark, the presses stopped for the first time in 135 years.

"Like everyone else we did not know how deep this well was, literally I was speaking to people saying well when we get back to business in a month or two," Birsh said.

It was a year and a half. The company lost a fortune and exhausted all of their working capital.

They are back now, as one by one, shows start to reopen. And they are, as they always have, celebrating the creative magic of the artists they write about.

"We at Playbill celebrate this community and the passion and devotion they put into it," Brish said.

These have been lean times since the pandemic but more shows are opening and pretty soon tourists from abroad will be back in New York and back in theaters.

Slowly Playbill is getting back to work.

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