Playbill and Broadway: Alex Birsh and family makes theater pamphlets inside Woodside, Queens printing plant

WOODSIDE, Queens (WABC) — A hidden gem of publishing is located in a building that looks unassuming.

The printing plant of Woodside, Queens, creates and produces Playbill – the quintessential theater and Broadway magazine – to a raggedy beat. The plant can produce and distribute three million Playbills a month. Each one is custom-made to hundreds of different shows.

Alex Birsh, Playbill’s COO and vice president, said: “Playbill is our lifeblood.”When you’re a part something like this, which has such a real connection to people all around the world, it is hard not to love it.

Birsh Birsh is a third-generation family member to own and publish Playbill. His grandfather Arthur worked as a Playbill plant manager in 1963 and rose through the ranks to become company president.

Playbill released its first issue on a single page for just one theatre in 1884. In the 1930s, Playbill began using its name in prints. They then invested in color presses and printed Playbills with their signature yellow. They chose this eye-catching colour because it was the most affordable.

Philip Birsh is Alex’s dad and Playbill CEO and President. He says that what makes the magazine special is its space for celebrating those who have dedicated their lives to theater arts, and their personal stories.

He said, “It is about being a part of a magical community.”

Playbill celebrates its 140th birthday next year. It is an impressive milestone in a time of declining publishing.

Playbill continues to attract theatergoers despite a downward trend. In the 2000s, Playbill released anniversary issues for popular shows like “Wicked,” Mamma Mia,” and “The Lion King.” In 2014 it released the first rainbow prints as part of Pride Month.

Playbills are a rare and special thing. Birsh noted that the playbill is both a historical relic, and a product of its time.

“We are Broadway in a nutshell.”

The 2023 Broadway Backstage Fall preview will air Sunday, October 22 at 5:30 pm on Channel 7 or wherever you stream ABC7NY.


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