I have always liked to collect objects. My shelves are overloaded, I have stacks of old magazines, and I even have a supply of cassettes. I also love to collect vinyl records, retro video games and bottle caps! Recently, I have also started collecting comics. However, there is one thing that I love to collect above all else: Playbills.
When I was younger, I spent a lot of time with my cousin. As I started to get into musicals, she showed me something special that she had hidden: a small closed box full of Playbills. I remember spending hours at her kitchen table, combing them through, trying to memorize every detail. There were shows like The producers that I first learned in this box. It was a magical experience. Since then, I want my own collection. My aunt started catching extra Playbills every time she saw shows. Then slowly but surely other people in my life followed. Now every time my friends see a show they tend to grab at least one Playbill from me.
Over the years, my collection has grown considerably. Aside from my friends and family, I’ve also been to things like the Broadway Flea Market as a way to build my collection, although I rarely buy Playbills unless they’re in bulk, or let it be something really special. I’ve also been known to prowl around Shubert Alley when the shows come out on a Sunday afternoon and literally come out of the Playbills out of the gutter (I’ve had a few souvenir mugs that way too!).
Last weekend I spent some time sorting them out. Several years ago I invested in laminate sleeves to keep them safe. Now I’m starting to look at picture frames to hang on my walls.
Sifting through trash cans and filing cabinets, I came across Playbills for Totalizer and Altar Boyz, I started to get angry. My memory is not excellent, so every time I browse my collection there is a new discovery. Collecting posters makes me feel connected to shows that I couldn’t afford to see or that I was too young to see. I was seven in 2008, so obviously I didn’t get to see things like [title of show] while it was on Broadway (although I would have been the only seven year old obsessed with this show). I have a Playbill for this though. I don’t know where I got it, but every time I see it it makes me smile. The same goes for newer shows like Hadestown and The group’s visit. I’ve never seen them, but I have a piece of them.
Like any collector, I have my white whales. I spent time looking for a How to be successful in business without really trying Poster with Darren criss on the cover. I will always be on the lookout for each beetle juice cover variant that has already been printed. And all Pride Playbills are always a welcome addition to my collection. But I also think back to the great finds that have fallen in my life. Find a poster for Frogs sitting in a trash can at the Broadway flea market in 2019, or paying $ 5 for one Hamilton Original Cast Playbill in January 2016 (the only Playbill I specifically paid for).
It’s a fun little niche. And it’s a great way to experience a show, even years or decades after that show closes. Do any of you collect Playbills? What are your best finds? Or your dream finds? I would love to hear from them!