If you’re environmentally concious, this post may make you puke.
Take a look at this picture I snapped over at New World Stages today. In that mongo bin are unused Playbills from only 2 shows that closed last weekend. And they were Off-Broadway shows, so their houses were small. Imagine the size of the bins at the Shubert!
I wrote about the other environment eater, the “stuffer”, a few months ago, but as far as paper is concerned, nothing compares to the Playbill problem.
And closing shows are only one small part of the issue. Unused Playbills are tossed frequently on running shows, since the Playbills are updated every week because of the amount of cast and staff changes, etc. (The New World playbills were recycled, FYI, and I assume the other theaters do the same). It’s hard to gauge inventory requirements, so over-supplying becomes a necessity to make sure the Producers are happy, because we can’t not have a program for a customer (It’s actually an AEA requirement).
You know what would really make me happy? Saving trees and saving bucks (Producers pay for Playbill, even though we have no choice but to use them. It’s in our theater agreements. We couldn’t make our own program and sell our own advertising even if we wanted to. Yet another possible revenue stream stripped away . . . after all, it is our customers in those seats, reading that Playbill, isn’t it?)
Playbill and the League are on the case, so look for some changes in the next 12 months. What could they be? Let’s give them some ideas. Here are a few of mine:
- Could we allow customers to leave their Playbills for the next patron (we could put a sleeve on the back of the seat in front of the customer, and the Playbill could be like an airline magazine. Take it if you want, leave it if you don’t.)
- Could we charge $1 for the Playbills and use the money to plant trees to offset the paper we’re burning through (in the same way that trucking companies like Clark Transfer dedicate monies to offsetting carbon emissions)
- What about removing the casting information from the Playbills altogether so they don’t have to be reprinted as often, and using new inserts each week or each day (London doesn’t even have Playbills).
- Issue one Playbill for every two people or have the ushers add “share your playbills” messages to their “be seated” speeches.
I bet you’ve got even better ideas. Let’s hear ’em.