The theater program has long been part of the theater-going
experience, telling audience members who’s in the cast, production staff, crew,
pit, or other teams that helped produce the show. Often, they’ll also have
actor/actress bios, lists of upcoming shows in the same theater or area, short
articles about the history of the play, advertising, and other pages of
interest.

Though the programs can also be called “playbills,” Playbill
itself is a company that has made itself the go-to publisher for theater
programs. All Broadway shows have the distinctive yellow “Playbill” banner on
the cover of their program, as do many nationally touring productions. Playbill
has a program that is standard, meaning it has become well-designed by effect,
as people know where to find each section they might be looking for.

More
interestingly, though, is the fact that Playbill has made its brand out of
simply publishing theater programs. It has an active social media presence, and
even sells playbill-sized binders to encourage people to save their programs as
souvenirs or collectibles. The choice of such a distinctive cover – few, if
any, shows would otherwise choose a cover image dominated by yellow – ensures that
its programs are recognizably branded wherever one attends a show. And, by
focusing on monopolizing the heart of the theater industry (Broadway), it has
given itself credibility, cultivating an image that a truly “legit” show has a “Playbill”
program.