Stagebill, the New York-based company that publishes programs for the Goodman Theatre, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and many of Chicago's other leading performing arts organizations, has sold its publishing rights to its main and bigger rival, Playbill Magazine.
New York-based Playbill confirmed it has acquired the rights to publish under the Stagebill name, effective Sept. 1, but offered no other details on the deal, in a prepared statement Friday.
It apparently has not been decided whether Playbill, which publishes programs for most Broadway and off-Broadway theaters, will take over Stagebill's clients under its own name or continue to publish in Chicago and elsewhere under the Stagebill name.
On its Web site, Playbill Online, Playbill said "which of Stagebill's clients Playbill will eventually service will be decided in separate contract negotiations with each venue." Gerry Byrne, CEO of Stagebill Media, could not be reached for comment Sunday.
In an internal memorandum sent to Stagebill employees Friday, staffers were told they would have the opportunity to interview with Playbill but were not guaranteed jobs after Sept. 1. As of Sunday, Stagebill had five employees based in an office in the Wrigley Building on North Michigan Avenue (one other employee left the company Friday).
Stagebill's Chicago-based managing editor, Michael McQueen, said Sunday he was "completely floored" by the news.
In recent months, the financially strapped Stagebill Media, founded in Chicago and now a limited partnership, has been trimming its client list, telling several small Chicago theaters it was no longer economically viable to publish their programs. But Stagebill retained most of Chicago's biggest theaters and continued to publish Chicago-based articles in its program books.
Before this announcement, Playbill's only major Chicago client had been the Broadway in Chicago series. It does not have an office in Chicago.
Steppenwolf studio season: Four world premieres make up the 2002-03 season at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, continuing the troupe's renewed emphasis on collaboration with smaller Chicago theaters.
"Theatre District" by Richard Kramer (the writer of "My So-Called Life" and "Once and Again") will be produced in collaboration with the About Face Theatre Company. The world-premiere comedy runs Oct. 26 to Nov. 4.
"No Place Like Home," an ensemble-driven piece created and directed by Jessica Thebus, is a Chicago-based exploration of varying notions of community. Based on true stories, the work opens Jan. 18 and runs through Feb. 9.
"The Seagull" will be Redmoon Theater's new take on the Chekhovian masterpieceproduced here with the aid of mechanical objects. The visually oriented work opens March 29 and plays through April 20.
"We All Went Down to Amsterdam," a play revolving around a troublemaker in a nursing home, continues Steppenwolf's relationship with playwright Bruce Norris ("The Infidel"). It runs June 21, 2003, to July 13, 2003.
Subscriptions are available. For more information, call 312-335-1650.
The schedule includes the Trisha Brown Company from Oct. 4 to 6, Gordon and his Pick Up Performance Company (in the full-length "Private Lives of Dancers") Oct. 17 to 19, Australian Dance Theatre (in the full-length "Birdbrain") Nov. 7 to 9 and Chicago's Luna Negra Dance Theater from Nov. 21 to 23.
"Into the West," celebrating San Francisco-based troupes, includes Sara Shelton Mann/Contraband from Feb. 20 to 22, Robert Moses' "Kin" March 6 to 8 and the Joe Goode Performance Group from March 20 to 22. The companies of Chicagoans Melissa Thodos (March 28 to 30) and Jan Erkert (April 11 and 12) are also on the lineup, along with the Twin Cities' JAZZDANCE from May 1 to 3. Subscription and single tickets go on sale July 29. Call 312-344-8300.