As part of their continuing commitment to the visibility of theater in American life, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for American theater, is proud to announce a new product for engaging audiences across the country.
“Today we announce the full release of our new Playwright Trading Cards™,” Teresa Eyring, Executive Director of TCG, told the CFR. “Trading cards have long been used to honor important cultural figures, like athletes or Pokémon, and we feel it’s finally time to immortalize playwrights in such a fun, collectible way.”
The cards, numbering 130 in total, are made from quality treated card stock and highlight two or three of a writers’ most well-known works. They vary in rarity, and, as with many other card series, one never knows just who they may find when opening a new pack.
“We saw this as the perfect vehicle to celebrate some of our most influential writers,” continued Eyring. “All your favorites are here — Angels in America’s Tony Kushner, Sweat’s Lynn Nottage, Bring It On: The Musical’s Lin-Manuel Miranda.”
Limited advance distribution already proves that the cards are sure to be a hit. “You know, I initially thought this could just be a gimmick,” said Lynne Meadow, artistic director of Manhattan Theatre Club, in a conversation over the phone. “You tell yourself, ‘I’ll get one or two,’ and then pretty soon you find yourself on eBay at one in the morning bidding on a holographic Richard Nelson.”
Outside the industry, the cards seem to be finding success as well. Trev Watson, owner of the Brooklyn game store Board Game Brouhaha, told us his initial shipment of the cards had completely sold out, and the fad seemed to be catching on among collectors of all ages. “Yes, my kids are into playwright cards,” admitted Jenn Herbert, a mother of two we spoke to outside the store. “I hear them with their friends going on about ‘Bruce Norris’ and ‘Tanya Saracho’ and ‘John Patrick Shanley,’ and it’s like, what are they talking about, right? It’s like they have their own little language.” She said she doesn’t mind her sons getting caught up in the fad, but did have to resolve a dispute when one of them was tricked into trading his rare Cherríe Moraga for a popular but ubiquitous Lauren Gunderson.
And for those looking to track down the full set, they’ll also have to check their local grocery aisle. Through a unique promotion, select rare cards, including Philip Dawkins and Antoinette Nwandu, will be available only in specially marked boxes of Kellogg’s cereal. “I’ve been through eight boxes of Frosted Flakes, and still no Antoinette,” lamented Meadow. “But I’ll keep looking. I do love those Flakes.”
Despite the largely positive reception, the initial rollout of the cards did face some minor setbacks. Due to a printing error, the Neil LaBute card had to be replaced with one for Jen Silverman, and few other cards received small corrections. Watson referred us to a card displayed behind the glass counter — an early misprint of Lauren Yee that left the “k” off the title of Cambodian Rock Band. It’s little irregularities like this, he told us, which could someday make the card worth a small fortune.
“Honestly, I’m surprised we never did this sooner,” said Gus Schulenburg, TCG’s Director of Communication and Community Engagement, reflecting on the cards’ success. He says he inherited his father’s baseball card collection as a child, and that Eyring regularly brings her “killer” Yu-Gi-Oh! deck to the office for impromptu matches among staffers. “If the demand keeps up, who knows what we’ll release next? Playwright keychains? Playwright plushies?” In an email to Tony Kushner, CFR posed this very question. He responded favorably to the idea of playwright plushies and provided us with 5,000 words of notes to ensure his vision was executed correctly.
Playwright Trading Cards™ are currently on sale wherever trading cards are sold, or through TCG’s website. The starter deck “Emergence,” is $19.99, with additional booster packs available for $3.99 each. Two expansion decks are also on the way — “Ancient Greeks,” to be released on July 10, and “Beckett and the Absurdists,” with an arrival date TBD.
This post is sponsored by Theatre Communications Group.