Price Berkley, Founder of Industry's Theatrical Index, Has Died

News   Price Berkley, Founder of Industry's Theatrical Index, Has Died
Price Berkley, the founder of Theatrical Index, a low-tech weekly compilation of Broadway production data sold by subscription to journalists, producers, agents and other industry folk, died Aug. 21 at his home in Manhattan, according to a press representative.

Mr. Berkley grew up in Philadelphia, PA, with his father Harry, mother Selma and sister Sydney. In Philly, he first fell in love with theatre — after seeing his first show, the revue Flying Colors. He reportedly spent his allowance seeing every show he could, including many out-of-town tryouts that played Philadelphia before Broadway.

Mr. Berkley served as cryptographer in the Air Force during World War II and was stationed in both Luxor and Rome. Following the war, he moved to New York to study acting at The Dramatic Workshop. He worked as a hotel clerk and in advertising before taking a job with Earl Blackwell at Celebrity Service. There, he had the idea to create a publication that would serve the theatre business community.

Mr. Berkley published the first issue of the Theatrical Index on Nov. 9, 1964, typing the first issues in his apartment and beginning with a base of 16 subscribers. The business quickly grew and his comprehensive guide to the "who, what, where and when of the American theatre" soon became an indispensable resource for virtually every theatre professional.

Even today, the Theatrical Index has a typewritten, handcrafted, personally-researched quality to it. The current Aug. 22-Sept. 11 issue has 39 pages.

Some call it "The Bible." Playbill employees have sworn by it for years: You need a producer's phone number? Check the Index. You need to know a tryout date, or an opening date? Check the Index. The headings within the Broadway-centric Index include "Currently On the Boards," "Previews," "In Rehearsal," "Road Tours," "Off-Broadway Openings," "From the Regionals," "Special Attractions" and brief news sections called "Save the Date" and "Highlights." Mr. Berkley retired from the Index in 2007, but continued as a consultant until 2010. In 2007, Steve Bebout, a longtime employee at the Index, took over as the publication's Editor in Chief. He continues the tradition.

Mr. Berkley once said of the publication, "It was never my job, it's just an extension of my hobby. The theatre is the best friend I ever had."

Mr. Berkley worked for many charities and served on many industry committees over the years. He was a longtime member of the Tony Awards nominating committee, and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2003.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to The Actors Fund of America, 729 Seventh Avenue, New York, New York, 10019.

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