Broadway Flea Market

Adventures of Broadway Flea Market 2019

Kelly Ostazeski

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This was my second year going to Broadway Flea Market, an annual event in September that takes place on 44th and 45th streets and Shubert Alley in New York City. All of the money raised at Broadway Flea goes to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA).

 

According to their website, “Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS helps men, women and children across the country and across the street receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance. We are one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations.”

 

This year's flea market raised $870,167 at their tables, and BC/EFA claims their top four earning tables were the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, Beetlejuice, Hadestown and Wicked.

 

If you're planning to attend a Broadway Flea in the future, take my advice, get there early. Study the map. If you want something specific, get there as early as 7:30 AM to get in line. The tables aren't supposed to start selling until 10:00 AM. In the early morning hours, the flea market is extremely crowded, and it can be challenging to get up to the tables. Especially if you want something specific. That's why I suggest getting there early.

 

Last year, I wanted something specific – one of four “Donna Murphy is Dolly Tonight” signs sold at the Curtain Call table, the one for recently closed shows. I was successful. This year, I was just there for fun, to see what I could find, and to see my theatre friends. I got there around 10:15 AM, and the streets were already crowded with people. It took a long time to get up to some of the tables. I never even made it up to the Curtain Call table.

 

Patience is key. A lot of people were very pushy, and some were rude. It was almost cutthroat just to get up to the tables and grab whatever fans could. But most people were very nice and helpful – and if you asked where they found something, they would tell you if there were more and what table. It's also great to come in groups, split up, and text each other if you find something. My friends knew to message me if they found anything Hello Dolly or Anastasia related, and I knew to text them if I found anything from Great Comet or The Cher Show.

 

Around 2:00-3:00 PM, when Sunday matinees began, the crowd started to clear out and it started to get easier to shop. Around 5:00PM, the tables practically started giving things away. Prices started going down, sellers were more willing to negotiate prices, and some were even giving things away. You can get a lot of stuff and not spend a lot of money. Cast recordings were $5, scripts and theatre books were $2. Or you can spend a lot of money and get bigger pieces – like billboards from closed shows, barricade covers, and signed memorabilia. Although around 6:00, I got two autographed pieces from Mean Girls for $1. (I haven't even seen Mean Girls yet, but I still feel like a shopping bag signed by the Plastics and a homework prop signed by Erika Henningsen and Jennifer Simard was worth it for $1.)

 

I still haven't done the autograph and photograph line, but did manage to catch Patti Murin, Princess Anna in Disney's Frozen at her table and got a selfie. Stars only appear in the morning, because many of them have matinees. There is a set price for autographs per hour, and you go in and can get all the stars' autographs per hour. For photos, there is a starting price per star and then it goes up if they're in demand. Apparently it was $100 for Bebe Neuwirth's photo. It's a great way to meet Broadway stars if you're unable to meet them at the stage door, or if they don't stage door at all, or if they're not currently in a show, but it does cost a lot.

 

It was really fun to see so many theatre fans come together in one day to celebrate their love of the performing arts and to collect new memorabilia. I had a lot of friends attending this year and that was the best part. I got some amazing things – like a barricade cover from Anastasia, an old photograph of Sutton Foster in her national tour debut The Will Rogers Follies, playbills featuring Julie Andrews, Carol Channing, and even Nicole Kidman – but seeing everyone was the best part.


Despite crowded streets, Broadway Flea is one of my favorite NYC events and I will certainly not be missing it again. My bank account needs some time to recover, but I already can't wait for next year!

Happy Hunger Ga- I Mean Broadway Flea Market

Kelly Ostazeski

I’m a new blogger for All Things Broadway and I love a wide variety of musicals, but mostly classics or classic-sounding musicals. Hello, Dolly changed my life. “The world is full of wonderful things.”

 

This Sunday, September 30, was my first time at Broadway Flea Market. I have always wanted to go but it always seemed to conflict with something else I had to do. I made it a point not to miss it this year. After years of only casually seeing shows, I still didn’t have a reason to be there. In January I saw the show that got me back into Broadway – Hello, Dolly (which is a story for another time, perhaps appearing in a future blog entry...), and I wanted to see all the friends I’d made through the show, and maybe get some swag. With Dolly’s closing in August, I knew there would be quite a bit of stuff to get. I didn’t know how much. I wasn’t prepared for what Flea Market was actually like.

 

Since I saw Donna Murphy in the show I have been saying how much I want the signs outside the theatre that said, “At this performance, DONNA MURPHY is DOLLY”, more as a joke than actually believe I would walk away with one of the signs. My friends told me they might sell them at Flea, since the show was over so they probably didn’t need the signs anymore. I didn’t actually believe it.

 

But a few days before Flea, my friend sent me screenshots of BC/EFA’s insta-story. The signs were going to be sold. Immediately, “Before the Parade Passes By” started playing in my head:

 

I’ve got a goal again, I’ve got a drive again, I wanna feel my heart coming alive again…

 

I knew I had to do my best to get the signs. The show means so much to me, and Donna was my Dolly. 

 

“Get there early,” is what everyone told me. But they weren’t supposed to start selling until 10 AM. But okay, I’d get there early. My friends and I decided on 7:30. Happy Hunger Games, I thought. This sign was going to be hard to get. This sign was the one thing I had to have. I didn’t know how many fans would want it. There were only four. Four lucky fans would walk away with a piece of Broadway history. Talk about stress!

 

The day of, my alarm went off late, but I still managed to get into the theatre district at 7:30. I walked around for a bit – and there was nothing going on. Unless you want something desperately like I did, I don’t think it’s necessary to get there that early. Volunteers were just starting to set up tables. There were only a few fans lurking around. I found a spot on a stoop in front of the Curtain Call (recently closed shows) table and decided to wait. Soon my friend showed up and after talking to a few nice people on the same stoop, we connected on our love of theatre, shared our stories, and shared what we wanted. We promised to help each other out.

 

One girl said she’d hold my spot while I scoped around for any sign of the signs. While I was gone – less than five minutes – the Donna signs appeared and I ran back down the block. A line had formed but I was allowed back to the front of the line because I had a friend holding my spot.

 

The man at the table was growing impatient with the gathering line, and kept asking the crowd to take a few steps back. They didn’t listen. He finally agreed to take cash for the Donna signs, and offered them to the first four people who wanted them. The price doesn’t matter, all I know it was less than what I’d anticipated spending, and I still had a bit of cash to spend and therefore freedom to get a few more things. All that mattered in that moment was I’d gotten my sign. I stepped out while there was a bit of confusion about the order of the line and who was getting one, and within five minutes all four signs were gone.

 

I won the Broadway Flea Market Hunger Games.


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Stress was gone. Anything else that happened that day was icing on the cake. I imagine if there’s something you desperately want, get there early and Flea Market might be stressful to anyone. Next year I can’t imagine there will be anything I want as much as this sign. I don’t think I’ll have to get there as early.

 

All day I had people coming up to me and congratulating me on my incredible prize, or just stopping me and asking where I found it. I had to tell them there were only four and sold out. Others wanted pictures with the sign or just to talk about how much they loved Donna as Dolly. The only downside was carrying around a poster sized billboard the entire day. It was awkward and a little heavy but I guarded it with my life and I was proud of what I’d accomplished. Not bad for a first timer?

 

Everything you could imagine was there – cast recordings, vinyl, playbills from the early 1900s and beyond, window cards from shows past and present, shoes signed by cast members, shirts and hoodies from shows that closed years ago, books and scripts. There was something for everyone.

 

They were supposed to be selling until 7:00 PM, but staff members were clearly done by 5:30 because at a certain point they were just trying to get rid of stuff.

 

For the autograph line, you make a donation of $35 per hour and you can go down the line and meet all the stars sitting for the hour. There wasn’t anyone I was desperate to meet. Apparently if you want a photo with someone during that hour, you go to the photo booth and request an actor. There’s a minimum donation of $20, but I heard that the more people come, the price goes up. Apparently one year when Bernadette Peters went, the photo booth started at $40 and went up to at least $80 the more people showed up. Perhaps if there was someone I was desperate to see, I would’ve done that. Perhaps next year.

 

There was a free selfie line with other different actors per hour and I did that twice – to meet Ben Fankhauser (Newsies) and Kara Lindsay (Newsies and Wicked) and then later for Lesli Margherita (Matilda) and Wesley Taylor (Spongebob).

 

Toward the end of the day, the prices on items started going down as the volunteers wanted to get rid of things. Three Frozen shirts for $5! Three souvenir cups from various shows for $5! A poster a friend was watching went down to $10 from $20. Three CDs for $15. Souvenir programs for $7. I don’t think anything was overpriced, except some things in the silent auction and some of the Lights of Broadway cards – sorry, I’m not paying $15 for a single trading card.

 

Recommendations from a first timer:

1.      Get there early if you want something desperately. Otherwise, you can get there around 9 AM.

2.      Bring cash. It’s a lot faster and they do take cards throughout the Flea Market, but instead of putting a bunch of charges on your credit/debit card, cash is so much easier.

3.      Absolutely take advantage of the Selfie Stage and meet Broadway stars

4.      Be kind to fellow fans – don’t be pushy, help each other out, and (I shouldn’t have to say this at all, but) don’t steal – this is all for charity and a good cause so don’t be selfish.

5.      Bring a large, sturdy tote bag to carry all your swag

6.      Have fun!

                                                                                                                                              

Overall, Broadway Flea Market was a LOT of fun. It’s always great to be in New York City and among these great shows. There were Broadway stars just walking the Flea Market, and hundreds of Broadway fans. Flea Market is a great way to connect and make friends with people who share the same interests.

 

As someone who was a weird theatre kid, it’s amazing that we now have events like Flea Market and BroadwayCon where we can meet and connect with other fans. I saw a girl walking around in a hoodie that said, “Warning, Breaks into Showtunes”, and I thought it was great. In the outside world, you don’t see fans who are as passionate about this incredible art form. BC/EFA’s Broadway Flea Market is an event not to miss for any musical theatre fan!