Shopping With the Stars — The Essential Guide to Ultimate Success at the Broadway Flea Market

News   Shopping With the Stars — The Essential Guide to Ultimate Success at the Broadway Flea Market
 
Playbill.com offers a guide of how to prepare for and make the most of the 29th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS will present the 29th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction Sept. 27. The day-long fundraiser begins at 10 AM and continues through 7 PM.

Held in and around Shubert Alley (West 44th St. between Broadway and Eighth Ave.), the Flea Market offers fans the opportunity to buy memorabilia from their favorite Broadway shows as well as purchase autographs and photographs with Broadway stars.

Every hour from 11 AM-3 PM, a new group of Broadway favorites will take their place on the deck of Junior’s Restaurant in Shubert Alley at West 45th Street for the Autograph Table and Photo Booth. Broadway shows represented at the Autograph Table and Photo Booth include Allegiance, Amazing Grace, An American in Paris, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Book of Mormon, Dames at Sea, Fiddler on the Roof, Finding Neverland, Fun Home, Hand to God, Jersey Boys, The King and I, Kinky Boots, School of Rock, Something Rotten!, Spring Awakening, Sylvia and Tuck Everlasting.

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Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

All money raised at the Flea Market goes to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In 2014, the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction raised $713,986, bringing the event's 28-year total to more than $11 million.

Often referred to as the best day of the year by Broadway fans, the plethora of opportunities the Flea Market offers can seem overwhelming to some. Playbill.com previously spoke to Tom Viola, executive director, and Michael Graziano, producing director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights, to get some tips on how to make the most of the day.

Be a Man or Woman With a Plan

Given the large number of options available at the Flea Market, Viola and Graziano suggested shoppers begin planning a few days in advance. One of the first steps they recommended was to visit broadwaycares.org/fleamarket to learn which shows and organizations are hosting tables. Mapping out what times celebrities will be at the autograph table and photo booth, as well as details on the live and silent auction lots, is also recommended, to ensure shoppers won't miss meeting their favorite stars.

When packing for the Flea Market, they suggested bringing several cloth bags to stash purchases as the day goes on. If shoppers don't have any cloth bags at home, the Broadway Green Alliance table offers recycled bags for a donation.

The night before the Flea Market, shoppers should pack any CDs, DVDs and Playbills that they want autographed in their bags. While the autograph booths at the Flea Market will have their own markers on hand, it doesn't hurt for shoppers to bring one or two of their own. (Metallic gel pens are especially good if fans want something with a dark background signed.) Food and drink are not sold at the Flea Market (but there are restaurants and snack stands nearby), so packing a snack and a bottle of water is never a bad idea, either.

The Grand Auction table at the 2006 Broadway Flea Market.
The Grand Auction table at the 2006 Broadway Flea Market. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Bringing cash is also recommended, as using a credit card involves going to a separate bank table to process the transaction and can take extra time.

Shoppers may want to look their best when mingling with VIPs, but comfortable shoes are a smart choice, as the day involves almost nonstop standing up and walking around.

Rise and Shine 

The Flea Market begins at 10 AM, and Viola and Graziano recommended arriving early. "For those interested in bringing home memorabilia, such as scripts, costume renderings, Playbills and posters, many of the tables have literally thousands of items to search. Give yourself a few hours to properly scour through each table and find the perfect addition to your collection. New merchandise is often added throughout the day so be sure to check back with your favorites often."

After arriving at Shubert Alley, Graziano suggested going to broadwaycares.org/flea on a smartphone. The day of the Market, the site will provide a full map, the latest celebrity autograph table schedule and the final list of auction lots.

Broadway shows are performed at their regular times the day of the Flea Market, so if shoppers need a break from scouting for bargains, they can stop by the TKTS booth for tickets to a show. 

Sharpen Your Sharpie

The Celebrity Autograph Table & Photo Booth are the most crowded parts of the market, featuring dozens of stars of stage and screen giving fans the opportunity to get autographs and pose for pictures with their favorite stars from Broadway and Off-Broadway in exchange for donations to Broadway Cares. The most current schedule of stars is listed at broadwaycares.org/fleamarket2015autograph and on Broadway Care's Facebook page.

Andy Mientus and Nikki M. James sign autographs in 2014
Andy Mientus and Nikki M. James sign autographs in 2014 Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Celebrities appearing at the Autograph Table and Photo Booth change hourly between 11 AM–3 PM, and each paid pass through the line allows fans to meet more than a dozen celebrities. Fans can have up to two items signed by each person appearing in each time slot. The line will officially close at 2 PM for the final hour.

Autographs require a minimum $30 donation each hour for all performers that hour, and photos require a minimum $20 donation per photo with a single actor. Photo prices can vary based on the celebrity. And for a minimum $50 donation, BC/EFA will share the photo of fans with their favorite performers on Broadway Cares' official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

"While company members are helping out at the shows' tables throughout the day, cast members may drop by before their matinees. For prime star sightings, hop in line for the celebrity autograph table and photo booth," Viola and Graziano said. "Every hour a new group of celebrities take their seats so check out the schedule to pick your favorite hours. Many fans begin lining up early to be sure they get to the table. Remember that the schedule can change, so even if you miss your favorite, the table each hour is filled with amazingly talented people anxious to meet you."

The lines are separate for the autograph table and photo booth, and Viola and Graziano recommended planning carefully to ensure shoppers make the most out of their time. They also stressed that no photos are allowed with performers who are signing at the autograph table.

Lena Hall signs autographs in 2014
Lena Hall signs autographs in 2014 Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The autograph table and photo booth involve waiting in line, so strategizing with friends and fellow shoppers is key at the Flea Market. Before getting in line, shoppers should notify their friends of their favorite shows or items they should keep an eye out for. One savvy shopper could snatch up a great deal or a one-of-a-kind purchase while another is waiting in line.

"Going Once, Going Twice..."

 

Along with items for sale, photographs and autographs, the Flea Market also features a silent auction and a live auction. Viola and Graziano recommended not missing the latter, describing the live auction as "a show unto itself." 

Silent auction lots will be opened every half hour. Pre-bidding on silent and live auction lots is available online through 6 PM EST Sept. 25 by visiting broadwaycares.org. Every half hour a new set of items will go up for auction in Times Square; winners' names will be posted throughout the day at the Auction Pick-Up Table. The live auction begins at 5 PM between 43rd and 44th Streets.

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Viola and Graziano said items can go fast, so planning ahead can make bidding more successful. 

While planning for the Flea Market is important, Viola and Graziano said, "Relax and have fun! It's the biggest day for Broadway fans. Take your time to walk the tables. Plan ahead for auctions and autographs. And remember that the money from every single item you buy or bid on goes toward helping ensure that those battling HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses receive lifesaving medication and health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance. When Broadway fans come together, they truly make a difference."

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation's leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised more than $225 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

Broadway Cares awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations nationwide and is the major supporter of the social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative and the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic.


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