Fans Will Take Center Stage at Broadway Flea Market

By Carey Purcell
September 19, 2013

Playbill.com offers a guide of how to prepare for and make the most of the 27th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction.



Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS will present the 27th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction Sept. 22. 

Held in 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.

All money raised at the Flea Market goes to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In 2012 the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction raised a record-breaking $681,892, bringing the event's 26-year total to $9,870,369.

Among the shows scheduled to have tables this year are Annie, Cinderella, The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia!, Matilda The Musical, Motown: The Musical, Newsies, Once, Pippin, The Phantom of the Opera, Rock of Ages, The Trip to Bountiful and Wicked.

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 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.

Alice Ripley at the 2012 Flea Market
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
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/fleamarket2013 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 in 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 the items, such as 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.

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 

Andrea McArdle
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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. 

Brian Stokes Mitchell
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
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/autographphoto2013 and on Broadway Care's Facebook page.

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 $10 donation per photo with single actor. Photo prices can vary based on the celebrity.

"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 the autograph table.

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.

Steve Kazee and Tony Sheldon
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
"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 from 10 AM until 3:30 PM. Pre-bidding on silent and live auction lots is available online through Sept. 21 at 10 AM by visiting broadwaycares.org.

"On the day of the Flea Market, the Grand Auction, which will be in Shubert Alley this year, is divided in two parts," Viola and Graziano said. "The silent auction runs every half hour from 10 AM until 3:30 PM as a dozen or so new items come up in each 30-minute window. Silent auction items include everything from signed posters and photos, to props and costume pieces from Broadway shows. And there are always one-of-a-kind surprises. You'll write down your bid on sheets that are with each item. It's a good idea to place a bid early but stick around until that round closes so you can make last-second bids on items you just can't live without."

The live auction begins at 5 PM, and shoppers can wave paddles in the air to alert the auctioneer of their bids. 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."

The 27th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction is sponsored by United Airlines and The New York Times.

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.

The Star-Studded 26th Annual Broadway Flea Market

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Robert Cuccioli, Stephanie J. Block and Jill Paice
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN