Theatre fans opened their hearts and wallets at the 25th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction, propelling the unrivaled outdoor event to raise an astonishing $547,658.
The all-day event, held September 25, 2011, extended beyond its traditional West 44th Street location to include the Times Square pedestrian plaza on Broadway between West 43rd and 44th Streets. It featured 63 tables of rare and unique Broadway memorabilia, more than five dozen celebrities at the Autograph Table & Photo Booth and 203 lots up for bid in live and silent auctions.
The inaugural edition of the event in 1987 raised $12,000. This year’s total was up $70,000 over last year. The 25 editions of the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction, which is produced by and benefits Broadway Cares, have raised a grand total of $9,185,327.
“It’s wonderful to see so many Broadway Cares supporters and theatre fans from all over the country, and exhilarating to witness such extraordinary efforts by New York’s theatre community – from Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, unions, guilds, theatre offices and other theatre-related businesses – who work so hard in the weeks leading up to this event,” said Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. “We all come together to sell and auction an amazing array of incredible, hand-crafted, silly, hard-to-find, tasty, remarkable and one-of-a-kind treasures, experiences, memorabilia and just plain ‘stuff,’ all in an effort to help Broadway Cares fund hundreds of vital social services organizations. It truly confirms that we can care for one another – and have a heck of a good time doing it!”Producing this year’s event turned into an exercise of logistical mastery because of anticipated construction in Shubert Alley, where many of the event’s activities traditionally take place. This year, the Grand Auction and several of the larger tables made the move into Times Square.
“We met the challenges presented by the expected unavailability of Shubert Alley so well that the necessity of re-imagining the day, in fact, re-invented it,” Viola said. “Without a doubt, the new configuration is now ‘the map’ for future editions of the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction. It feels as if we have brought new life to the event that will serve Broadway Cares – and all those who benefit from its financial success – very well in the years to come.”In the end, 56 tables filled West 44th Street from Seventh to Eighth Avenue, as well as another seven in Times Square. Collectively, those tables raised $273,886 and represented nearly every show on Broadway and several off-Broadway shows, as well many organizations within the theatrical community.
The creativity found on New York theatre stages spilled onto the tables as one-of-a-kind treasures appeared. The company of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark created bracelets from the Kevlar cables used in the show’s web-slinging and flying sequences. Follies delivered printed party invitation carried in the show that were signed by the stars who receive them. Fans could get a Wicked make-up session or buy handmade holiday ornaments from the company of Billy Elliot.
“It’s a significant commitment to decide to have a table at the Broadway Flea Market,” explained Kim Russell, the Broadway Cares producer responsible for booking and making arrangements for 63 tables to participate in the Flea Market. “Whether it’s a show, union, guild, merchandise company or other theatre-related group, they find their own volunteers, create and/or collect merchandise to sell, design their table layout and look and help spread the word that they’ll be there. We guide, advise and provide them tables and chairs. The rest is up to them and they do a magnificent job.”
The decision to include all of West 44th Street and the Times Square location allowed for more of the show-specific tables to be in locations more convenient to their theatres.
“Cast members could easily drop by their table between and before shows,” Russell said. “Sales were up at tables compared to last year and I think the layout had something to do with that.”
The 10 tables raising the most money this year were: Wicked with $15,367; Follies with $14,819; TDF with $11,635; Broadway Beat with $10,580; The Phantom of the Opera with $9,313; The Book of Mormon with $9,229; How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying with $9,192; Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark with $7,697; United Scenic Artists Local 829 with $7,346 and War Horse/Lincoln Center Theater with $7,217.
In all, the 63 tables represented a wide range of the theatrical community on Broadway and off, from Anything Goes, Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana, Rent, Million Dollar Quartet and Avenue Q to The Actors Fund and Actors’ Equity, Broadway Green Alliance and The Broadway League; from Michael Crawford International Fan Association to the Educational Theatre Association. Each added to the wide variety of memorabilia and merchandise available throughout the day.
For the first time ever, the event stretched across Broadway and into Times Square, prompting new challenges. Production Manager Nathan Hurlin was tasked with figuring out how to move the Grand Auction’s on-stage and behind-the-scenes production from the protected confines of Shubert Alley to the wide-open pedestrian plaza.”Because we weren’t adjacent to a theatre with a basement, we had to figure out everything from how to store the auction items throughout the day to how we could power lights and sound,” Hurlin said. “The Times Square Alliance was fabulously helpful. We presented ideas to them and they helped us make them work in collaboration with the New York City Street Activity Permit Office and the local police precincts, Midtown North and South.”The Grand Auction portion of the day included both live and silent auctions, as well as instant-experience “flash auctions,” which were new this year.
“We had more live and silent auction items than we’ve ever had,” said Michael Graziano, Broadway Cares’ producing director. “Putting up new items every half hour instead of hourly definitely increased the adrenaline of the crowd and excitement of the bidding. And our flash auctions were a big hit, both in terms of raising funds and adding entertainment for the spectators.”
The live auction included 63 lots and raised $201,500. The auction was masterfully executed by longtime Broadway Cares auctioneer Lorna Kelly and a new BC/EFA friend, actress Tasha Lawrence, who recently appeared in Broadway’s Good People and comes from a family of auctioneers. Actor Bryan Batt (TV’s Mad Men) kept the audience wildly entertained as the live auction’s host.
The top-selling lot was a day at The Phantom of the Opera, including a walk-on role in the Broadway show with special costumes and make-up, which went for $10,500 to two bidders, raising $21,000 for Broadway Cares.Other top live auction items included:
• A one-of-kind photograph of the late Elizabeth Taylor taken by Rivka Katvan backstage during the 1981 production of The Little Foxes, one of her only two Broadway performances, raised $10,000. It was autographed by the acting legend exclusively for Broadway Cares shortly before her death earlier this year.• A set visit to two-time Emmy Award-winning best comedy Modern Family in Los Angeles, coordinated by Broadway favorite Jesse Ferguson, one of the stars of the show, which went for $10,000.
• A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a judge at two of Broadway Cares’ biggest events, Gypsy of the Year and the Easter Bonnet Competition, sold for $10,000 to two bidders, raising $20,000.
• Opening night performance and party tickets for 12 upcoming Broadway shows collectively raised $24,150, including $4,000 for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and $3,800 for Evita.
• VIP house seats and backstage visit to the upcoming revival of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell went for $5,000 to two bidders, raising a total of $10,000.
• A VIP visit to the set of Saturday Night Live went for $7,500.
• Walk-on roles in Chicago, Jersey Boys, Disney’s The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Memphis, Priscilla Queen of the Desert,Rock of Ages, Sister Act and Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana collectively went for $24,000.
Earlier in the day, a series of half-hour silent auctions included 140 items and raised $59,365. Musical phrases handwritten and signed by Broadway composers proved most popular. The top item sold was Godspell‘s “Day by Day” musical phrase, written and signed by Stephen Schwartz, selling for $3,500.
A marquee photo of the recent Broadway debut of Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning play The Normal Heart, taken by Gary Gadsen and signed by the entire cast, fetched $3,200. A limited edition poster honoring The Phantom of the Opera’s designation as Broadway’s longest-running show and autographed by the shows creators and stars, raised $1,580. And a classic photograph and bank check signed by legendary comedic actress Lucille Ball brought in a $1,000 donation.
Other one-of-a-kind items auctioned off ran the gamut from show props and costumes fromBloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Driving Miss Daisy to autographed theatre marquee photos and posterboards; from Whoopi Goldberg’s tunic worn at Fire Island Dance Festival 14 to a designer dress worn on television by Chicago‘s Christie Brinkley.
The “flash auctions” introduced this year featured instant experiences with Broadway stars live on the Grand Auction stage. An appearance with actress Susan Blackwell in her wildly popular Web series “Side by Side by Susan Blackwell” raised $1,120. Singing Spamalot karaoke on stage with Tony Award-nominee Christopher Sieber went for $600, while a live serenade by Anthony Rapp, one of the original stars of Rent raised $400.
“Now comes the challenging part, fulfilling more than 50 experiences on Broadway from walk-on roles to meet-and-greets with the stars to opening night tickets,” Graziano said. “After the trucks are loaded and the street cleared, it’s really more a beginning than an end as we work to make dreams come true for months to come.”
The always popular Autograph Table and Photo Booth raised $16,500 from fans who donated to Broadway Cares in exchange for autographs and photos with their favorite Broadway and television stars. That’s almost twice than in 2010.
The Grand Auction’s move from Shubert Alley to Times Square served as an unexpected boon for the celebrity portion of the event, which is housed on the outside deck of Junior’s on West 45th Street, adjacent to the Alley.
“Space in Shubert Alley that would normally be occupied by tables and auction lots was instead able to be filled with fans who enthusiastically created long lines to see this year’s impressive line-up of actors,” said Trisha Doss, an associate producer for Broadway Cares who oversaw planning for the Autograph Table and Photo Booth. “Lines stretched as far as the Shubert Theatre for the photo booth and the Schoenfeld Theatre on 45th Street for the autograph table.
More than 60 actors volunteered their time to meet with fans in one-hour shifts. Doss said the logistics of booking performers, whose schedules already are hectic, is a challenge.
“But there’s an extraordinary willingness on the actors’ part to work around show schedules, rehearsals and personal commitments to be a part of this event,” she said. “And many of them found time to stop by before what was a two-show day for them. Their willingness to give of their time and energy are what make events like the Flea Market not only successful, but fun for Broadway fans.”
Among the actors appearing this year were: Josh Gad, Nikki M. James, Andrew Rannells and Rory O’Malley from The Book of Mormon; Colin Donnell, Sutton Foster, Adam Godley and Joel Grey from Anything Goes; Patina Miller from Sister Act; Danny Burstein, Jayne Houdyshell, Ron Raines and Terri White from Follies; Nick Adams and Tony Sheldon fromPriscilla Queen of the Desert; Jackie Hoffman, Brad Oscar and Roger Rees from The Addams Family, Rose Hemingway from How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Hunter Parrish, Telly Leung, Lindsay Mendez and Anna Maria Perez de Taglé from Godspell, Seth Numrich from War Horse, Judith Light and Thomas Sadoski from Other Desert Cities, as well as other stars like Bryan Batt, Charles Busch, Bobby Cannavale, Jason Danieley, Joyce DeWitt, Michael Emerson, Ana Gasteyer, Montego Glover, Jonathan Groff, Megan Hilty, Beth Leavel, Marin Mazzie, Laura Osnes, Patrick Page, Adam Pascal, Carrie Preston, Anthony Rapp, Alice Ripley and more. Entertainer Jim Caruso returned again as host of the Autograph Table, keep fans engaged with impromptu interviews with the stars.
Such a massive endeavor could not be successful without a dedicated corps of volunteers helping to make it happen.
This year’s event welcomed more than 200 volunteers, including professional stagehands, technical theatre students, professional actors, corporate and high school groups, regional student officers of the International Thespian Society (the high school membership of the Educational Theatre Association) and, of course, Broadway Cares’ loyal team of local volunteers.
“We could not do it without any of them,” said Broadway Cares Producer and Volunteer Coordinator Scott Stevens. “By sharing with us their own individual talents and expertise, combined with their dedication, generosity and willingness to pitch-in no matter what the task, they truly serve as an integral part of what we do.”
All of the tremendous effort would be for naught if it weren’t for some unsung heroes behind-the-scenes: the financial team, which works under tight security and keeps tabs on the flow of donations throughout the day.Miraculously, the entire event appears and disappears within 13 hours.”We only have three hours to set everything up,” Hurlin, Broadway Cares’ production manager, said. “By 10 a.m. we are open for business and the first silent auction has started. Then, by 8 p.m., you would never know we had been there. Until next year, anyway, when it all happens again.”The 25th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction was generously sponsored by The New York Times and United Airlines.
Save the date: The 26th Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction is scheduled to take place on Sunday, September 23, 2012, on West 44th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue, across Broadway in the pedestrian plaza between West 43rd and West 44 Streets and on the deck of Junior’s deck.
It worked so well, we’ll do it again!
Special thanks to photographers Peter James Zielinski, Monica Simoes and Peter Gibbons.