Making a Difference at the 31st Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction

The 31st Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction, organized by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, took place on Sunday, September 24th, raising a record-breaking $1,023,309 for AIDS/HIV research and services funding.

The south side of 45th St. was blocked off for the flea market.

The Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction is an annual event set in the heart of the theater district, this year blocking half of 44th and 45th Streets between 7th and 8th avenues with booths from a number of Broadway and off-Broadway shows, such as Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton: An American Musical, and Sweeney Todd, selling everything from signed posters to historical theater memorabilia.

One of this year’s fan-favorite booths was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which closed earlier this month due to tone-deaf casting and racial controversy. Booths are typically swarmed by patrons with little rhyme or reason; however, fans of The Great Comet were ushered to wait in a line that stretched halfway down 45th in order to even glimpse at the items for sale.

“I’ve been obsessed with The Great Comet since Phillipa Soo was in it,” said Melissa Braun, a Long Island high school senior in line who was excited about “any opportunity” to support her favorite show. “It’s so cool what they’re doing right now by re-purposing all the props,” she said, referring to pieces of the stage curtain and letters exchanged between lovers during the musical that were framed and sold.

Broadway fans sort through boxes of old Playbills, hoping to find a rare or favorite show.

Booths ran by entertainment companies and organizations such as the Theater World Awards and Theater Development Fund could also be found in the flea market, selling more affordable items such as retro Playbills and raffles for a variety of show tickets.

ITO officers run the EdTA booth.

The Educational Theater Association returned this year with their booth ran by International Thespian Society officers, a coalition of peer elected leaders from high schools across the country that advocate for arts education.

“This is my first time in New York as a whole and it’s so magical,” said Tyler Fredrickson, an ITO officer from Salem, Oregon and high school senior. “Being here because students elected me to be here is just the biggest honor in the world. There’s nothing more inspiring than being surrounded by so many people who are so passionate about creating art and understanding each other.”

Their booth featured an array of signed scores, original cast recording CDs, magnets and other memorabilia, as well as items from the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which had a two-show day on Sunday and could not participate itself, instead sending worn and signed costume jazz shoes from the show to the EdTA booth being sold for $15 each.

While fans love the unique finds that the flea market offers and the environment of like-minded theatre enthusiasts it fosters, it’s important not to lose sight of the purpose of the annual event, which is to raise money to benefit AIDS/HIV patients and research.

For Angelica Franklin, a staff member of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the focus of the day for her was simple: “Making a difference.”

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is already looking forward to more exciting events to come in the fall to support this vision, such as the Hudson Valley Dance Festival on October 7th and organizing their Broadway Run team in the 5K New York Runner’s Dash on November 4th.