As Broadway battles Omicron and a slow winter tourism season, there’s a new avenue to support theater’s multi-talented artists — check out The Broadway Makers Marketplace, open now through the end of February at Turnstyle Underground Market in Columbus Circle.
Featuring a collection of over 32 vendors’ crafted items, the BMM offers everything from theater-themed jewelry, clothing, signed Playbills and show posters, to show tickets, ornaments, and accessories made from show curtains, all lovingly crafted by artists across the industry.
Founder Michael T. Clarkston, an Actors Equity Association union stage manager and 22-year veteran of the business, first became involved in the merchandise industry during his first job out of college, working as a stage manager for the LA production of The Lion King. While managing the production (coincidentally also “the first Broadway show I ever saw — a full-circle moment,” says Clarkston), he became closely involved in the fundraising efforts of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the theatrical aid organization dedicated to securing resources for people living with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses.
Clarkston was impressed by the significant funds raised through the auctioning of show posters and memorabilia and noticed a similar pattern emerge in his next few productions. Passionate fans of Hairspray, Jersey Boys, and of course, Newsies (known for their extremely devoted “Fansies”), raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for BCEFA through auctioned merchandise and red bucket donation collection. Inspired by the dedication and interest of Newsies fans, Clarkston and a few fellow theatremakers formed the Newsies On Tour Charity Shop, again raising money for BCEFA. Following its well-received response, he expanded to become the Broadway Bazaar, now including memorabilia and crafted items from multiple shows and makers across the theatrical community.
Broadway Bazaar quickly became an avenue to support both theatrical charities and artists between professional theater gigs. After attending BroadwayCon in April 2021, Clarkston and his collaborators found themselves looking to further foster the growing community between merchandise vendors and fans. In just a few days, they managed to mount the BroadwayCon Vendors Encore Performance, a live, QVC-style broadcast featuring special guest performances to accompany product sales. The event, meant to last 2 hours, ended up extending to 4 hours and drawing over 400 people to the webinar of song, product presentations, and community sharing.
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The success of the live stream convinced Clarkston and fellow collaborator Andrea Koehler to form the Broadway Makers Alliance, a group of creators who gather regularly to share work and provide a forum for business development. “We have monthly meetings and workshops on how to take ideas from paper to product, how to expand designs, how to keep overhead down, use drop shipping, and more,” says Clarkston.
As the pandemic devastated the Broadway community and left artists without access to unemployment or stimulus checks, Clarkston and Koehler focused on broadening the Alliance into a digital marketplace to raise funds for impacted creators. The success of their virtual shop extended into an opportunity to secure a pop-up location at Columbus Circle’s Turnstyle Market after Clarkston was able to negotiate a lease on the now-closed Merchants Gate bar within the subway station.
The pop-up has thrived as a hybrid organization, hosting in-person and virtual events throughout its residency at Turnstyle. BMM’s Broadway Underground Event series has featured a variety of community gatherings such as Musical Mondays, in which pianist James Kennedy and performer Chryssie Whitehead host a Broadway sing-along with fans and guest performers alike, Coloring Wednesdays, a virtual and in-person live coloring party featuring Coloring Broadway’s show-themed books, and Fanday Friday, with trivia and giveaways held in store. While some in-person events have been adjusted during the Omicron surge, fans can check the Broadway Makers Marketplace instagram for upcoming dates and times (the next Coloring Wednesday will be held today, January 19, as a hybrid event). Fans can also shop anytime at the BMM online shop.
As for Clarkston — a former Hell’s Kitchen resident who still frequents Becco and has fond memories of the 10th Avenue Lounge and Therapy — he remains dedicated to supporting the local economy and supporting the theatrical community. As he told NY1, “The entertainment industry was one of the hardest ones hit and we’re still not fully back […] Broadway shows are not at full capacity, the theaters are not full. So we all kind of came together and united and kind of helped each other out.”
And what better way to support the industry than by picking up a few theatrical treasures? Visit the Broadway Makers Marketplace on your next subway ride to find some truly show-stopping goodies that will get you through the winter doldrums. Places!
BONUS: As a thank you to the Hell’s Kitchen community, The Broadway Makers Marketplace invites W42ST readers to check out their wares in-store or online with 20% off promo code w42fan through January 30!
Turnstyle Underground Market is in the subway station at Columbus Circle. The best entrance to reach the store is at the NW corner of W57th Street and 8th Avenue.