At the Broadway Makers Marketplace, theater fans find both crafts and community
There's an underground market, with food stalls and stores, in a corridor of the Columbus Circle subway station. And at the very end, where a bar used to be, is an unexpected sight: a storefront filled with Broadway memorabilia and fan-made art. It's called the Broadway Makers Marketplace, and last Sunday afternoon, it hosted a game of Broadway bingo. About a dozen people gathered in front of the shop, singing show tunes while stamping their bingo cards.
"It's a 'for fans, by fans' store, and everything that we do here is about the fans," says Michael Clarkston, a Broadway stage manager, and the manager and one of the founders of the Broadway Makers Marketplace. "They've asked us to come in and create these events for them and that's what we do. Everything from Musical Mondays, to sing-alongs that we do on karaoke nights, to Coloring Wednesdays."
And Clarkston hopes that after these events, the fans will purchase some of the crafts in the store – like teenager Caroline Pasella, who came with her mother from Middletown, New Jersey to play Broadway Bingo, did. "I have purchased pens, shirts, stickers," she says, laughing. "I would buy the entire place if I could!"
The pop-up shop is a physical arm of the Broadway Makers Alliance – a confederation of 65 craftspeople, both theater professionals and super fans, who create Broadway-themed work. One of them is Andrea Koehler, a Seattle-based executive coach who also owns a company called Coloring Broadway. "We take musical theater, pair it with mindfulness and creativity and create coloring sheets, using Broadway lyrics, et cetera," she says. Some of Koehler's coloring sheets feature lyrics from Waitress and Hamilton, along with images inspired by them.
The Alliance started when many of the craftspeople met at BroadwayCon, an annual fan fest like Comic-Con but pitched to theater lovers. At first, the members just swapped information about building small businesses But then, they did a virtual event for fans during COVID, which was wildly popular, and created an online store. Last fall, Michael Clarkston found the empty bar in the subway station, signed a two-week lease and moved in.
"We opened on Halloween and then didn't expect here to be much longer," Clarkston says. "It was supposed to be a ... quick little holiday in and out type of thing. And here we are. You know, going into the end of March here, going to celebrate six months next month, in April."
The shop features all kinds of crafts: sheet music, with paintings of images from shows superimposed on them, beautiful nighttime photographs of Broadway theaters, jewelry created from recycled elements of Broadway sets. "If you love and enjoy going to Broadway, to the theater, we are the store for you," says Clarkston. "We are not commercialized. We are not the show merchandise. This is all fan-created stuff. It's things that fans want themselves."
And, in addition to the fan-created art, there's memorabilia: signed posters, Playbills and props. "I've got a Patti LuPone 'I Heart New York' from Gypsy 2008 T-shirt here, signed," says Clarkston, showing off the store's rarities. "I've got Joanne Worley's pearls from The Drowsy Chaperone. I've got some Billy Elliot ballet shoes down here."
Ultimately, the Broadway Makers Alliance hope to make the pop-up shop a permanent one above ground, says Coloring Broadway's Andrea Koehler. "I'm looking forward to the time where we can move into a proper retail location," she says, laughing. "That's really our vision, is: When we can be in a store that wasn't a bar!"
But for now, customers can take the A train (or the B, C, D and 1 trains) to Columbus Circle for the Broadway Makers Marketplace.
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