Advice to Sellers of Theater Memorabilia

Any true blue New York theater fan knows the best and coolest place to buy keepsakes from the history of Broadway: At the annual Broadway Flea Market presented by and benefiting Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS. That fact is not up for debate, whether you want a $5 Playbill or a $5000 private tea with Angela Lansbury.

Still, a year is a long time to wait if you’re jonesing to purchase a signed window card or authenticated character shoes. And if you’re into Off-Broadway goodies or tour memorabilia, the BC/EFA shindig might not have what you’re after.

That’s where eBay can be just what you need. Now, I haven’t been a collector for long, and my budget tends more toward the $5 program than the celebrity tea. Yet already I’ve noticed certain issues afflicting some folks who sell theatrical mementos on eBay.

In brief, some sellers are completely clueless, having acquired things they know nothing about in estate sales or while cleaning out their uncle’s old house when he moves to a retirement community. These people end up offering gems for the price of patio stones. Do I take advantage? Heck, yeah! And those pangs of guilt I’ve felt while fleecing sellers, I hereby endeavor to alleviate with this post, which none of them will ever read.

THREE PIECES OF ADVICE FOR EBAY SELLERS OF THEATRICAL MEMORABILIA:

1. Find out how rare your item is, and whether anybody cares that it’s rare. If someone is selling the same item for $9.99, you should probably not list yours for $149.99 unless yours is covered in dried spittle that DNA tests prove to be Ethel Merman’s. And if it has Merman’s spit on it, you’re cheating yourself with a $9.99 Buy It Now price.

Wild Honey

2. When giving your auction a title, include the most valuable celebrity name associated with the item, not just a random name. If you have a 1987 Playbill from Wild Honey, starring Ian McKellen, don’t choose Sullivan Brown as the one name you list in the auction title. (Seriously, I’ve seen the equivalent of this on several occasions.)

3. If you have a photographic image from a show and you don’t know who’s in the picture, find out before you list the item. I’ve snagged crazy deals on rare images of stars by searching for names of shows and recognizing theatrical royalty who aren’t mentioned in the item description.

And there you have it, my good deed for the day. Clip and save, sellers. And if you don’t bother, don’t expect any sympathy from me. There’s nothing more ruthless than a collector with a small budget.

 

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Playwright chat: THE BARDY BUNCH, #BradyBunch #PartridgeFamily #Shakespeare mashup #musical #comedy #OffBway

In 2011 I saw a remarkable work at the New York Fringe Festival. The Bardy Bunch is an ingenious “musical situation comedy of errors,” in which characters from The Brady Bunch are pitted against those from The Partridge Family in a feud inspired by Romeo and Juliet. Oh, and with songs from the old TV shows, no less. What’s not to adore?

Well, some producers did adore it, and now the show is about to start a limited run off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clemens. For heaven’s sake, don’t miss it. And while you wait, here’s an interview I did with Stephen Garvey, who masterminded and wrote The Bardy Bunch:

BUSKER ALLEY: How dare you taint the hallowed relics of good old American television with the hoity-toity perfumes of Shakespeare? Defend yourself!

STEPHEN GARVEY: We were very concerned about how Brady and Partridge purists would feel about our sullying the dialogue from those classic sitcoms with all that Shakespeare tripe, but as it turns out, the Bard and these shows go great together…like pork chops and applesauce!

BA: Indeed, in his day Shakespeare was never seen as elitist, but as a storyteller everyone could enjoy after a long day at work, very much like a sitcom.

Is The Bardy Bunch a one-off, or can you envision any other mash-up of TV (or Hollywood) with theatrical or literary masterworks?

SG: Without giving away secrets, Director Jay Stern and I are working on another mash-up. All I’m at liberty to say is it focuses on a different decade AND the music will be original. The Bardy Bunch taught us many lessons about licensing the performing rights to other people’s songs!

BA: Oh, that’s an enticing tease!

Now, to the academic portion of this chat: Besides Romeo & Juliet, what other Shakespearean allusions should we watch for in The Bardy Bunch? And was that the plan from the start, or did elements of other plays creep in as you wrote?

SG: From the very start, the idea was to assign a different Shakespearean character and story arc to each Brady and Partridge. Romeo and Juliet takes front and center, but there are over a dozen Shakespearean plotlines sprinkled throughout The Bardy Bunch, from Macbeth to Much Ado About Nothing to Othello to Hamlet to As You Like It... There’s even a sonnet reference!

BA: Clearly, I’d better dig up my Shakespearean Cliff’s Notes Omnibus before I see your show again.

The Bard is timeless and universally respected, but I dare say visiting aliens would have trouble believing The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were important elements of our culture. In your opinion, what explains the enduring appeal of these shows?

SG: The lasting power of these shows is truly amazing. I think for people in their late-thirties, forties and fifties, The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family represent childhood…coming home from school, making a Fluffernutter, and kicking back to these sitcoms, which in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s were on ALL THE TIME.  But the appeal goes beyond that demo. Most of our cast is in their twenties and they love the shows, too, and so does my seven-year-old daughter. I just think there’s a very loving spirit to both

Angry Bradys programs that’s very easy to glide into, like a cozy pair of slippers…or a bathrobe. Those families really loved their bathrobes. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge for a Fluffernutter.

BA: And now I want one, too. Thanks, Stephen Garvey, and much success with The Bardy Bunch.

~ ~

 

 

Click here for Bardy Bunch tickets and showtimes.

A trove of Caryl Churchill plays gracing NYC @ClassicStage Co.

Everybody’s talking about seminal British playwright Caryl Churchill: Her newest work, Love and Information, is at the Minetta Lane Theatre. It’s a fascinating exegesis of attempts to comminicate in relationships.Churchill

But that’s not all, New Yorkers! If you’re a Churchill fan, or a fan of the history of modern theater, you’ll want to save your Mondays in April. Classic Stage Company’s First Look Festival is presenting three of her older plays. Churchill’s experimental gender study, Cloud 9, first produced in Britain in 1979 and in the US in 1982, will be performed April 7. Mad Forest, a play from 1990 dealing with the 1989 Romanian Revolution, will be performed on April 14. On April 28 we’ll be treated to Fen, originally from 1983.