Anne Brummel (she/her/hers) recalls that she was the “first baby born into the Annie company. My dad was doing the Broadway company and my mom was doing the Los Angeles company. She was the pregnant swing.” Growing up with both parents as actors, she knew she wanted to be an actor. “It was the family business. It worked out I wasn’t terrible and could make a living at it. I worked my way up. I did Children’s Theatre and lots of non-equity tours. Started in the ‘mail room’ and every job got a little better.”
“Getting to play Elphaba was pretty badass.” Anne remembers of her experience in Wicked both on tour and on Broadway. But her most special theatre memories are that “truly every single part of my life from birthdays to family events to marriage to having a baby is marked by a show; something my dad was doing or my mom was doing or that I did. Theatre truly is my story.”
But like for other theatre professionals, COVID forced a change in Anne’s life. “We knew this year was going to be an adventure no matter what. My husband is also a performer; we met during Wicked on Broadway together. We had left New York at the end of November 2019 and had taken our son and dogs on tour with My Fair Lady. We were on the road when COVID happened. Thought we would take just a few weeks off at first and so we bounced around a lot. Started in Delaware for a bit, went to Cape Cod for a month. Went to Brooklyn for a few months, but made it back to Hoboken right before Thanksgiving.”
Anne’s husband has been teaching during COVID while Anne has been spending time doing work for a music and dance school in Hoboken. And they’ve been enjoying as much time as possible with their two-year old son. Soon came along Anne’s idea for the Broadway Merchant Collective.
“I’ve always had a passion for small businesses. I had started one a few years ago and my stepfather owned his own business and I watched what went into it. And so, I have a lot of respect for people who start their own thing. I had started seeing all these people post on Facebook in late October or early November about how they make this or sell this or do this. I had no idea that these [arts professionals] also knew how to do all of these things. I wanted to support all of them.” At the time, Anne didn’t know anyone else who had compiled small businesses founded by arts professionals. She thought the best way to go about it was creating a website. “I made a post saying if you are a small business and selling something to reach out to me and within an hour or two I had over 60 people who had messaged me.” And so, the Broadway Merchant Collective was born.
Anne had a clear image for what she wanted it to look like. Didn’t want it to be corny, but a clean, professional looking page. “We just little by little started making it happen. We decided to launch on Cyber Monday and were up in the middle of the night trying to get as many people on the page before launch.”
Anne’s vision for the Broadway Merchant Collective “is for every person under the umbrella of arts workers to be on the site. I would love for people to be able to get BMC gift cards and easily support artists’ businesses.” Reflecting on her time during the pandemic and on once having every job possible, from being a personal assistant to handing out Red Bulls, “the biggest thing I saw in this pandemic is that we as performers are so used to jobs being taken away and ending and knowing what to do when that happens. We know how to navigate that. But what we didn’t know is what to do when many of our side hustles are gone like waiting tables or teaching at a dance studio. But people pivoted and figured it out. I would love nothing more to not only have the BMC be something people can go shopping on, but also have it be a community to help people and get whatever they need. Even a place for artists to learn how to start a business and grow passive income while doing their regular job. And so, my goal is to keep growing and keep pushing.” Part of that growth has been offering virtual classes, such as learning the Art of Macramé with Fiber and Foliage, a business founded by Cats actor, Erin Chupinsky. “It’s been such a difficult year on so many levels. People have known hardship they have not ever had. People have had loss and suffered in a way that is new to a lot of people. In the theatre community, we have lost people in a devastating way. But I have also witnessed such beautiful connection. My family has had so many Zoom events that I have seen them more virtually than I ever had in person. While it’s been a weird time with isolation, I have also seen greater connection. We were forced to stop. Nowhere we were supposed to be, nothing we were supposed to be doing. We are back to the basics of needing a connection and being inspired by that. If you’re a New Yorker or in the theatre industry or even as Americans, we are always go go go go go, do better, make more, do this. We don’t pause a lot. Other cultures are better at taking a breath.”
“This time has reinforced my love and appreciation and gratitude for the theatre community. And seeing communities come together for BIPOC, Asian, LGBTQ, Black communities. I don’t know if we would have come together the same way if we weren’t all forced to stop. I’m so grateful for the time to take a breath and take stock of what’s important. I think that’s going to be the most beautiful flower that grows from this.”