Name: The Drama Book Shop, Inc.
Location: 250 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
Description: When you walk into the Drama Book Shop, the storefront and entryway resemble more that of a prop store than a bookstore. The large storefront windows, do not display books, but instead showcase small scenes with poster advertisements for the show from which that scene is taken. The dimly lit store is split into two sections separated by information desks and a low overhang covered in old props and posters. The front section contains theatre themed knickknacks, CDs, and instructional books on topics such as “Technical Design Solutions for Theater” and “The Backstage Handbook.” The second section, tucked in the back of the store, houses a wide selection of plays of every genre, period, and style. It is in this section of the store that you become aware of the odd linoleum-esq floor patterns in retro, 1970’s style colors, which somehow seem to match the wide assortment of brightly colored plays that line the shelves.
What I like: This little store has a lot to offer for both literature and drama enthusiasts alike. While the Drama Book Shop does target a niche market, they do a good job of having a little something for everyone else too. The wide variety of plays they have for sale means there is something that will appeal to all of their customers. They also provide resources for actors looking for agents and potential auditions, and they sell a decent selection of musical theater sheet music for singers. For those that don’t like to read plays, they have a small selection of performances on DVD as well as soundtracks from many different musicals. However, what I liked the most about this store was the sense of community that I felt walking through. The store provides ample seating for customers who just wish to come in and read, and every one of the chairs was occupied. There were also groups of friends who had met there to talk and work on projects. Additionally, all of the stores part-time staff work in the theater world meaning that they are knowledgeable about the subject matter and the store is helping to support the theater community in multiple ways.
How they are combating the pressures of the digital age: Down in the basement of The Drama Book Shop is the Arthur Seelen Theater – a small blackbox theater named after one of the owners of the store. This theater houses about 60 people and is rented out for performances. However, there is no mention of the space on the bookstore’s website. The Drama Book Shop also recently started selling plays and e-books on their website, though in many ways, this store still seems largely untouched by the digital world. They do have two social media accounts Facebook and Twitter. Their Facebook page is largely used to promote store events and they are relatively active on Twitter by retweeting posts with mentions in them, though they do not post much original content on this platform. They also have a blogger page, but that has not been updated since 2013. It seems to me that the community fostered by this bookshop in the acting and theater world is one of the store’s most important elements and one of the reasons it doesn’t seem to have made a full transition to the digital world.
Note: In doing a bit of background research on the store, I came across this article, which discussed the fact that in 2011 the store was given the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theater. This article also provides some interesting background on the store’s history as well as some of the source material for this post. I highly recommend checking it out here!