People of the Book: From Stern to the Drama Book Shop

By: Lara Vosburgh  |  May 23, 2021
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By Lara Vosburgh

On my first day at the Atlantic Acting School, I was sent to the Drama Book Shop. As I stepped in, colorful volumes of plays popped in front of my eyes like chocolate bars in a candy store.

I did not know where to begin or which play to pick first. Was I to go for one of the classics or a new up-and-coming writer? In a way, the experience felt not unlike my first visit to the Beit Midrash (study hall) when I was just starting out at Stern. Here too, I deliberated which Sefer (book) to open first. Was I to choose Rashi or a modern parshan (commentator)? They may seem completely unrelated at first, but the Stern Beit Midrash and Drama Book Shop have more in common than meets the eye. Both are places where individuals seek knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation and sheds light on human existence. Being a student at Stern and a professional actress, I too am one of those individuals. Both places served as a second home for me over these past few years, ever since I moved to New York from Israel. Both settings are absolutely magical, reminding me of the Flourish and Blotts’ bookshop in “Harry Potter”. Granted, the plays and sfarim offer very different kinds of wisdom, yet both contain interpretations and commentaries on how we should lead lives that share the same purpose – making us, the readers, better people. 

The Drama Book Shop is not only a house for amazing plays, screenplays, librettos and sheet music. It is also a safe haven for actors wishing to dive into their character’s journey and an inspiring environment for playwrights, theater professionals and enthusiasts alike. Like a riveting book a reader gets lost in, the bookstore itself can get overwhelming, but with the help of the helpful booksellers one could always find one’s way. In January 2019, the 100-year-old shop had to close its location. As New York awakens from its pandemic slumber, I am so excited that the Drama Book Shop is soon set to reopen. The new store’s design and charming ambience, meticulously crafted by veteran Broadway Production Designer David Korin (“Hamilton”), is inspired by the 19th-Century European cafés. 

If that’s not enough, the store’s new owner is none other than legendary Lin-Manuel Miranda. He and his “Hamilton” collaborators were able to revive the store, saving us from its catastrophic closure. In his early days, Miranda wrote parts of his musical “In the Heights” between the four magical walls of the Drama Book Shop. Now, he is giving a chance to other writers to attempt greatness and pen the next stage hit. “The Drama Book Shop is the heart and soul of the New York theater community,” Miranda said in 2019. “It’s been an oasis in midtown for a century of storytellers and theater fans alike – a safe space to gather, to learn, and to find great books and music. I found my collaborators there. I wrote drafts of “In the Heights” there. “Freestyle Love Supreme” was born there. I made sure the first book-signing of “Hamilton: The Revolution” was held there. The Drama Book Shop is home. To the next generation of dramatists, actors, directors, composers, choreographers, designers, and theater enthusiasts: the stage is set. . . Come in. Discover. Enjoy.

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