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The Drama Book Shop lives.
The famed independent bookstore in New York’s Theater District has one of the largest selections of plays in the country, but was in danger of closing its doors because of stratospheric rent increases. Fortunately, the Drama Book Shop has some powerful fans. On Tuesday, it was announced the men behind the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton” — creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, producer Jeffrey Sellers and Nederlander Organization president James L. Nederlander — had bought the Drama Book Shop and were teaming up with the New York City mayor’s office to find a new location for it.
As a teen, I went to the @dramabookshop on 47th. Spent hours reading plays. Felt made for me, a place to go.— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) January 8, 2019
In 2002, I met with Tommy Kail in the Drama Book Shop. It gave us a place to go.
Proud to be part of this next chapter.
A place for you to go. https://t.co/LuRJjVM72K
Here’s me and @ChrisisSingin in our first photographs for an In The Heights reading in 2002, across the street from the @dramabookshop. (Our reading was in the basement.) That fence behind us would later become the New York Times building.https://t.co/ODLa4rNJ6n pic.twitter.com/BLBinwoC8z— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) January 8, 2019
Come Jan. 20, the Drama Book Shop will close the doors on its current location at W. 40th Street. The new owners are working with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment to find a location for it to reopen in the Theater District this fall. After an October article in the New York Times broke the news of the store’s imminent closure, Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin reached out to longtime owner Rozanne Seelen to see if there was anything she could do to help. After learning that the imminent rent hike (increasing from $18,000 to $30,000) was too much for Seelen to withstand, and that Miranda and Kail were interested in helping the shop survive, Menin helped their team scout for new locations. An announcement on the new location is expected later this year.
In addition to being a focal point for New York’s theater scene, the Drama Book Shop also has a lot of personal meaning to Miranda and Kail. Miranda spent a lot of time at the shop as a high school and college student, and told the New York Times that “I wrote a good deal of ‘In the Heights’ there.” Kail’s post-college theater company, Back House Productions, was in residence at the shop (or more accurately, its basement) for years.
“As a teen, I went to the Drama Book Shop on 47th. Spent hours reading plays,” Miranda tweeted after the news broke. “Felt made for me, a place to go. In 2002, I met with Tommy Kail in the Drama Book Shop. It gave us a place to go. Proud to be part of this next chapter. A place for you to go.”
“My first experiences directing in New York City were at the Arthur Seelen Theater in the basement of the Drama Book Shop,” Kail said in a statement. “Thanks to the generosity of owners Allen Hubby and Rozanne Seelen, I had a small theater company that was in residence there for five years. I was lucky enough to be there the day the shop opened on 40th Street on December 3, 2001, and I am delighted to be part of this group that will ensure the Drama Book Shop lives on.”