Last weekend, the Drama Book Shop closed, and a friend of mine became famous.
It’s not permanently closed, of course; as you no doubt have heard, a team of investors led by Lin-Manuel Miranda has purchased their parent company, and will reopen the noted (and Tony-winning!) store in a few months’ time. But the 40th Street location that has served the theatrical community since 2001 has been shuttered due to escalating rent; their landlord refused even a six month extension while they relocated, so at this moment, there is no physical space called the Drama Book Shop. You can still purchase playscripts online, of course; and even at your local bookstore if its selection is broad enough. But the Drama Book Shop was always more than simply a place to buy books. It was a shared space, a hub, a support system for the arts, a location for events.
In reporting on the end of this current iteration of the store, the New York Times
published an account of the last such event held at the store, a public reading by playwrights Annie Baker and Amy Herzog. The story described much of the activity at the store in its last days, including the writing out of memories of the store by customers and well wishers, notes which were posted on its walls and empty stacks. The human interest kicker is the note from the person, anonymous in the story, who wrote that their favorite memory was “getting to marry the cashier.”
Well, she’s not anonymous! I know her! (Yes, I’m almost famous by proxy.)
Gina was one of the playwrights in the production of horror-themed one-acts for which I wrote my short play Trumpets Sounding Over Harrisburg. We quite literally sat around a table on the August evening when we started that project, and drew our subjects from out of a hat. It was that sort of an event, for the which a mutual friend had recruited both of us, and we’ve remained in touch ever since.
Gina’s ridiculously prolific (she averages a draft of a new full length every two months, or something absurd like that), and she participates in a number of events like this. One of these was a series at – you guessed it – Drama Book Shop, where playwrights would sit in the window of the store and write their play for a few hours at a time. It’s writing-as-its-own-performative act, a somewhat more elaborate version of us tweeting about our progress in a rough draft – or, say, posting weekly blog posts about it. (Another play written under similar circumstances at Drama Book Shop? Hamilton, by that Lin-Manuel Miranda fellow.) . It was after this event that Gina hung around the store for a while, and met the cashier Freddy. As reported by the paper of record, they’re married now.
I saw the two of them this past week, at a developmental meeting and benefit for yet another of her plays. They’re doing fine. Freddy is keeping busy with his side business. Gina has still another play being read tonight (assuming you’re reading this Monday), which will constitute still another benefit event.
If I’m making it sound like the life of a writer is a whirlwind of wacky events (as opposed to us just sitting on the couch procrastinating), that’s because it has to be. We need these interactions; they facilitate what we do, they give us new ideas, they spur us on to other things. And for all this to happen, we need places where these interactions can take place. And for close to two decades, one of those major nexus points was just off the corner of 40th Street and 8th Avenue.
See you in a few months, guys.