Theatre bookshops we love. Let's browse through these aisles!

I don't know about you, but I can hardly pass by a great bookshop. Ordering online is fine, bit browsing through the aisle and picking up books that catch your eye with interesting covers is something else. If they have a place for a cup of coffee, while flipping through the pages, even better.
These kind of theatre bookshops are not only wonderful treasure troves of specialized books, but also a great place to connect with likeminded people. A space, where you can meet artists or discover smaller theatres because they often hang up flyers to advertise their performances.
It is more than a bookshop, but a social hub if you want. Everything an online retailer is not. When a bookstore closes, it is also a loss for the community.
So it is time to showcase some of the bookshops specializing in theatre books (which often have a good selection of books about opera and ballet as well).

Einar & Bert in Berlin, Germany

No, not Ernie and Bert. This shop was named after two icons of the theatre world: Einar Schleef and Bertolt Brecht. This gem of a bookshop is located in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin and you can browse and buy books about stage & costume design, acting methods, as well as puppetry or biographies. They also carry a wonderful selection of opera and dance books. Specialized magazines and e-books are available, too.
This book store has some touches of a library, the black shelves go up the the ceiling and those books can only be reached with a ladder. On the walls you find posters from the various theatres of Berlin. Sign up for the newsletter and get news about readings or book signings of various artists in the store. Also make sure, you check out the window display: Einar & Bert invites artists such as graphic designer, illustrators, directors, or photographer to display their work in a window and combine that with relevant books.

 Einar & Bert. © Holger Herschel

Einar & Bert. © Holger Herschel

 Einar & Bert. © Holger Herschel

Einar & Bert. © Holger Herschel

Einar & Bert Theaterbuchhandlung
Winsstraße 72
10405 Berlin
https://stagebooks.shop/en


Samuel French in London, New York, & Los Angeles

When a witty American entrepreneur, Samuel French, and a British playwright, Thomas Hailes Lacy, work together great things can happen – the bookshop Samuel French, for example. French already had a publishing business in the mid 1800's in New York and joined forces with Lacy soon after he met him in London. To this day, Samuel French has locations in New York and London. This shop has a very extensive catalogue of books, plays and other products and if you take theatre seriously, Samuel French should be on your list. Not only do they preserve the very rich history of theatres, but also recognize artists, activists and up and coming stars with their Samuel French Awards.
The bookshop in London moved into a space in the Royal Court Theatre, after increasing rents forced it out of is original location. The bokshop in Los Angeles is located at the famous Sunset Blvd and when you are there, you should check out the “green room” inside the shop. Here customers get together to read over scripts for example. It is a great space to collaborate.

 Samuel French in London

Samuel French in London

 Samuel French in London

Samuel French in London

 Samuel French in Hollywood

Samuel French in Hollywood

Samuel French Theatre and Film Bookshop
7623 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90046
https://www.samuelfrench.com

Samuel French Bookshop at The Royal Court Theatre
Sloane Square Chelsea
London SW1W 8AS, UK
https://www.samuelfrench.co.uk

Samuel French
235 Park Ave S,
New York, NY 10003, USA
https://www.samuelfrench.com



La Librairie Théâtrale in Paris, France

There is something so very wonderful about the buildings in Paris and this building is no different. Located in the 2nd arrondissement, not far away from the opera and other theatres, this shop has a wonderful collection ranging from classical theatre to vaudeville. We, especially, love the great selection of books for children. The salesmen are very competent and chances are you'll find some books here, you won't get anywhere else. It is also a great place to find out about shows and events, as theatres hang up their flyers here.

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La Librairie Théâtrale
3, rue de Marivaux
75002 Paris, France
https://www.librairie-theatrale.com


The National Theatre Bookshop in London, UK

As one of the theatre capitals in the world London has several bookshops dedicated to theatre. The bookshop in The National Theatre is sure worth a visit, while you are checking out the striking brutalist concrete architecture of the National Theatre. It overflows with books, playtexts and you can even find gifts for yourself or the theatre lover in your life, which accompanies the performances at The National Theatre very well. It is located on the ground floor and incorporates touchscreen technology.

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NT Bookshop 1.jpg

National Theatre
Lambeth
London SE1 9PX, UK
https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/your-visit/bookshop


Drama Book Shop in New York City, USA

This is a legendary shop. Located right in the heart of New York's theatre district, it has served so many actors for almost a century. You will find pretty much every script you are looking for. Sheet music is also available in this cozy place. Thanks to many events including readings and signings you have plenty of opportunity to network and to meet actors and likeminded theatre lovers. Unfortunately it was just reported in various newspapers that this iconic bookshop will relocate in early 2019, due to increasing rent. In 2016 a pipe burst here and ruined a large part of the books at the Drama Book Shop. People came together, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his public campaign and turned this distaster into a success after all. Making it even more important, that we all should support local shops of any kind if possible.

Drama book shop.jpg
Drama book shop.png

Drama Book Shop
250 W 40th St #1,
New York, NY 10018, USA
https://www.dramabookshop.com/


International Theatre & Film Bookshop in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This bookshop has more than six thousand titles in four languages about theatre, dance, opera musical and cabaret In addition to the books, you can also browse through an extensive collection of DVDs of film adaptions, documentaries, and dance performances.
It is located in the Stadsschouwburg, which is the Municipal Theatre in Amsterdam.

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International Theatre & Film Bookshop
Leidseplein 26
1017 PT Amsterdam
theatreandfilmbooks.com 

El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina

To be fair, El Ateneo Grand Splendid is not a theatre bookshop, but a bookshop in a theatre. And it is one of the most beautiful bookshops you will ever set foot into. Each year more than one million customers visit this theatre/bookshop. And who can blame them: It reopened as a bookshop in 2000 and many details from the old theatre are still intact: The stage, the balconies and even the red curtains.

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El-Ateneo-Grand-Splendid-Buenos-Aires-Argentina.jpg
El Ateneo Grand Splendid

El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Av. Santa Fe 1860
C1123 CABA, Argentina
https://turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/en/atractivo/el-ateneo-grand-splendid

Gift ideas that theatre lovers will enjoy

When you do a quick Google search on gifts for theatre lovers, you'll see quickly that masks are a thing. However, in case you don't want it to be but still are looking for a great gift for this person, we just might have you covered.
Hopefully the ideas in our gift guide are fitting for the theatre lover in your life. Shop on!

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No. 1: Bringing theatre love and interior together with a pair of american theatre wall sconces. The don't come cheap, but they certainly make a statement (3,200 Euros).

No. 2: Technically, not a real theatre gift, but from personal experience I can tell you, that sitting in my seat many a times I got cold or felt an annoying draft. A nice pashmina shawl would be wonderful to have.

No. 3: Usually I'm wary of theatre merchandising. I will never use that many keys to justify keeping all those keychains I got. But this book, Hamilton Revolution, is different. Hamilton as been such a hit on Broadway and Los Angeles and now will be a big hit in London too, that it is worth looking at this book. The creator of Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda explains the process in detail, the lyrics and the photography. It is a wonderful testament to an award winning musical (25$).

No. 4: A few weeks ago, we told you about Scenery Bags (read HERE). These little pouches are made out of retired theatre backdrops and a percentage of the earnings goes to charity. So you have a great unique gift and do good at the same time. Win-Win all around. (30$).

No. 5: When I was a kid, my father did lots of shadow characters with his hands and it is still one of my favorite memories. Including this shadow theatre for fable animals sure will create some wonderful memories and stories for the little ones (17 Euros).

No. 6: Talk about glamour when wearing these earrings  L'oiseau de Feu (price upon request).

No. 7: Sometimes you just need a doorway and this pretty puppet theatre for hours of fun and an outlet for creative energy (45$).

No. 8: Printed on heavyweight matte fine art paper this blue print of a theatre seat make a great gift for any wall, Available in different sizes and colours (5$).

Look at the Scenery!

Hello,
my name is Yvonne and I have a problem. I buy little bags and pouches like there is no tomorrow. When I travel, my carry on luggage often consists of small bags. I use them for my chargers, make up, a little note pad, women's stuff, you get the drift. You can imagine my excitement when I found the bags of Scenery on Instagram a few weeks ago. 
Scenery takes retired theatre backdrops and makes bags out of them. Naturally, every series of bags is limited and each one has a label inside telling you the show and what number bag you have out of how many the drop made.

 credit:  Scenery

credit: Scenery

 credit:  Scenery

credit: Scenery

Are you already reaching for your credit card? You will when you hear, that you will also do good with your purchase!
A portion of the proceeds of the bags is donated to TDF's Stage Doors program. The Theatre Development Fund is commited to identify and provide support, including financial assistance, to theatrical works of artistic merit and to encourage and enable diverse audiences to attend live theatre and dance in all their venues.
Scenery was launched in July 2017 and the first series of bags are already sold out. We caught up with the founder of Scenery, Jennifer Khan, how the idea for scenery came about. Jennifer has been a stage manager for 17 years and is based in New York.

Spectacle: How did you come up with the idea for Scenery?
Jennifer Khan: For the last 5 years I have run a Giveback and Ethical style blog, so this type of thing has always been a part of what I'm passionate about. I knew if I ever started my own company it would have to have a social initiative.  I never thought my blogging side, and my theatre side would come together, but this project has been a marriage of two things a care deeply about. It's truly been a gift. 
I chose theatre backdrops because so many of them get thrown away and they are beautiful, handprinted, works of art. I hate seeing anything get thrown away, but something like that just shouldn't end up in the trash. They are also part of theatre history. 

I hate seeing anything get thrown away, but something like that just shouldn’t end up in the trash. They are also part of theatre history.
— Jennifer Khan

Spectacle: The backdrops are donated to you. Is it difficult to get them? Do you have a lot of convincing?
Jennifer Khan: Well, I thought we had more than we'd need in a year, but we went through all of it in 3 months! It's been amazing to see the reaction people are having to what we are doing. We've also been very fortunate to have some great press pieces and features (like this one, thank you guys) that have let people know about us, and drops have come to us from all over America. I feel like I fall in love with a new one every week. We have some amazing treasures.  Some I love because of the colors, some I love because of the show it came from. Each one is special to me.

Spectacle: You support the tdf - the Theatre Development Fund - with a portion of the proceeds. How did you get involved with them?
Jennifer Khan: I chose my mission, before I chose the non-profit. I knew I wanted to help make theatre more accessible for a younger audience. So with that in mind I took to the internet and just searched for a program that did just that. Finding the Stage Doors program at TDF was a dream come true! Not only do they take kids to see a Broadway or Off-Broadway show, they give them in class workshops, AND they offer extremely discounted tickets to alumni, so that they can continue to afford to see theatre after the program has ended. It's everything I was looking for and more. 

Spectacle: What is the process from picking up the backdrop to sending out the bags? You mentioned the backdrops are also cleaned. 
Jennifer Khan: Yes, the basic process is: a theatre, designer, producing house, storage company, you name it, emails us and says they have drops for us. Depending on how many drops they are sending they can either drop them at their nearest UPS and we ship them, or box them up and we schedule a truck pick up. We cover all shipping costs. Then once they arrive at our manufacturers in Florida they lay them all out, photograph them, measure them to see how many bags they can make, and then we start production. Each drop is hand cleaned twice. Once before they are sewn and once after. They are cut, we choose if it needs a lining or not, what color zipper to use. We are basically designing a new bag every week. Currently we only have our pouches, but we are planning some new styles for next year!

 credit:  Scenery

credit: Scenery

Take a good idea and an even better cause, add sustainability and creativity and you have wonderful products. That applies to the bags from Scenery. If you want to get your hands on the next batch of bags, head over to the website of Scenery. There is a preorder system right now. Preordering saves your place in line and when it is time for your order number you receive an email with your choice of 2 drops or an option to defer. Each bag is 30$ and please remember that a portion of the proceeds goes to a very good cause.
Follow Scenery on Instagram and on Facebook to see when the new bags are online.

Three great theatre Kickstarter campaigns that you can back up.

There are a few websites that keep me away from work. Clicking on them means I'm lost in the rabbit hole. I try to tell myself it is research, but how many episodes of "Who do you think you are?" can I watch until it becomes a problem? I'll let you know when I have the answer.

Kickstarter is such a website. So many creative people on there creating the product I love to own or support. We know the arts are often the first area where funds are cut when the going gets tough. If you wanted to stage a play or a musical in the past, you got some patrons together and hoped that they would cut a cheque. But Kickstarter offers more opportunity to reach like minded people that are convinced your idea is worth supporting.

Kickstarter has a category for theatre projects and we found some projects you might want to take a closer look at.

1. Black and Blue: The Yvonne Bechet Story

Yvonne Bechet was one of the first female police officers in New Orleans. And she is black. She started her career when she was 19 and a wife and mother. Together with her colleagues, she worked for social change in her community across lines of gender and race.  Yvonne Bechet retired in 1990 and still is the highest ranking woman officer in New Orleans Police Department.
Do look up this remarkable woman as her credentials and work are very impressive.
Her story is fascinating and it fits into these times.

 NOPD Talent Show Circa 1973

NOPD Talent Show Circa 1973

Black and Blue wants to be more than just a play. The artists and makers want to make sure this play is used as a platform for conversation, understanding and (most importantly) change. Each performance will have a brief introduction and also a dialogue. The makers plan to make up the audience of the general public but also with police officers to get the conversation going.

The makers need 5.000$ and 81% is already financed.
Get more details on their Kickstarter page.

 

2. Love Song To Lavender Menace

The musical Love Song to Lavender Menace will be on at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh between 12-21 October 2017 with a tour through Scottland after its run.
Lavender Menace is a book store that played a vital role in Scotland's LGBT liberation. It was opened by Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielsen in 1982 and offered all the LGBT publications to the community that was available for the very first time. It started out at the LGBT History Month Scotland Cultural Commission and was first read at the Traverse Theatre in LGBT History Month 2016. The run at the Royal Lyceum Theatre will be its world premiere.

What's it all about? Here is what the makers are saying: "The play is set on the evening of the shop’s 5th birthday, when sales assistants Paul and David take a look back at its origins, its importance, its celebration of queer culture, how things have changed for the better (maybe) ... and straight away, the arguments begin!"
It is written by James Ley and directed by Ros Philips.

Your funding will ensure a play ready to take on the road, it will also cover travel costs.
3500 Pounds are needed and it is still a stretch to go.
Find out more on the Kickstarter page. 

 

3. The Wild Party

It's the Roaring Twenties when a bunch of vaudevillians try to party their problems away during one wild night.
Between October 1-31, 2017 you can be part of this wild party! The Wild Party is based on a poem from 1928 that was so scandalous, it was banned right from the start. But you know, that the forbidden fruit is the sweetest. 
And this musical seems to be quite sweet. You will be more than just an attendee at a musical. You will be smack dab in the middle of it. You are invited to The Wild Party and will be surprised by musical numbers and so much more.

 Meridith C. Grundei in Sweet & Lucky. Photo Credit: Adams VisCom

Meridith C. Grundei in Sweet & Lucky. Photo Credit: Adams VisCom

Denver's OFF CENTER thinks outside the box and brings their audiences a 360-degree experience. This isn't their first time on Kickstarter. Their previous campaign was backed too and Sweet & Lucky was met with huge success from the community. If that previous show is anything to go buy, you sure want to be part of this one, too!

Get your dancing shoes on, grab a gin and enjoy the party!
25.000$ was needed and the makers have surpassed that goal!
Get all the details about that wild party right over on their Kickstarter page.

My first and only time on stage as an actor

This is it. The first and only time I ever stood on stage as an actor. And I wasn't even the first choice!

In 1994/1995 I was a foreign exchange student in Minden, Louisiana. I was barely 16 years old andI was a junior in high school.
The drama club at Minden High School worked to put "12 angry men" on stage and in the play, there is also a "foreigner". This foreigner was played by, well, actually by another foreign exchange student from Russia. But she had to drop out and so they asked me to take the role.
The local newspaper editor came out to watch us perform and I still have this photo in my desk drawer. I had a terrific time!

I don't remember much about this play. Other than we performed twice: Once for the WHOLE school. Which means in front of my high school crush! I remember being horrified when I saw him in the auditorium and then once more for friends and family and people who bought a ticket. 

I also remember not pronouncing "bifocals" correctly! I actually still don't know on what syllable I have to put the emphasis. But this word was part of a line I had to say, and I have a feeling I may have pronounced it correctly because I was lucky.
I wonder if I ever get to say it correctly.
 

Mikhail Baryshnikov on his friend Joseph Brodsky, pre-performance nerves and retirement

Yes, the name Mikhail Baryshnikov is synonymous with ballet and if you go to see Brodsky/Baryshnikov being performed by the former ballet superstar and expect dancing, you will be disappointed. But if you attend this one-man performance to see a friend pay a tribute to another, you will be in for a treat.

 Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

Joseph Brodsky was not only a Russian poet and Nobel Prize winner, but also a close friend of Mikhail Baryshnikov, ever since the two met at a party in New York in 1974. Baryshnikov had read Brodsky's work as a young man and it had a profound impact on him ever since. As a matter of fact, Baryshnikov still travels with Brodsky's work and enjoys referring to them again and again. “It speaks to you at different times, you always discover something new about his words” explains Mr Baryshnikov during a telephone interview from New York. Joseph Brodsky passed away in 1996 from a heart attack but his voice can be heard during Brodsky/Baryshnikov, directed by Alvin Hermanis. In this show, Mikhail Baryshnikov performs in a glass gazebo and recites the poems of his late friend in Russian. But don't worry, if you don't speak any Russian: Subtitles are available. Mr Baryshnikov himself calls this "a theatre journey through the works of Joseph Brodsky". Buckle up for this journey and put on your listening ears.
Spectacle spoke to Mr Baryshnikov last week about friendship, critics and stage jitters.

Spectacle: You have performed Brodsky/Baryshnikov since 2015. How has this play evolved over time? What has changed for you?
Baryshnikov: The comfort level for me has changed, this is poetry in the theatre and it isn't the easiest task. I try to forget that the audience is even there. Usually, you react to the audience in a play, but this is not the kind of show that you perform for an audience. The director, Alvin Hermanis, set it up as a spiritual conversation between two people and one of them deceased and the other barely alive.

S: You and Brodsky met for the first time in 1974 and have been friends ever since. What characterised your friendship? What was he like?
B: He was an adult in the room, not because he was older, but because he was a genius. A man who experienced a lot: He was imprisoned and he was exiled. He was a self-educated man, who knew everything about everything. He had very high moral standards. He was demanding and kind, just an extraordinary man. We were just friends.

 Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

S: Joseph Brodsky passed away in 1996, why did you wait 20 years until you brought his work on stage?
B: I never thought this would be possible until I was approached by Alvin Hermanis. We met a few times and he knew Mr Brodsky and myself were close friends. So he came up with this crazy idea. I liked Alvin as a theatre and opera director, so I twisted my own arm and we started working.

S: Brodsky/Baryshnikov is performed in Russian. Would it not reach more people if it was performed in English?
B: No, that would be counterproductive. Brodsky's poems were written in Russian. And most of the audience members are Russian speaking or people interested in Russian or Slavic language and culture. Language will not be a problem. There is just not one person sitting on stage reciting poetry. There is movement, there is light. There won't be dance per se, but there is a lot of body language.

S: Joseph Brodsky has written lots of poems, how were the ones chosen for the play?
B: The selection of the poems was done by the director, he selected poems from very early in Josephs career, when he was 17-18 and started to write. Many of those poems are actually a conversation about destiny, mortality, God and love poems. It is a very personal journey for me, we were close friends for over 20 years. His poems were extraordinary and I think there is an obligation to the written word. It is not just gibberish you pick somewhere. They rhyme and you have to make music out of it.

 Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

S: Does criticism bother you?
B: I would be lying if I said, I don't care what people think. I don't want people to come and see my performance and consider it a waste of their time. If people come and sit through two hours, I consider that a compliment.
Critics come and go, but this poetry will still be there for the next century. I'm not the first one who recite those and I hopefully won't be the last.

S: Do you ever get pre-performance nerves?
B: Always! I'm a nervous performer. It doesn't matter if I dance or perform, it is always the same butterflies in my stomach. But thankfully they go away after a few minutes.

S: You have been on stage for decades, do you see yourself retiring completely? Or is that a thought you dread?
B: Actually, that sounds more and more appealing to me, but there are always good projects that are offered to me. How can I say no?

If you can make it to Zurich, don't miss Mikhail Baryshnikov in Brodsky/Baryshnikov at Schauspielhaus Zurich between June 23rd - June 25th, 2017. The performance will be in Russian with German translations.
Get your tickets right HERE.

To catch Mikhail Baryshnikov in any performance in your area, keep an eye on the official schedule over at Baryshnikov Arts Center.