A ‘Hamil­ton’ res­cue plan for book shop

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - MICHAEL PAUL­SON

NEW YORK — Lin-Manuel Mi­randa is al­ready a com­poser, a lyri­cist, an ac­tor and an au­thor. Now he’s go­ing to be a book­seller.

Mi­randa and three of his “Hamil­ton” col­lab­o­ra­tors have pur­chased the Drama Book Shop, a cen­tury-old theatre dis­trict pur­veyor of scripts, sheet mu­sic and other stage-re­lated read­ing ma­te­rial.

The sur­prise move is an ef­fort to sus­tain the store, which is a main­stay of New York’s theatre scene — in 2011, it was rec­og­nized with a Tony hon­our for ex­cel­lence — but has strug­gled to sur­vive the bru­tal Times Square real es­tate mar­ket and re­cently an­nounced that it was be­ing forced to move.

The res­cue plan is a joint ven­ture be­tween the “Hamil­ton” team and the city, which has pledged to find the store an af­ford­able space in Mid­town.

“The store is a gem and a cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion in New York, and we want to make sure it’s saved,” said Julie Menin, the mayor’s me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment com­mis­sioner. As prece­dent for the ar­range­ment with the book­store, she cited the city’s work with the Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic to save a Man­hat­tan record­ing stu­dio.

The Drama Book Shop, which sells about 155,000 items a year, will close at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion, on West 40th Street, on Jan. 20, and will re­open at a new lo­ca­tion, not yet be­ing named, in the fall.

The new own­ers of the store are Mi­randa; Thomas Kail, di­rec­tor of “Hamil­ton”; Jef­frey Seller, the lead pro­ducer; and James L. Ned­er­lan­der, pres­i­dent of the Ned­er­lan­der Or­ga­ni­za­tion, which op­er­ates the theatre in which the show’s Broad­way pro­duc­tion is run­ning. They pur­chased the store from Rozanne See­len, whose hus­band, Arthur See­len, had bought it in 1958. (He died in 2000.) See­len said that she sold it for the cost of the re­main­ing in­ven­tory, some rent sup­port in the store’s fi­nal weeks and a pledge to re­tain her as a con­sul­tant.

“It’s the chronic prob­lem — the rents were just too high, and I’m 84 years old — I just didn’t have the drive to find a new space and make an­other move,” she said. “Lin-Manuel and Tommy are my white knights.”

The new own­ers all fre­quented the book­store at var­i­ous points when they were seek­ing to build ca­reers in the theatre.

“When I was in high school I would go to the old lo­ca­tion and sit on the floor and read plays — I didn’t have the money to buy them,” Mi­randa said in a tele­phone in­ter­view from Puerto Rico, where he is pre­par­ing to star in a three-week run of “Hamil­ton” in San Juan. “After col­lege, Tommy Kail and I met in the Drama Book Shop base­ment, and I wrote a good deal of ‘In the Heights’ there.”

In 2016, after a burst pipe dam­aged the shop, Mi­randa came to its aid by urg­ing his fans to pa­tron­ize it. The store needed a lot more help this time.

“They’re like fam­ily to us,” he said, “and when we heard that the rent in­crease was fi­nally too pre­cip­i­tous to with­stand, we be­gan hatch­ing a plan.”


Lin-Manuel Mi­randa and three of his “Hamil­ton” col­lab­o­ra­tors have pur­chased the Drama Book Shop, a cen­tury-old New York theatre dis­trict in­sti­tu­tion in an ef­fort to sus­tain the store.

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