Last October, in a piece of devastating news to the theatre community, the Drama Book Store announced that it would shutter in 2019 after more than a century of business as Broadways most beloved literature depot. A rent increase made daily operations cost-prohibitive, and a contingency plan for relocation, even as early as December, seemed out of reach for employees.
All the more reason why the bookstore’s fans were elated to learn on January 8 that the celebrated composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda and three of his “Hamilton” collaborators have purchased the Drama Book Shop, saving it from certain doom.
Alongside Miranda, the store’s new owners include “Hamilton” director Thomas Kail; the show’s lead producer Jeffrey Seller; and James L. Nederlander, president of the Nederlander Organization, which operates many Broadway theaters (including the one in which Miranda’s acclaimed production resides). The city has also pledged to help the store find an affordable place in Midtown after departing from its current location at 250 West 40th Street on January 20.
The Drama Book Shop’s previous owner was Rozanne Seelen, whose now-deceased husband bought the store in 1958. She sold the store to the “Hamilton” group for the cost of remaining inventory, some rent support, and a pledge that she remain a consultant.
“When I was in high school I would go to the [Drama Book Shop’s] old location and sit on the floor and read plays — I didn’t have the money to buy them,” Mr. Miranda told The New York Times, which broke the news. “After college Tommy Kail and I met in the Drama Book Shop basement, and I wrote a good deal of ‘In the Heights’ there.”
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
Theatre-lovers worldwide have hailed the Drama Book Shop as a must-see destination in New York’s crowded Broadway corridor. Nevertheless, the store, which received a 2011 Tony honor for excellence, has struggled to stay afloat in Times Square amidst rising rent costs and a devastating 2016 pipe burst. Even then, Miranda actively fundraised for the bookstore on social media. Miranda also held book-signing events at the store to help bring customers into the shop.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) February 18, 2016
Countless playwrights, actors, and composers have begun their careers at the Drama Book Shop, including Kail. His first post-college theatre venture, Back House Productions, was a resident company at the store. “I was in many senses professionally born in that bookshop’s basement — I spent the first five years of my career there,” he told the NYT.
Others expressed their gratitude for the “Hamilton” creators over Twitter, demonstrating the subtle but extended reach the Drama Book Shop has had on creative circles from Broadway to Hollywood.
My entire career began in the basement of @dramabookshop when Tommy Kail showed me kindness and produced a run of my solo show about chainsmoking there in 2003. At the same time @Lin_Manuel was working on “In the Heights.” Now they OWN the store. Choked up. Thank you Tommy & Lin. https://t.co/ryxRQF28R6
— Michael Cyril Creighton (@MCCisNauseous) January 8, 2019
TY, @Lin_Manuel !
This means the WORLD to so many of us. @dramabookshop fed our souls, nurtured our dreams & gave us a haven. What a joy to know it can keep doing that for all the dreamers to come. And TY #RozanneSeelan (& Arthur!) for all these years of wonder! Much love!❤️ https://t.co/d5XWrx60Tf
— Bellamy Young (@BellamyYoung) January 8, 2019
Seller’s office, which already runs a Hamilton merchandise store in Midtown, will manage the Drama Book Shop. He told the NYT that the store would have a revamped website and expanded programming.