A new bookstore for theater lovers

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William Shakespeare finger puppets and business strategies gleened from his plays, on sale at ‘Play by Play’ bookstore in St. Paul.

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Kelly Schaub has worked on the administrative side of various Twin Cities theaters for over a decade. She says she kept wondering why, in such a thriving theater town, there wasn’t a better resource for finding plays and reference materials; most directors and dramaturgs mail order their plays from New York or L.A.

Finally Schaub decided if no one else would offer books for the theater community, she would. And thus “Play by Play” was born. The cozy shop is located on Selby Avenue in St. Paul, not far from a couple of restaurants and several antique shops. While it’s grand opening will take place sometime in January, it’s already open for visits and events. This coming Monday, Play by Play will host a reception for Sonya Berlovitz, the costume designer whose artwork currently graces the walls. So far the store mainly features used or out-of-print books, but Schaub plans to gradually focus more on new works.

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Kelly Schaub in her new bookstore “Play by Play.” On the wall behind her are designs for stage costumes by local artist Sonya Berlovitz.

You might think commone sense would dissuade anyone from opening up an independent bookstore in this economy. But Schaub says working for theater companies has taught her to be comfortable with the financial risk. Plus, she says, online shopping doesn’t really cut it for people in search of a good play.

If you’re going to direct a play and it’s not something that you’ve seen or read before, how do you tell by the one paragraph description [online] if that’s the play you want to direct, or if those are characters that you’re going to care about? You need a physical store to do that.

On the day I stopped by to check out Play by Play, so did playwright Barbara Field. Field is probably best known in the Twin Cities for her adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater. Field says she was disappointed when the new Guthrie opened, boasting eleven bars, but no bookstore.

The fact that this is suddenly here now, excites me. For people in the art, we need to run into a place we know will have what we’re looking for. I just bought a copy of “Ruined” by Lynn Nottage; I would have had to send away probably to the drama bookstore in New York.

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While Play by Play is billed as a “theatre bookstore,” Schaub is quick to point out that she’s working on stocking her shelves with books on all the performing arts: dance, opera, film, and more. She also offers free coffee and wifi, and comfortable nooks for reading or meeting friends. She says her goals for the bookstore are similar to those of a non-profit.

If I can help the theater community, help build it and help bring people together… then I’m going to feel like it’s a success.

Schaub says she hopes the store will become a resource not only for performers, but for students and for lovers of the arts.

“Play by Play” bookstore is located at 1771 Selby Avenue in St. Paul.

  • Play by Play is a great addition to the Twin Cities theater scene. I’ve shopped there already and feel fortunate that it’s only a mile or so from my home.

    I look forward to spending hours there when it’s time to find just the right play to fill out our season.