The curtain falls on Play by Play Theatre bookstore


Kelly Schaub standing at the counter of the original Play by Play Theatre Bookstore, before it was forced to move. On the wall behind her are designs for stage costumes by local artist Sonya Berlovitz.

When I first wrote about Play by Play Theatre Bookstore, it was December of 2009, and the store was in a cute little building on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. I admit I was thrilled, because I love to read plays almost as much as I love seeing them.

But just two months later the landlord sold the building, and Play by Play’s owner Kelly Schaub was forced to pack up her things and find a new home. Eventually she moved to a new location in Lowertown (the warehouse district of St. Paul), and attempted to pick up where she left off.

Sadly the new location has not worked out either.

Leah Cooper, head of the Minnesota Theater Alliance, has written a lovely piece on why it’s such a shame the store is closing. Here’s an excerpt:

During some kind of community hubbub time – I can’t remember if it was an art crawl or Fringe or some clever new works reading series or workshop that Kelly put together – but one of those times when theater folks were coming and going and the space was buzzing with clever creative minds contemplating new ideas, I ran into four different colleagues I’d been meaning to get in touch with anyway. And I thought, “Yes, this place is actually going to expand and diversify the work we do, because we’re going to read. And think. And talk to each other about new ideas about making art.”

By this time, my breathless announcements that we had our very own theater bookstore were generally greeted by, “I know, I know, it’s so exciting, I really need to go check it out.” And by this time, Kelly was putting all kinds of stuff on the shelves hoping to widen her shopper base, she was pumping out the newsletters, and she was running every kind of discount offer any retailer has ever thought of. And she was inviting the community in for just about every kind of event they ever said they wanted: new play readings, lectures by exotic guest speakers, book signings, book clubs, workshops, parties, fundraisers, board meetings, forums, talk-backs, … you name it. And I thought, “Wow, this theater community is so lucky. I hope people are buying books.”

Well, as it turned out, they weren’t. And entirely too few of those who kept meaning to check it out never did. And for all our grantspeak and mission statements talking about building community, apparently we weren’t interested in supporting this kind of community within our own industry. And though many of us argue vehemently that if you don’t pay artists you won’t get art, we didn’t seem to think that having our own theater bookstore was worth buying our theater books locally.

You can read Cooper’s entire piece here.

Meanwhile, Play by Play Theatre Bookstore will be having a 50% off sale on Thursday, starting at 10am. The store is located at 308 Prince Street, Suite 234 in St. Paul.