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Virtual Theater Bookshop

Updated on July 16, 2014

The Perfect Little Bookshop for Theater Folk

Just imagine it: a hand-painted green sign and a creaky door just off a little alley off Broadway, right next to another door labeled "Stage Entrance."

Inside - a long thin room, a little dim, a little dusty, filled with the mellow smell of books. The shop cat looks up as you enter, then goes back to washing her ear. The shop's long walls are lined with bookshelves - floor to ceiling - that seem to disappear into a book-filled distance. Along with the books are pictures, statuary busts - look! Shakespeare! - and what seem to be bits and pieces of scenery. Surely that chair was once King Arthur's throne? Was that Sweeney's chair? (Must remember not to sit in that one.)

Right by the door stands a round mahogany table with lion's feet. On the table, piles and piles of books. Big books, small books, new and old books, illustrated books spread open to display gorgeous illustrations - - -

And they're all hand-picked books about theater!

Thought-Provoking Theater Book Reviews

As I find online reviews of worthwhile theater books, I'll post them here.

Paris Opera House
Paris Opera House


Let's start with the building itself

The theater is a very very old architectural form. The earliest performance space must have been a ring of logs pulled round a fire to be closer to a storyteller and the first theater was built when a busker laid a plank across two barrels so he

(it was usually a "he" in those days) could be seen by a crowd. Performance spaces - whether theater, opera, or cinema - are some of our most beautiful public gathering spaces. Some are legendary: the Globe, La Scala, the Paris Opera House.

In our virtual theater bookshop, architecture books are tucked into an alcove, an inglenook framed by columns. Inside it is a handsome old fireplace (now filled, naturally, with over-sized books). On the mantel sits a carved wooden model of a Greek amphitheater.

Theater Architecture

Books on the actual, you know, STRUCTURE. The performance space itself.

Theaters (Library of Congress Visual Sourcebooks)
Theaters (Library of Congress Visual Sourcebooks)
This is a very comprehensive, scholarly book.
Theater Design: Second Edition
Theater Design: Second Edition
More of a how-to design book.
Performing Architecture: Opera Houses, Theatres and Concert Halls for the Twenty-first Century
Performing Architecture: Opera Houses, Theatres and Concert Halls for the Twenty-first Century
The cover photo is of architect Frank Gehry's Disney concert hall in L.A. This is a book about NEW performance spaces.
Theatre des Varietes by Jean Béraud
Theatre des Varietes by Jean Béraud

And what does a virtual theater book shop desperately need? - Virtual theaters!

Benjamin Pollock's Toy Shop Theater
Benjamin Pollock's Toy Shop Theater

An Aladdin's Cave of toy theaters, reproduced from Victorian designs, from matchbox size on up - even an iPhone app (and what's more virtual than that?).

Poe and his Raven
Poe and his Raven

Make-Believe Architecture

For audience and actors, it is the scenery that sets the world of the story. Theater sets may be imitations of real life architecture - painted or built in three dimensions - or sets may be stylized or completely abstract.

In our bookshop the scenic design books live in a small room that's hard to find at first because it's behind a door that looks just exactly like another bookcase, except that the shelves are only an inch deep and the volumes of poetry are flatly painted on the back of the bookcase. There's a beautifully painted bust of Poe sitting on top of the case, with a trompe l'oeil raven.


Other than actors, scenery is the main thing you SEE onstage.

American Set Design (Bk. 1)
American Set Design (Bk. 1)
Modern theater set design - interviews with the top designers. Fascinating! A must-have for scenic students. Also look for its sequel American Set Design II
Alice Through the Proscenium: more scenic set design
Alice Through the Proscenium: more scenic set design
A how-to scenic design book for beginners and working designers. Explains the design process amusingly right through construction and strike. I have to admit to a little bias in favor of this book - seeing as how I wrote it! - but all bias aside, I think it may be the only book out there that really talks about the process of designing a set in an easy-to-follow way. Perfect for students or anyone trying to up their design game.
Scenery and Set Design (High School Musicals)
Scenery and Set Design (High School Musicals)
Aimed at the student and community set designer and builder.
Backstage (from an antique book at the Library of Congress
Backstage (from an antique book at the Library of Congress

Searching for the Technical Theater Dept.

Wandering through our dim and slightly dusty bookshop, it's hard to find the technical books. Where are they?

In the back, of course.

Wandering down a long, book-lined, hall, we see a sudden shaft of light through a doorway. A waft of music. Of course! Where all the light and sound is - that's where the Techs hang out. And here it is: a long, high room with bays of books and an upper balcony. The balcony has lights hung on it, of course, because there are lights hung EVERYWHERE, even that statue over there holds a Fresnel instead of an urn. Plus electric cables. Cables festoon the room like jungle vines reclaiming an Aztec temple. But the statue's robes are beautifully draped. Other costumes, on manikins, stand around. Bits of scenery lean here and there. And books. Lots and lots of books.

Technical Theater

"Technical" means pretty much everything onstage except the actors.

Technical Theater for Nontechnical People, 2nd Edition
Technical Theater for Nontechnical People, 2nd Edition
A wonderful book! A must for any non-technical person to understand those other guys and what they do. Highly recommended.


Now lighting is an area I don't understand as well. But I DO know that the design of stage lighting is part technology and the science of light... and part poetry.


This is just barely scratching the surface...

Business of Theater

Nothing happens on stage unless someone organizes it. Finds money, people, time, and a venue. Who are these desperately organized "someones"? The producers.

In our bookshop the Business of Theater books are tucked into cubbyholes next to the manager's roll-top desk - - - whose top may never roll down again unless he does something about the bookshop paperwork. Look at it! it's slid to the floor. The shop cat has made a nest in it and curls there now, purring.


Producers don't get nearly enough credit. Not only are they the workhorses that make theater happen, they are wonderfully Organized while they do it. Bless 'em, I say!

Bust of Euripides
Bust of Euripides

All in Service of the Text

All this fuss is because of the words. The script, the play, the book, the lyrics (and music).

Texts fill most of the walls of our bookshop - thousands of them. Book after book filled with monologues, skits, and plays ranging from one act to four and more. Marble busts of their authors look down at us as we browse. Euripides looks pretty secure on his ledge and Sheridan looks oddly smug - - - except for a couple, a dusty bust labeled "John Augustus Stone" and a newer one, "Sarah Kane," which seem to have fallen off their perches.

Theater Literature

A get-you-started assortment for the study of the literature of the theater.

It's all about words and ideas isn't it?

William Shakespeare AKA The Bard AKA The Swan of Avon
William Shakespeare AKA The Bard AKA The Swan of Avon

The Bard

THE English playwright (sometimes we forget there are others) William Shakespeare.

There are so many Shakespeare books that the bookshop gives them a whole room. It's lovely. Walls are paneled with Elizabethan linen-fold paneling and windows are lively with colored glass characters. See the fairy queen! And the silly man with the ass' ears.


Probably THE basis for English language theater.

Public domain photo of the Tony's.
Public domain photo of the Tony's.

And those people up there remembering all those words?


Acting books get the room with all the mirrors, naturally. There are a few busts here too, but mostly hundreds of head-shots high up on the wall: elegant engraved portraits from the 17th and 18th centuries, many more black & white photos. Look! There's Carol Channing - between Hugo Weaving and Miz Piggy. That full length oil portrait is the Divine Sarah glaring over at Mrs. Siddons.


Books on the art and craft of acting...

Sanford Meisner on Acting
Sanford Meisner on Acting
Hugely influential acting teacher!
Respect for Acting
Respect for Acting
Uta Hagen - another very famous acting teacher. If you can find it, there's an interesting interview with her on NPR's "Fresh Air".

Uta Hagen on YouTube

Hear this great acting teacher for yourself.

Library Ladder
Library Ladder

Theater for Children

The busiest and brightest room in the whole bookshop is for children. It used to be a stair hall, but now the steps lead up to a high, tree house-like window seat that looks into the bookshop's little garden. Who knew there was a secret garden here, so near Broadway? There are lots of surprises and treats here: a little cubby under the stair, racing library ladders, a hidden compartment behind a bookshelf, and hollow books with secrets inside.

Theater for Children

A couple promising books about making theater for and with children. Theater by and for children is a big part of many theater companies mission.

Visit Again!

The "Green Room" Book Shop is undergoing renovations.

The stock changes now and then, getting better, more select. And the shop itself seems to keep growing.

Other Theater Book Shops

If you haven't found what you need here, try some of these other book store specializing in theater books:

For Serious Theater Scholarship

When you really want to dig deeper.

(A developing list)

Other People's Suggestions

Lists and bibliographies of good theater books of all kinds.

Leave a note for bookshop staff

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