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The play is the thing at St. Paul’s newest bookstore

Was the movie better than the book? You can argue that one out. But, barring disaster, seeing the production is usually more interesting than reading the script. But what if you saw it but missed a few key lines? Or if you’re hard of hearing and want to make sure you know the story before you see the play? Maybe you’re a student or actor. Or maybe you simply loved the play. Those are the readers Shelly Schaub hopes to reach at her new store, Play-By-Play Books.

Part theater bookstore and part coffee shop, the Selby Avenue space will become a gathering place for the theater community, she says. “We’ve got such a smart, great theater scene here, but when you go to the big box bookstores, they maybe have one shelf of theater books and one shelf of Shakespeare. That leaves out nearly everything.”

Play-By-Play will stock new, used and out-of-print classic and contemporary plays, scripts, theater biographies, books on film, dance, technique and theory. The store opened mid-November, and already Schaub sees a bestseller: The Acting Biz: A Career Guide to the Twin Cities,” by Beth Chaplin.

Schaub is a consultant to theaters and nonprofit arts organizations, and is currently helping Theatre de la Jeune Lune navigate the dissolution process. The sad fate of that once-great theater should be a warning to Schaub; can a bookstore possibly seem like a better bet?

“I know bookstores are struggling. There’s a really slim margin in books. But you’re not going to find the kind of books I’ve got on my shelf anywhere else,” she says.

“And outside of New York, you’re not going to find a more passionate theater community. Everyone here has some connection to the theater.”

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