Woodie King, Jr.
Woodie King, Jr.
Some people still think of bookstores as staid and stuffy places where starchy employees enforce codes of silence rivaling the Mafia's, but not so The Drama Book Shop at 250 West 40th Street. This establishment celebrates theater of all varieties, so it's hardly surprising that its policy is to replace silence with conversations, performances, and symposia on the art form whenever possible. Several such events will take place there over the next two weeks.

Woodie King, Jr. of the New Federal Theatre, Roger Hendricks Simon of the Simon Studio, and writer-director Ed Dessisso are among the professionals who will turn out at 5pm on Thursday, November 7, in honor of playwright, librettist, and performer Laurence Holder. A dramatist whose writing is "taut and intimate," according to Frank Rich of the New York Times, Holder is best known for his huge output of work dealing with some of the great African and African-American figures of the 20th century. Notable New York productions of his oeuvre include When the Chickens Come Home to Roost at the New Federal (with Denzel Washington as Malcolm X, more than a decade before he played that historic personage on film) and Zora Neale Hurston at The American Place Theatre (directed by Wyn Handman). Holder's other plays concerning the African-American diaspora include Bird (about jazz trumpeter Charlie Parker), The Gospel According to Max Roach, and Langston. Several distinguished artists will read from Holder's works, including Marjorie Johnson, Todd Davis, Charles Turner, Rome Neal, Alvin Alexis, Marmara McKinney, and Tony Jackson.

Another great African-American dramatist and performer, Dael Orlandersmith, will appear at the shop next Monday, November 11. The author and star of the critically acclaimed Yellowman, now on stage at the Manhattan Theatre Club, will perform excerpts from that play beginning at 6pm. The 1996 Obie winner (for Beauty's Daughter) and 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist (for Yellowman) will answer questions and sign copies of her scripts, which also include The Gimmick, Monster, and Liar Liar.

The Drama Book Shop(Photo: Michael Portantiere)
The Drama Book Shop
(Photo: Michael Portantiere)
The Drama Book Shop will feature two special events on November 18. First, at 5pm, performers are encouraged to bring their headshots and résumés for professional assessment by Brad Lemack at 5pm; the manager and publicist will be making his second appearance at the shop to discuss his book The Business of Acting and share his expertise in a question-and-answer session. Then, beginning at 6pm, playwright, critic, and translator Eric Bentley will lead readings and discussions of the work of Bernard Shaw. Finally, students of acting techniques may want to attend a workshop on "transformational acting" on November 19: Sande Shurin, who literally wrote the book on how to replace theory-based acting instruction with what she describes as a more creative and viscerally human approach, will lead the workshop and answer questions.

There is no charge to attend any of these events, but reservations are always recommended and can be made by phoning 212-944-0595, ext. 417, at any time of day or night.