Los Angeles is home to a multitude of specialized bookstores, from those oriented toward horror and mystery to others with more practical focuses, like cookbooks. Follow columnist Clea Wurster as she explores the many niche literary interests the city accommodates.
A small chalkboard sign in front of the Samuel French Film & Theatre Bookshop offers advice to passersby: “Read more plays.”
And after visiting the shop, I will definitely be taking that tip to heart. The store was simple, endearing and well-stocked with secrets about Los Angeles’ thriving entertainment industry.
Upon entering I was struck by the narrow layout of the store. Just by the door, a circular counter sat between customers and helpful staff who offered to point me toward whatever books excited my interest. Across from the register, a section under the title “Inspirational” caught my attention and to my surprise, it consisted mainly of typical self-help books, which seemed out of place given the store’s primary area of expertise: theater.
However, upon moving further into the narrow room I was glad to find titles that met my expectations. The categories ranged from “Hair and Make Up” to “Voice,” a section that displayed countless CDs offering examples of various dialects. I was surprised by the variety, which included Cockney, French, Chicago and more.
As I walked through the store, I found a door set in between two shelves that branched off from the main room. The entrance led to a nook called “The Green Room,” which featured a sign reading “Friends gather here,” and was filled with various clusters of chairs. One upholstered armchair with a floral pattern reminded me of my grandmother’s house, and I instantly felt cozier.
Employees explained that “The Green Room” is a space where many customers get together to read over scripts, peruse copies that they’ve found on the shelves and sometimes perform scenes. Flyers for an array of theater events filled an entire card table to one side and books on acting lined the edges of the space.
Something about the room, possibly the collaborative nature, reminded me of an elementary school library space or my junior high art classroom. It truly felt like the clientele not only benefited from the store, but also contributed to some of its charm. It was the perfect balance for a bookstore, which really should be a community space.
At the other end of “The Green Room,” another doorway nestled into a wall of exposed brick revealed a few small steps into a wider space, where two main shelves sat, displaying the brightly colored spines of small, paperbound play scripts. The shelves seemed to be grouped by color, but on closer inspection, they were actually arranged alphabetically by title. The playful colors gave the room a vibrant and youthful energy, so I spent a large portion of my visit glancing through the titles.
One that caught my attention was titled, “Kickass Plays for Women: Four Short Plays.” It neighbored an equally well-stocked area of the store that was home to monologues of various types – for men, women and even some specifically catering to LGBTQ performers.
Equally intriguing was a section filled with texts on cinematography; one dazzling title contained stills from particularly well-filmed movies and gave analyses on each shot. It was a short, widely set book that caught my attention at first because of its peculiar shape. After flipping through, I had decided that the content was definitely worth the second glance.
After searching all the sections of the store and lingering on an edition of “Save the Cat!,” which I’ve heard is the only text on screenwriting worth buying as a beginner, I began to seriously pore over the “Acting” section. After flipping through countless titles and getting distracted by Googling the names of the various writers who doubled as actors, I landed on Michael Chekhov’s “To the Actor: On the Technique of Acting,” which featured an eye-grabbing charcoal figure drawing.
The store felt inviting overall and the staff was incredibly helpful, knowledgeable and best of all, friendly. I would definitely recommend checking it out, whether as an actor or a book fanatic. The store was a wonderful balance between an homage to LA’s entertainment industry and a homey bookshop.