Skip to main content

Actors Page: Creating a Production History

This page is designed for actors, to help them develop the library skills they will need when researching a role. Using the proper research methods your visit to the library will be easier and more efficient.

On the Internet

In the Stacks

The Best Plays series
Call number: PN2266.A2 B5

Begins in 1899. Contains photos as well as a good synopsis and critique of the play.

American Theatrical Arts: A Guide to Manuscripts and Special Collections in the United States and Canada / William Young. Chicago, American Library Association, 1971.
Call number: Z6935 .Y68
A serious researchers tool, it identifies where manuscripts and other primary source material relating to American and Canadian theatrical arts are located. This is now out-of-print but is available as an on demand reprint from University Microfilms

Creating a Production History

This image is a work of a Works Progress Administration employee, taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain (17 U.S.C. §§ 101 and 105).

In The Reference Room

One of the key places to begin if you want to trace the entire "life" of a play is with The New York Times Theatre Index, REF1 PN1581.N4 (1851 to present). The library now has full text access to the New York Times available via the Proquest database. Another great source is The New York Theatre Critics Reviews, REF1 PN1601.N4 (1958-1996); these volumes provide reviews from all the major New York Newspapers. The Guide to Critical Reviews, REF1 Z5782.S16 1973, is especially useful for providing citations to reviews from many diverse sources from opening day to closing. The Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, REF1 AI3.R4 (dating from 1890 to present), contains citations to both journal and newspaper articles. Theatre World REF1 PN2277.N5 A17 is great for finding photos of productions.

Other sources:

American Literary and Drama Reviews: an Index to Late Nineteenth Century Periodicals. Boston G.K. Hall, 1984
Call number: REF1 PN2256 M37 1984
Indexes reviews in 13 periodicals published 1880-1900. Has a separate section for drama reviews (arranged by play title).

American Theater and Drama Research: An Annotated Guide to Information Sources, 1945-1990 / Irene Shaland. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, 1991.
Call number: REF1 Z1231.D7 S53 1991
A general bibliography of resources for all types of drama related research.

International Dictionary of Theatre, ed. by Mark Hawkins-Dady. Chicago: St. James, 1992.
Call number: REF1 PN2000 .I474 1991
Vol. 1: Plays. Contains entries for over 620 plays, with a critical essay on each, identifies dates of publication and initial performance.
Vol. 2: Playwrights. Major dramatists, with a summary of their lives, a list of works, and a list of critical studies about the playwrights.
Vol. 3: Actors, directors, and designers. Brief biography with chronological list of performances.

Recent Plays and Outside-of-New York Productions

Recent Plays and Outside-of-New-York Productions

Current production information may be difficult to find. Searching Historical Newspapers (Proquest) and  Proquest Central will be helpful for shows both inside and outside of New York. If the show only appeared outside of New York, try the Newsbank microfiche set Z6935.R4 1975-1997. The databases Lexis-Nexis and Factiva provide reviews from a large assortment of regional newspapers, (including European and South American productions). The database International Index to the Performing Arts has retrospective coverage from 1864 to present and will be helpful in finding reviews and articles about shows both past and present. For a more extensive list go to the Theatre Performance Studies guide.

European and Other International Plays

If you seek information about British plays or plays performed in Britain, you can find reviews in the London Theater Record, PN 2596.16 L66. For other European shows see European Drama Criticism 1900-1975, Z5781.P2 1971. The International Bibliography of Theatre, Z5781.I8 (1982-present) and Drama Criticism, REF1 PN1601.D59, a 14-volume set, will also be helpful. To find reviews of foreign plays you will most likely need to go to databases and the web. Remember to try Lexis/Nexis and Factiva. The database IIPA, The International Index to the Performing Arts, will have some reviews, but you may want to use international search engines. A link to these is provided on my Theatre and Performance Studies page.