Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Actors Page

An overview of the resources available for researchers in the field of Acting.

Creating a Production History

Poster of Emperor Jones, a play by Eugene O'Neill.

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.

Historical Sources

In The Reference Room

The New York Times Theatre Index

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,

The New York Theatre Critics Reviews

Is another great source,

  • 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.

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

Recent Plays and Outside-of-New York Productions

British 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.

Other European Plays

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 Performing Arts Periodicals Database, 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 Guide.