Drama research may involve finding the text of a particular play or preparing yourself for an audition or role. The questions below will help direct your search.
Are you looking for a particular play?
The Books guide will help you navigate the online catalog to find it.
What is the setting of the play? What was the political situation?
Use the Databases guide to learn to use databases for period or historical research. Also, look at Print Journals for material not covered by the databases.
What would life have been like at that time?
Search the online catalog using search terms like daily life in to explore further.
Are you searching for a particular play or playwright?
Check the online catalog. Search for plays by title, author (last name first), subject or keyword. Keyword searches by author or title may indicate whether a play is listed in an anthology or collection of plays.
What is is the setting of the play? What was the political situation?
Use the online catalog to search for history materials and maps for a certain area or time period.
What was current in fashion, music or art? What was daily life like?
Keyword searches in the online catalog such as daily life in colonial america will return useful results.
Older newspapers and magazines are good sources for historical research in that they show a snapshot of life in a particular time period. These materials are housed on the second floor of the library.
Browse the Collection
Reference collection: 2nd floor
Circulating collection: 3rd floor
Materials in the library are classified and shelved by subject.
Drama sources are shelved primarily in the PN2000 call number area.
Be sure to browse both the reference and circulating collections for a thorough search.
Print Reference Sources
The books listed below are just a sample of what is available in the drama section of the reference collection on the second floor.
History of the modernist era in theatre (1880-1930) through chronologies, biographies and coverage of individual plays.
Multi-volume encyclopedia covering plays and playwrights, actors, designers and directors.
Encyclopedia of theaters and plays with biographies of actors and playwrights included
Databases are online collections of materials such as journal articles, images, sound recordings and even entire books. Use the Drama and History databases to locate plays, journal articles about theater subjects and historical information about the setting of a play.
View all library databases (Browse A-Z or by subject)
Drama and History Databases
The AP Photos will provide pictorial research using news photos beginning in the 19th century. This list also includes some general online drama reference works.
Plays, production information and photographs.
Electronic books discussing daily life from ancient times through 1990s (Select "D" to view "Daily Life..." titles); literary resources also.
Associated Press photos from the 1840s to current images; search by subject, time period or location.
The Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library is one of the largest and most comprehensive archives devoted to the theatrical arts. Encompassing dramatic performance in all its diversity, the division is an indispensable resource for artists, writers, researchers, scholars, students, and the general public.
Full-text access from earliest plays to modern day accompanied by criticisms and biographical information.
Theater and dance articles.
Covers Canadian and US theater.
History of the theater from ancient times to current tv performances.
Collection of Shakespeare's works, reference materials, criticisms and journal articles.
Journals and newspapers are valuable for arts research not only because they provide current treatment of a subject but also for their coverage of performances and reviews. A list of the library's drama periodicals can be found by searching the library catalog using the subject search drama periodicals.
In addition, the library has a collection of 19th and early 20th century theater periodicals on microfilm as well as photos of New York stage productions from 1919-1961 on microfiche. Both collections are housed in the microfilm room on the 2nd floor.
The New York Times and the Times of London are highly respected newspapers with broad coverage of arts subjects. Their access information is listed below.
Print Index in Reference Collection: Ref. AI21 N44
Current 4 weeks are also available in print in the library lobby.
Articles on specific subjects are located using an index. The Reader's Guide and Play Index provide citations to journal articles on drama and theater subjects. Simply look up the subject and note the citation information for the individual article.
Print index shelved in Reference.
The library does not subscribe to all the journals indexed by the Reader's Guide and Play Index so check the online catalog to be sure the library has the journal you need.
Locating Plays, Reviews and Criticisms
Coverage from 1940-1996; excerpts of reviews from major NY publications
Excerpts of criticisms of major dramatic works; continued online by Literature Criticism Online
Excerpts of criticisms by leading Shakespeare scholars; continued online by Literature Criticism Online
Search Poetry Criticism, Drama Criticism, 19th century Literature Criticism, Shakespearean Criticism, Short Story Criticism.