Drama and Theater

Guides to Reference Works


Bailey, Claudia Jean. A Guide to Reference and Bibliography for Theatre Research. 2nd ed. Columbus: Pubs. Committee, Ohio State U Libs., 1983. 149 pp. Z5781.B15 [PN1620.A1] 016.792.

A classified, descriptively annotated guide to general and specialized reference works on drama and theater. Although the emphasis is overwhelmingly on the United States and Western Europe, and the annotations are sometimes less thorough than they could be, Bailey remains the only introduction to reference works for theater research. A replacement is badly needed. Review: Robert H. Hethmon, Theatre Research International 9.3 (1984): 260–61.


Whalon, Marion K. Performing Arts Research: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1976. 280 pp. Performing Arts Information Guide Ser. 1. Z6935.W5 [PN1584] 016.7902.

A selective guide to reference works (in several languages and published through 1973) useful to research in the performance aspects of theater, dance, music, musical theater, film, and other entertainments. Entries are organized alphabetically in seven variously classified divisions for types of works: basic guides and general reference works; dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks; directories of organizations, institutions, and persons; play indexes and finding lists; sources for reviews of plays and films; bibliographies, indexes, and abstracts; sources for illustrations and audiovisual material. The numerous cross-references compensate somewhat for imprecise classification of several entries. Many of the descriptive annotations offer helpful evaluative comments. Indexed by authors, titles, and subjects. Although it lacks an adequate statement of scope and explanation of criteria governing selections, omits some important works, and is now badly dated, Performing Arts Research remains the best general guide to reference works important to research in the performing arts.

It is not superseded by Linda Keir Simons, The Performing Arts: A Guide to the Reference Literature (Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 1994; 244 pp.; Reference Sources in the Humanities Ser.). Although some annotations offer brief evaluative comments, Simons is marred by inconsistent organization and coverage (especially of non-English-language resources), omission of several important works, and lack of rigor in assessing key tools.

Some additional resources on film, theater, popular music, and broadcast media are identified in Barbara J. Pruett, Popular Entertainment Research: How to Do It and How to Use It (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1992; 579 pp.). Unfortunately, because of numerous errors and omissions, untrustworthy evaluations, insufficient annotations, inadequate subject indexing, and poor organization, this work must be used with care.

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Ed. Martin Banham. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. 1,233 pp. (Rev. of Cambridge Guide to World Theatre, ed. Banham, 1988; 1,104 pp.) PN2035.C27 792′.03. Available online through Credo Reference (http://www.credoreference.com).

An international dictionary of theater, classical to contemporary, that emphasizes performance, popular entertainment, and traditions outside Europe and North America. The signed entries cover traditions, theories, acting companies, playwrights, performers, designers, directors, movements, folk drama, types of performance, television and radio drama, playhouses, and the theatrical aspects of ballet and opera; those on national traditions and general topics conclude with a brief bibliography. Indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Although imbalance in coverage of forms and geographic areas is inevitable in a work of this scope, the Cambridge Guide is the most thorough and authoritative single-volume encyclopedia of world theater. Review: Anton Wagner, Theatre History in Canada 12.2 (1991): 213–18.

The entries in the first edition for Asia have been revised and expanded as The Cambridge Guide to Asian Theatre, ed. James R. Brandon (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993; 252 pp.).


Enciclopedia dello spettacolo. Ed. Silvio d’Amico and Francesco Savio. 9 vols. Roma: Maschere, 1954–62. Aggiornamento, 1955–1965. Roma: Unione, 1966. 1,292 cols. Indice-Repertorio. 1968. 1,024 pp. Cinema, teatro, balletto, tv. Roma: Garzanti, 1978. 782 pp. PN1625.E7 792.03.

An international encyclopedia of all forms of dramatic and musical theater, opera, cinema, television, and circus from classical antiquity to 1965. Concerts, sports, and civil and religious ceremonies are excluded. The more than 30,000 signed entries encompass dramatists, composers, librettists, performers, cinematographers, directors, producers, critics, various other theater personnel, terminology, genres and forms, national and ethnic literatures, places, technical matters, movements, groups, and themes. The entries, which range from a paragraph to several pages, are organized alphabetically by Italian-language term; most conclude with a brief bibliography, and many are accompanied by illustrations. Indexed by title in the index volume. Entries in Appendice di aggiornamento: Cinema (Roma: Istituto per la Collaborazione Culturale, 1963; 178 cols.) are revised in the supplement for 1955–65, but the former includes some different plates. Although now dated, the Enciclopedia and companion volumes remain the fullest international guide to all aspects of the theatrical arts.

An important complement to Enciclopedia dello spettacolo, The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, 6 vols., ed. Don Rubin (London: Routledge, 1994–2000), surveys national theatrical activity since 1945. The national surveys (ranging from 3,000 to 30,000 words) typically cover history, structure of the national theater community, major artistic trends, music theater, dance theater, young adult theater, puppet theater, design, theatrical space and architecture, training, and scholarship and criticism; each concludes with a selective bibliography (which are cumulated, updated, and expanded in vol. 6). The section on scholarship and criticism—which identifies major research centers, important collections, and periodicals—is of particular importance. Indexed in each volume—and cumulatively in vol. 6—by persons, titles, and subjects.


An International Dictionary of Theatre Language. Joel Trapido, gen. ed. Westport: Greenwood, 1985. 1,032 pp. PN2035.I5 792′.03′21.

A dictionary of some 10,000 English-language and 5,000 foreign language terms, historical and current, covering drama and theater worldwide. Definitions are very brief but do cite works in the accompanying bibliography that offer fuller definitions or discussions. “A Brief History of Theatre Glossaries and Dictionaries” (pp. xxxiii–xxxvi) surveys related works. Although not exhaustive—since only foreign language terms “used in the English-speaking world” are admitted and since some technical aspects of production are excluded (see the detailed explanation of scope in the prefatory matter)—the work is the most extensive dictionary of drama and theater terminology.


The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance. Ed. Dennis Kennedy. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. PN2035.O94 792.03′21. Online through Oxford Reference (I530).

Emphasizes theater and performance (broadly conceived), classical to contemporary, with more than 4,300 entries on individuals, national traditions, theoretical issues, genres and forms, movements, locales, organizations, performance venues, architecture, and media (see the thematic table of contents in the frontmatter of vol. 1). Although international in scope, the emphasis is on the anglophone world. Concludes with a timeline, a highly selective bibliography (a few of the signed entries end with suggestions for further reading), and a selective index of titles. Individuals with separate entries are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). The c. 300 contributors include far more distinguished scholars than is typical in such compilations as this. A concise, updated version of the Encyclopedia was published as The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance, ed. Kennedy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010; 689 pp.; online through Oxford Reference [I530]).

Among the numerous other encyclopedic works on drama and theater, the following are reasonably trustworthy:

  • The Encyclopedia of World Theater. Ed. Martin Esslin. New York: Scribner’s, 1977. 320 pp. A translation and revision of Karl Gröning and Werner Kliess, Friedrichs Theaterlexikon, ed. Henning Rischbieter (Hannover: Friedrich, 1969; 462 pp.), that covers theater, classical to contemporary, in brief entries on performers, theatrical personnel, forms, genres, theaters, movements, terms, groups, characters and character types, and critics. Entrants are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565).

  • McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama. Ed. Stanley Hochman. 2nd ed. 5 vols. New York: McGraw, 1984. Emphasizes dramatists but also includes entries on terms, anonymous plays, genres, national literatures, and movements. The lengthy entries on major dramatists include biographical information, critical commentary, synopses of selected plays, a list of plays, and selected bibliography. Entrants are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565).


Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters: Oper, Operette, Musical, Ballett. Ed. Carl Dahlhaus and Sieghart Döhring. 7 vols. München: Piper, 1986–97. ML102.O6 P5 782′.03′31.

An encyclopedia of musicals, melodramas, ballets, operas, and operettas in the modern repertory as well as some works of historical importance. Although the work emphasizes European theater, there is substantial coverage of the rest of the world. In vols. 1–6, signed entries on about 3,000 works are organized by author, composer, or choreographer. When possible, an entry identifies the author and source of the libretto, composer of the music, date and place of premiere and later important versions, characters, and orchestral requirements; provides a lengthy synopsis; analyzes the historical or current significance of the work; traces influences; locates the original manuscript and important copies; and cites printed versions, copyright holders, and selected scholarship. Indexed by titles in each volume; vol. 7 is a cumulative index of titles and persons. The handbook of terminology relating to all aspects of musical theater (originally planned as vols. 7–8) has been abandoned. On the conception and publication of the encyclopedia, see Döhring, “Zwischen dem Interesse an rascher Information und der Neigung zu verweilendem Lesen: Konzeption und Entstehung von Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters,” Carl Dahlhaus und die Musikwissenschaft: Werk, Wirkung, Aktualität, ed. Hermann Danuser, Peter Gülke, and Norbert Miller (Schliengen: Argus, 2011) 79–87. Offering considerably more detail than one typically encounters in an encyclopedic work, Pipers is the fullest single guide to international musical theater.

More closely focused on musical drama, Kurt Gänzl, The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (New York: Schirmer-Gale, 2001), excludes opera, pantomime, music-hall and vaudeville pieces, and musicals for video and concentrates on France, Austria, Great Britain, the United States, Hungary, Australia, and Germany. The majority of the approximately 4,000 entries are devoted to shows and writers; entrants are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565).

Guides to Primary Works

Bibliographies and Indexes


Montgomery, Denise L. Ottemiller’s Index to Plays in Collections: An Author and Title Index to Plays Appearing in Collections Published since 1900. 8th ed., rev. and enl. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2011. 779 pp. Z5781.O8 [PN1655] 016.80882.

An author index to 10,141 titles in various languages (including translations) by more than 4,855 authors in 2,094 collections published for the most part in the United States or England between 1900 and 2000. Plays are keyed by an awkward system of symbols to the list of anthologies. Two indexes: play title; anthology title. Concludes with three appendixes: authors by country, race, and ethnic group; women writers; authors by sexual orientation. Similar indexes include the following:

  • Chicorel, Marietta, ed. Chicorel Theater Index to Plays in Anthologies, Periodicals, Discs, and Tapes. 2 vols. New York: Chicorel, 1970–71. Chicorel Theater Index to Plays in Anthologies and Collections, 1970–1976. 1977. 479 pp. Chicorel Index Ser. 25. An author and title list, with minimal subject indexing, of English-language plays.

  • Samples, Gordon. The Drama Scholars’ Index to Plays and Filmscripts: A Guide to Plays and Filmscripts in Selected Anthologies, Series, and Periodicals. 3 vols. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1974–86. A selective author and title index to plays and scripts of radio, television, and film productions in a variety of languages. Entries are keyed to lists of periodicals and collections. A useful complement to the other indexes listed in this entry, since coverage extends from eighteenth-century collections through the early 1980s and includes periodicals; however, the number of entries is needlessly swollen by the indexing of many standard collected editions of individual authors. Poor typography and layout make this a frustrating work to use.

There is considerable overlapping among these indexes, which are principally useful for locating anthologized reprints of plays.

Dean H. Keller, Index to Plays in Periodicals, rev. ed. (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1979; 824 pp.), and 1977–1987 (1990; 391 pp.), each an author list with title index, supplement periodical coverage of the preceding works and locate many plays not separately published or anthologized. Users should note that a majority of the entries in the 1977–1987 volume comes from pre-1977 issues of periodicals.

All of the preceding are supplemented by Inter-Play (L1155a).


Play Index. New York: Wilson, 1953– . Irregular. Z5781.P53 016.80882. <http://www.epnet.com>.

A selective author, title, and subject index to English-language plays and translations—classical through contemporary—published separately or in collections since 1949. Entries, which include a brief plot summary and production specifications, are keyed to a list of collections at the back.

The Web version uses a modified version of the standard EBSCO search interface (see I512). Basic Search allows keyword searches of fields to be limited by grade interest level; Advanced Search allows users to search record fields as well as play title, book title, play author, book author, document type, subject, genre, number in cast, and audience level; Browse allows users to browse record fields (author, document type, ISBN, LC control number, language, physical description, subject, publication date, series, or update code).

Although Play Index overlaps with the sources listed in entry L1150, this is the only work of its kind that indexes plays by subject (although some subject headings are too broad to be useful). Ina Ten Eyck Firkins, comp., Index to Plays, 1800–1926 (New York: Wilson, 1927; 307 pp.) and Supplement (1935; 140 pp.), selectively cover plays first published between 1800 and 1934.

Inter-Play (http://www.lib.pdx.edu/systems/interplay) is an important supplement to the preceding and the works listed in entry L1150 because it indexes plays in collections, anthologies, and periodicals not covered by Play Index, Ottemiller’s Index to Plays in Collections (L1150), and other standard indexes. It can be searched by author, play title, and source title; results can be sorted by author, play title, or source. For a description of the resource (which offers no explanation of the content, scope, or frequency of updating), see Janet K. Wright and Robert C. Westover, “Inter-Play: The Creation of an Internet Play Index,” Internet Reference Services Quarterly 3.3 (1998): 83–89.

See also

Howard, Directory of Theatre Resources (E210a).

Text Archives


Twentieth-Century Drama. Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections. ProQuest, 1996–2013. 2 Jan. 2013. <http://collections.chadwyck.com/marketing/index.jsp>.

An archive of rekeyed texts of about 2,500 English-language dramatic works (published in book form since 1890) from throughout the world. Editions were selected according to the following criteria: a collected edition; if no collected edition exists, “either the first reliable edition of each play, or . . . a later edition incorporating revisions by the author.”

Standard Search allows simple keyword, first line or title, and author searches to be limited by date of first performance, publication date, genre, gender, and nationality. Advanced Search offers additional ways of limiting a search: speaker, number and gender of speakers, place of first performance, director, theatrical company, designer, number of acts, ethnicity of playwright, and subject. Find Monologues allows users to search by gender of speaker, name of speaker, title, date of first performance, genre, subject, playwright, gender of playwright, nationality, ethnicity, and verse or prose drama. Searchers can also browse an author list of the contents of the database. Results appear in ascending alphabetical order by playwright and cannot be re-sorted. Citations (but not the full text) can be marked for e-mailing, downloading, or printing; each citation includes a durable URL to the full text.

Some works are rekeyed from textually unsound editions; however, the bibliographic record for each work identifies the source of the text and any omissions (e.g., preliminary matter). Besides being a useful source for identifying an elusive quotation or half-remembered line, the scope of Twentieth-Century Drama’s text archive makes feasible a variety of kinds of studies (stylistic, thematic, imagistic, generic, and topical).

The contents of Twentieth-Century Drama can also be searched through LiOn (I527).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Serial Bibliographies


International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance with Full Text. EBSCOhost. EBSCO, 2013. 3 Jan. 2013. <http://www.epnet.com>. Updated regularly.

A bibliographic database of books, articles, dissertations, and other documents on all aspects of theatrical performance worldwide, with full text available for some 170 journals. The database cumulates and continues International Bibliography of Theatre, [1982–99] (IBT) (New York: Theatre Research Data Center, Brooklyn Coll., City U of New York, 1985–2002). While the move to electronic-only publication has resulted in a much-improved currency in coverage and accessibility as well as the inclusion of reviews of individual books and performances, it has also led to the uncritical admission of much that is inconsequential (e.g., lists of books received or contributors) or has no discussion of performance, as well as a precipitous decline in documents in languages other than English (a problem that the Theatre Research Data Center is working to remedy). The standard EBSCO search interface (see entry I512) does not take full advantage of IBT’s elaborate classification system (outlined in the prefatory matter to each volume). Users must consult the database-specific Help file to identify the codes for searchable fields; however, the explanation for some fields is too imprecise to allow identification of parts of an IBT record. If International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance is to regain its place as an essential resource for the study of performance arts, it will need a substantial refinement of its search interface, more attention to non-English-language publications, a firmer editorial hand, and a return to a clear focus on performance (an area not effectively covered by the serial bibliographies and indexes in section G of this Guide).

Some additional coverage is offered by IIPA: International Index to Performing Arts Full Text (IIPA; http://iipaft.chadwyck.com; updated monthly), a database of journal articles covering dance, film, drama, television, the performing arts industry, stagecraft, musical theater, and performance art. Although coverage ranges from 1864 to the present, indexing of a substantial number of the c. 285 journals commenced with volumes published in the late 1990s, and there are unexplained gaps in the coverage of some journals. Users should click on View Title List on the Basic Search screen to locate details of coverage for each title. IIPA uses the standard ProQuest search interface (I519). Records (which can be filtered in a variety of ways) provide basic bibliographical information; most since 1998 include a brief abstract, and full-text coverage extends to about 117 journals. Researchers must use this resource with due regard for the gaps in coverage.

See also

ABELL (G340): [English] Literature/General through the volume for 1967; Literature, General/Literary History/Drama and Theatre History, and Literature, General/Literary Criticism/Drama [and Theatre History] in the volumes for 1968–72; Literary History and Criticism/Drama and Theatre History in the volume for 1973; and English Literature/General/Drama and the Theatre in later volumes.

Carpenter, Modern Drama Scholarship and Criticism (M2875).

MLAIB (G335): General VII: Literature, General and Comparative in the volume for 1953–55; General II: Literature, General and Comparative in the volume for 1956; General IV/Drama in the volumes for 1957–80; the General Literature/Theater section in pt. 4 of the volumes for 1981–91; the Dramatic Arts/Theater section in pt. 4 of the volumes for 1992–present; and the Genres/Drama sections in pt. 4 of the volumes for 1981–2008. Researchers must also check the headings beginning “Theater,” “Theatrical,” “Dramatic,” or “Drama” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

“Modern Drama Studies: An Annual Bibliography” (M2870).

RILM: Répertoire international de littérature musicale (U6240).

Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory (U6133) sometimes devotes a chapter to theater and performance.

Other Bibliographies


Cumulated Dramatic Index, 1909–1949: A Cumulation of the F. W. Faxon Company’s Dramatic Index . 2 vols. Boston: Hall, 1965. Z5781.C8 016.8082.

Reprints, in a single alphabetical sequence, the annual Dramatic Index subject indexes to English-language books and articles, illustrations, and plays published in about 150 British and American periodicals between 1909 and 1949. Opera, dance, and ballet as well as plays are covered. Except for play titles and dramatists, the subject headings are quite general. Three appendixes: author list of books; title list of plays; author list of plays. Although there are numerous errors, the work is useful for locating reviews and articles in periodicals not indexed in standard bibliographies and indexes in section G. Coverage continues as “Dramatic Index,” Bulletin of Bibliography 20.1–21.1 (1950–53).


Palmer, Helen H., comp. European Drama Criticism, 1900–1975. 2nd ed. Hamden: Shoe String; Folkestone: Dawson, 1977. 653 pp. Z5781.P2 [PN1721] 016.809′2.

A selective bibliography of articles, parts of books, and abstracts from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (H465) in a variety of languages on plays, classical through modern, by “outstanding” playwrights (except Shakespeare). Except for the limitation to studies, regardless of merit, devoted to a play as a whole, the entries seem to represent what the compiler could locate. Studies are listed under individual plays arranged alphabetically by dramatist; citations to parts of books are keyed to a list at the back. A separate list of journals does not identify volumes actually searched. Indexed by playwrights and plays. Although selection criteria are vague, the bibliography is useful for its indexing of parts of books.

Less comprehensive and current but occasionally supplementing Palmer are the following:

  • Adelman and Dworkin, Modern Drama: A Checklist of Critical Literature on 20th Century Plays (M2875a).

  • Breed and Sniderman, Dramatic Criticism Index: A Bibliography of Commentaries on Playwrights from Ibsen to the Avant-Garde (M2875a).

  • Coleman and Tyler, Drama Criticism. Vol. 1: A Checklist of Interpretation since 1940 of English and American Plays. Vol. 2: A Checklist of Interpretation since 1940 of Classical and Continental Plays (M2875a).

For scholarship between 1966 and 1990 on twentieth-century drama, researchers should begin with Carpenter, Modern Drama Scholarship and Criticism (M2875).

See also

Wildbihler, The Musical: An International Annotated Bibliography (Q4295).

Review Indexes


Salem, Guide to Critical Reviews (Q4300).

Biographical Dictionaries



Wearing, J. P. American and British Theatrical Biographies: An Index. 2 vols. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2012. PN2285.W42 792.092. (A revision of American and British Theatrical Biography: A Directory [Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1979, 1,007 pp.].)

A finding list of entries on dramatists and theatrical personnel in 130 popular and scholarly biographical dictionaries and reference works from the mid-eighteenth century to 2009. Each entry includes name, cross-references to married or stage name or pseudonym, dates of birth and death, nationality, theatrical occupation, and coded references to the dictionaries and reference works. Because of the works indexed, coverage is fuller for those who lived after c. 1800. A time-saving source for determining which of the numerous standard biographical sources include an individual.

See also

Sec. J: Biographical Sources/Biographical Dictionaries/Indexes.



Sec. L: Genres/Drama and Theater/Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television (Q4305).