Theatre & Dance


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Theatre vs. Theater

Theatre  vs. Theater
In performing any kind of theatre research take into account that theatre may also be spelled theater--and in many databases searching one will not retrieve books and articles that use the other.
  • Run two searches.
  • Within the same parenthesis OR the two spellings together--(theatre or theater).
  • Use the truncation symbol that most databases allow you to attach to a root in order to search all possible endings--for example, theat* (truncation symbols vary--check Help--but the asterisk is probably the most common).
The spelling used in Library of Congress Subject Headings is Theater. For the sake of consistency, this guide will use the -er spelling, except where a particular resource requires the -re.

Theater vs. Theaters vs. Drama

It will help clarify some of the Subject searching described below to know how the Library of Congress defines the scope of these terms.
  • Theater: drama as acted on a stage.
  • Theaters: the structures that house stages.
  • Drama: a literary genre--plays and critical analysis of plays.

All the Library's a Stage

     Materials from every part of the collection are potentially useful for Theatre Arts research: literary criticism, history, architecture, interior decoration, costume, painting, photography, lighting & sound technology, music, dance, acting, arts management, law, and commerce.
     Learning to search--and browse--the Library's in-house and online resources is especially useful for Theater students.

Drama: by Country

  • To find resources on the plays and literary traditions of a particular country, run a Subject search using the adjective form of the country before "drama."
American dramaFrench dramaSpanish dramaEnglish dramaRussian drama.

Note: The best books on the dramatic tradition of a country will often be found under the subheading "History and Criticism":

English drama--Early modern and Elizabethan--History and criticism
French drama--18th century--History and criticism
American drama--20th century--History and criticism
  • Play texts and criticism are shelved by country, then by period, then by author. For example, Russian literature has call numbers beginning with PG, French PQ, British PR, and American PS. Within the range for each country, drama is interfiled with poetry and fiction of the same era. There is no single dramatic literature section to browse.
  • To find resources on the history/politics/society/culture of a particular country at a particular time, run a Subject search on the name of the country and look especially at the subheadings --Civilization, --Description and travel, --History, --Politics and government, --Social conditions, and --Social life and customs. All of these subheadings may be further subdivided by time period.
  • Also see my research guide for History of Theatre.

Drama: by Playwright

  •  Works about playwrights:
Begin by running a Subject search on your author. For example, a Subject search on O'Neill, Eugene in the IC Library catalog retrieves--

# Titles Headings
20 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953.
2 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Biography.
1 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Characters--Cornelius Melody.
17 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Criticism and interpretation.
2 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Film and video adaptations.
2 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953. Iceman cometh.
1 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953. Long day's journey into night.
1 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Manuscripts.
1 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Philosophy.
1 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Political and social views.
2 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Stage history.
3 O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953--Technique.
Note that most criticism will be assigned the subheading "History and Criticism." Also note that critical studies of a single work will take the title as a subheading.
  • Works by playwrights:
     Since you probably have the texts you are writing about, running an Author search might seem unnecessary. But Author searches often uncover collections of letters, essays, works in other genres, and adaptations for other media--all shedding light on the writer and the work. An Author search on O'Neill, Eugene retrieves--

Desire under the elms [videorecording] / Paramount ; directed by Delbert Mann.
Emperor Jones : opera in two acts
Emperor Jones. [sound recording]
Long day's journey into night [videorecording] /directed by Sidney Lumet.
Lost plays / by Eugene O'Neill.
Nine plays / by Eugene O'Neill; selected by the author; introduction by Joseph Wood Krutch.
Poems, 1912-1944 / Eugene O'Neill ; edited by Donald Gallup.
Six short plays of Eugene O'Neill
"Theatre we worked for" : the letters of Eugene O'Neill to Kenneth Macgowan

Individual Plays: by Title

  • The problem: If you enter the title of a play as a Title search in the Library catalog, you will retrieve only items with exactly that title. But plays are often packaged in collections with titles like World Drama or The Plays of Henrik Ibsen or Best Plays of the 1940s--and these will not be retrieved.
  • The solution: When searching a play title use the Keyword search--and be sure to enclose a multi-word title in quotation marks to search it as a single phrase. This will retrieve not only items with the identical title, but also items where that title occurs only in the Table of Contents. (Note: this will also retrieve criticism where the play is named in a book or chapter title--but these can be rapidly sorted out).

Individual Plays: Multimedia Adaptations

  • To find a movie version or a filmed stage production of a play, enter a Keyword search in the IC Library catalog with the name of the play + the word "videorecording." If the play title is more than one word, put it in quotation marks to search it as a single phrase. Note: the search term "videorecording" targets both videos and dvds. If you use "dvd" instead of "videorecording," you won't retrieve the videos.
  • To find a sound recording of a play or a cast recording of a musical, enter a Keyword search in the IC Library catalog with the name of the play + the word "recording." If the play title is more than one word, put it in quotation marks to search it as a single phrase. Note: the search term "recording" targets records, cassettes, and cds.
  • To access an alphabetical list of all sound recordings, videos, and dvds of musicals in the Library's collection, enter " Musicals" as a Subject search and then click on that Heading.

Actors' resources

Dancers' Resources

Playwriting Resources

     Although  Playwriting might seem the obvious Subject search, the bulk of a library's resources on how to construct a play will be found under  Drama--Technique. See also  Characters and characteristics in literatureDialogue, and  Plots (Drama, novel, etc.). For works on writing a screenplay try  Motion picture authorship. And  Creative writing covers all literary genres.

Technical Theater/Theater Design

Not in the IC Library??

      WorldCat (via FirstSearch)  is a "union catalog" that allows you to search the holdings of over 10,000 libraries from accross the country and around the world: over 41 million items. Check WorldCat to discover what the entire universe of possible resources looks like for your topic. 
     Note that upon opening any record there will be an "ILL Order" link that gives you direct entry into IC's interlibrary loan form (when you sign in--IC e-mail user name/password--the form will already be populated with both item identification data and your personal contact info).

User Advisory:
  • At the search interface begain by scrolling down and changing the default "Rank by" setting to "Date"--this will display your retrievals in reverse chronological order with the newest first.
  • This is such a large database that you should set a "Limit Type" to "Books" or "Visual Materials" or whatever you are specifically interested in finding.
  • When using a Subject search--advisable in such a large database--choose the looser "Subject" search rather than "Subject Phrase"--which requires an often frustrating exactitude.

Contact Us

Picture: Brian Saunders
Humanities Librarian
(607) 274-1198

Articles & Web Sites

Finding Visual Resources

Finding Visuals  (Library, databases, Web)

Theatre in Video

Theatre in Video : Streaming video of stage productions and movie adaptations. "Productions" represent all eras, from The Agamemnon & Oedipus Rex to Twelfth Night & The Alchemist to She Stoops to Conquer & Tartuffe to Krapp's Last Tape & To be Young, Gifted and Black. Also browse the "Documentaries" which include videos on the Renaissance Stage, Restoration Theater, and Kabuki or interviews with Arthur Miller, Lee Strasberg, Tennessee Williams, and John Gielgud. 
Note: Theater in Video requires Flash Player v.8 or higher and a minimum of 400kbps of bandwidth.Also note: a limit of 5 simultaneous users.

Citation Help


Noodlebib guides you through the required data entry for citation in the MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian styles. It takes care of punctuation, alphabetization and formatting, producing a polished source list for import into Word.


MLA is the citation style used by most disciplines in the Humanities. The guides below use the most recent 2008/9 standards.