Contemporary Performance: Case Studies

This course guide contains information and suggests resources that may be helpful in researching topics for your papers. Click through each of the tabs below to see various types of reference, database, and web resources.
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use SECONDARY SOURCES to explore historical background and political/cultural/economic context of productions

You can find GLOSSARIES, HISTORIES, CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION in encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks (search in Reference)
You can find SCHOLARLY STUDIES in academic books (search the Catalog)
You can find scholarly ARTICLES in academic journals (search Databases)

  • Search the catalog for studies of a particular performance or writer/director, for biographies of playwrights or critical editions of plays (look for words like authoritative text, context, criticism).
  • For production/performance histories, you can look for reviews (in newspapers, magazines, journals) or primary sources that document the performance (like playbills, promptbooks, images).
  • The Wayback Machine can also be helpful if you need to go back to a theater company's website at an earlier point in time.
  • Besides films or recordings found in library catalogs, you'll want to look for parodies or adaptations on YouTube, Vimeo, or elsewhere on the internet.

When searching in the Five College Catalog for books or playscripts, you may find it helpful to collect and search Subjects.

Email Sara Smith at if you have questions!


    Print Reference:

    The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre. AC ref. PN1861 .W67 1994
    Modern Drama: A Checklist of Critical Literature on 20th Century Plays. PN1851 .A34 1967
    Dramatic Criticism Index: a bibliography of commentaries on playwrights from Ibsen to the avant-garde. AC ref. PN1861.B74 1972
    American Decades. AC ref. E169. 12 .A419
    American playwrights, 1880-1945: a research and production sourcebook. AC ref. PS351 .A52 1995
    American Drama Criticism; interpretations, 1890-1965. AC ref. PS332 .P35 1967
    LinkMasterplots : 1,801 plot stories and critical evaluations of the world’s finest literature. AC ref. PN44 .M33
    The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy. PN2053 .R78 2015
    Dramaturgy in American Theater: a source book. AC ref. PN2053 .D66
    The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World. AC ref. D205 .O94 2008
    The New York Times Directory of the Theater. (AKA New York Times Theater Reviews, 1920-1970). AC ref. xPN1707 .N48 1973


    • Arts & Humanities Database
      Full-text publications that focus on art, architecture, design, history, philosophy, music, literature, theatre and cultural studies.
    • Performing Arts Periodicals Database (1864 to present)
      Covers a broad spectrum of the arts and entertainment industry - including dance, drama, theater, opera, film, television and more.
    • Historical Newspapers (ProQuest)
      Combined search of the historic Boston Globe, Chicago Defender, Chinese Newspapers Collection, Hartford Courant, Los Angeles Times, New York Amsterdam News, New York Times, South China Morning Post, Times of India, and Washington Post.
    • Historical Abstracts with Full Text (1955 to present)
      Scholarly literature about world history since 1450 (excluding the United States and Canada).
    • JSTOR
      Full-text backfiles of over two thousand leading academic journals across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. (Alumni access)
    • Project Muse
      Online database of more than 200 journals from nonprofit publishers. (Alumni access)
    • OpinionArchives
      Searchable full-text archives for 17 periodicals (Harper's, Commonweal, Dissent, the New Yorker, the National Review, and more) known for commentaries and reviews on politics, culture, and the arts.
    • AFI Catalog
      Production and cast information plus extensive plot summaries for American films from 1893-1974, with records for selected major films from 1975-2011.
    • MLA International Bibliography with Full Text (1926 to present)
      Covers critical scholarship on literature, language, linguistics, and folklore.
    • America, History & Life (1964 to present)
      Covers the world's scholarly literature on the history and culture of the United States and Canada.

    Web Resources

    Online Databases and Exhibits:

    Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library
    Digital video library of performance practices in the Americas. Includes artist profiles,interviews, bibliographies, production information, image galleries, scripts, and additional materials.

    Performing Arts Encyclopedia
    Database of performing arts resources at the Library of Congress. Includes digitized photographs, manuscripts, correspondence and ephemera.

    PBS American Masters Database--Performing Arts
    Biographical profiles, video clips of interviews, interactive career timelines, and interviews with artists

    Performing Arts in America, 1875-1923
    Database of 16,000 objects representing archival materials from the New York Performing Arts Library collections.

    Global Performing Arts Database
    Digital images, texts, video clips, sound recordings, and complex media objects related to the performing arts around the world

    New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
    The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the worlds most extensive combination of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. These materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances.

    Billy Rose Theatre Division of the NYPL for the Performing Arts
    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.

    Digital Public Library of America
    A free, online portal to the digitized collections of various libraries, archives and museums.


    Online Reviews & Production information:

    Off Off Broadway Review:
    Internet Broadway Database:
    Internet Movie Database
    Movie Review Query Engine
    Roger Ebert's Chicago Sun Times reviews


      Primary Sources

      • Oxford Art Online
        Oxford Art Online is the access point for Grove Art Online, and other Oxford art reference works covering all forms of the visual arts: painting, sculpture, architecture, graphic and decorative arts, and photography from prehistory to the present.
      • ARTstor
        Image database including architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts, and design as well as many other forms of visual culture.
      • Digital Public Library of America
        catalog of public domain and openly licensed images and other digitized materials from archives, libraries, museums, and other U.S. cultural heritage institutions
      • UbuWeb
        Large web-based educational resource for avant-garde material.
      • Kanopy Streaming Video
        Kanopy offers a broad selection of thousands of streaming films, documentaries, and theatrical releases covering a wide variety of subject areas, with additional new releases launched monthly. If close-captioning is not included, it can be requested. Interactive transcripts are included. Note that US feature films are not typically part of the Kanopy offerings.
      • Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO) (1780-1925)
        Full-text, searchable content from a broad range of 19th-century sources in literature, politics, theater, music, religion, maps, science, and childhood
        Videos of full-length performances by contemporary artists working in dance, theater, music, and other performance forms.