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Theatre Research Guide

Research Resources for Theatre and Drama

Finding Plays in Library Catalogs

Library Catalogs list separately published plays and provide some access to plays in anthologies and collections. Any play published separately or in a collection of two or three will be listed by author and title in the catalog. Records for larger collections and complete or selected works of one author may have a "contents note" showing individual titles. Without such a note, you will have to examine the book itself to see if your play is included.

The HSU Library Catalog is usually the best place to start looking for a play script:

  • Use Advanced Search, not QuickSearch, and combine an Author search, if you know the author, with a Keyword search for title keywords to get the most comprehensive results. 
  • Search by author only, if you don't have a specific title in mind.
  • If you have neither an author nor a title in mind, a Title search using plays as the search term will give a list to browse. It won't be complete but offers a place to start. Use the subject headings in records for interesting items to direct further searching.

WorldCat is an online catalog similar to the HSU Library Catalog, but it lists the holdings of thousands of libraries. If you don't find the play you want in our catalog, search WorldCat.  If you find the play, you may borrow it, or the book it is in, on interlibrary loan.  It takes about a week to receive interlibrary loans.

To search WorldCat for plays:

  • In the Search For: box on the WorldCat search screen, type the name of the play's author, if you know it, last name first. In the box to the right, select Author Phrase from the drop-down menu. If you know only the playwright's last name, choose Author.
  • In the second Search For: box, type in keywords for the title of the play, and in the box to the right, select Keyword from the drop-down menu. If you don't have a particular play in mind, leave this out and search for author only.
  • If you are looking for a specific play but don't know the author, start with keywords for title.
  • If you want to see a list of plays with no particular author or title, type plays in the first Search For: box, then choose Genre/Form Phrase from the box to the right. Using this search statement in combination with others (such as author or title searches) is not recommended because it will tend to limit the search too much.
  • In the Limit To: box, you will probably want to select English from the drop-down Language menu. You may add other limits, such as date or material type, if you wish. Then click Search.

You may also search in the CSU Catalog, MELVYL, or other library catalogs linked under Other Libraries on our homepage to find books to borrow on interlibrary loan.

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Try also searching "One-act plays, American" as a Subject

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If you need more help, please ask a librarian.

Finding Scripts of Scenes & Monologues

If you are looking for a scene or monologue, rather than a complete play, you may use the books listed below to identify possibilities. They refer you to scenes in published plays and may include information about cast, running time, and genre of the scene or monologue. To find copies of the plays containing the scenes, follow the steps explained elsewhere on this tab.

  • Actor's Guide to Monologues (ref PN 2080 G78 1974)
  • Actor's Guide to Scenes (ref PN 1655 G78)
  • Guide to Monologues, Men (ref PN 2080 G84 1988)
  • Guide to Monologues, Women (ref PN 2080 G85 1988)
  • Ultimate Scene and Monologue Sourcebook (ref PN 2080 H66 1994)

To find books consisting of collections of scenes or monologues, do an Advanced Search in the HSU Library Catalog, not QuickSearch, for Title, using actor? scene? as the search.  (The question marks are important; they are for truncation.) You can also do a Subject search using monologues or dialogues or drama collections as the search terms.

Indexes to Find Plays

Indexes to plays list plays by author, title, and sometimes by subject, and identify the anthologies or periodicals where each work appears. (Most index volumes cover a specific time period, so it helps to know the date of your play.) When you have found the name of a collection containing the play, look up the name of the collection, not the play, in the HSU Library Catalog to see if we have it. Or, look in the index volume for the list of publications indexed -- sometimes we note our holding there  If we don't have the collection, you can borrow it on interlibrary loan.

Some play indexes in our Reference collection are listed below. Ask at the Reference desk if you need help with them.

  • The Drama Scholar's Index to Plays and Filmscripts (ref PN 1655 S35 v. 1 & 2)
  • Drury's Guide to Best Plays (ref PN 1655 D78 1987)
  • Index to Full Length Plays (ref PN 1655 T56 v. 1-3)
  • An Index to One-Act Plays (ref PN 1655 L65 & suppl. 1-5)
  • Index to Plays in Periodicals (ref PN 1721 K44 1979)
  • Ottemiller's Index to Plays in Collections (ref PN 1655 P88 1988)
  • Play Index (ref PN 1655 P53)
  • Plays in Periodicals (ref PN 1655 P38)

OmniFile Full Text Mega can be used to partially update the play indexes. It lists hundreds of plays published in periodicals from as far back as 1982. On the search screen, choose Drama (Text of Play) in the Document Type box. You can search at this point or add keywords for subject, title, or author of the play you are looking for. Many of the plays in Omnifile are in fulltext, but they do tend to be lesser known ones.

Humanities Index (Abstract AI 3 R492, in the Reference collection) is the print equivalent of Omnifile's Humanities subject area. It covers the years 1974 -1983, with a separate volume for each year.  Look under author or the subject headings Dramas, Radio plays, or Stage Adaptions. There is no listing by title.