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Primary Sources & Theatre in Context
This page highlights how to find primary sources relating to Theatre. Since locating primary sources can tricky depending on the topic, please reach out to one of the librarians listed on this guide if you need research help.
Collecting biographical and background information on your topic is recommended before searching for primary sources. Make a list of names of people, places, events, dates, organizations, etc. related to your topic. Many of these details will be your keywords as you look through historical content in databases.
Library Databases with Primary Sources
Gale Literature This link opens in a new window
Search across Gale's literature databases by playwright or play. To limit your search to primary sources, select the link in your results for "Primary Sources & Literary Works." Uncheck the box for peer-reviewed journals to see more options.
Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL) This link opens in a new window
This database can help locate interviews and other writings by modern and contemporary playwrights.
Artstor This link opens in a new window
Hundreds of thousands of online images of photography, paintings, sculptures, architecture, fashion, and more.
Eighteenth Century Drama This link opens in a new window
Examines the theatrical world of eighteenth-century society and explores how the plays reflect the politics of the time including the role of women, views on race and religion, opinions on empire, and European and British history.
Early English Books Online, 1473-1700 This link opens in a new window
From the first book published in English through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare, this collection contains more than 125,000 books and pamphlets printed in English.
Government documents pertinent to Theatre may be laws, congressional testimonies, information about the Federal Theatre Project, federal funding information, and more.
Provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government.
Offers a federated search of multiple U.S. federal government databases containing reports, articles, and citations along with direct links to selected resources available online.
General Open Access Digital Collections
Library of Congress Digital Collections
Offers a selection of performing arts digital collections including items from the Federal Theatre Project, Yiddish play scripts and music, Zora Neale Hurston plays, sheet music, posters, and more.
NYPL Digital Collections
Search digitized theatre items from New York Public Library including items held by the Bill Rose Theatre Division and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Museum of the City of New York
Includes the Broadway Productions collection, the Yiddish Theater collection, and more.
Provides Playbill images and information on shows beginning in the 1947-1948 season to present. Includes news on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
Digital Public Library of America
Search for theatrical content across over 44 million images, texts, videos, and sounds from across the United States.
Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA)
Search across the Smithsonian's archival collections and select Digital to see items that have been digitized.
HathiTrust Digital Library This link opens in a new window
Partnership of academic and research libraries offering reading access to millions of digitized books (primarily in the public domain).
Digital access to books with a focus on older works where the U.S. copyright has expired.
Specific Playwrights & Collections
Podcast Interview Searching
Billing itself as "The Best Podcast Search Engine," this online tool supports searching across multiple platforms for podcasts by keyword.
Library Catalog & Primary Sources
Try searching the Library Catalog to locate primary sources in book format (i.e. writings by playwrights, individual plays, anthologies, etc.):
- Search by the name of the play in the Title field (i.e. "A Doll's House")
- Search by playwright name in the Author field (i.e. Ibsen, Henrik)
See the Finding Books page for additional tips.
Additional New York Public Library Resources
Reference & Instruction Department
Reference & Instruction Department
Fordham University Libraries
Walsh Library ♦ Rose Hill Campus ♦ 718-817-3586
Quinn Library ♦ Lincoln Center Campus ♦ 212-636-6050
Fordham Westchester Library ♦ Fordham Westchester Campus ♦ 914-367-3061
firstname.lastname@example.org ♦ text 71-TXTX-1284 ♦ Ask a Librarian (Chat)