Library Faculty Recommendations: Finding playscripts

Written by Jon Ritterbush, Associate Librarian

Locating the full-text of playscripts can sometimes be challenging, but with the addition of new online resources at Regent University Library, the prospects for finding these scripts has improved.

If you know the title or author of a play you’re searching for…

the best starting point is often the library catalog.  A keyword search for a play such as Our Town may yield some helpful results including performances on VHS or DVD, and printed copies in other anthologies.   Even though the titles of some of these books may not include the phrase Our Town, it’s possible this play will be listed in the table of contents or other notes, which are captured through a keyword search. For an example, see this link to “Twelve American Plays” in the library catalog, and click on the More Details tab to discover which plays are included in this book.

If your catalog searches produce no results, or if you want to browse for plays…

Play Index is an excellent database for searching by title, author, subject, casting mix or genre.   Play Index includes citations for over 30,000 plays written since antiquity and published after 1949.   As a sample of its scope, Play Index identifies 52 plays with a subject of “crucifixion,” 90 plays about “prejudice,” and 118 plays about “poverty.”

Most citations within Play Index will include a brief abstract of the play, the number of acts and/or scenes, the number of cast members, and additional subject descriptors.   Play Index does not contain full-text playscripts, but it does provide a helpful link labeled “Find this play in a book”.

Screen capture from Play Index
Screen capture from Play Index

Following this link will lead to a list of titles where this play is published, including any anthologies or collections of plays.  For example, someone searching Play Index for Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard would learn there are 39 books that include the full text of this play, some of which are here at Regent according to the library catalog.

If you are looking for full-text playscripts online…

try this new database at Regent University Library: Twentieth Century North American Drama. This database provides full text to over 1,200 plays, and like Play Index, has the ability to browse by author, subject and date. Some 37 works of Thornton Wilder, including Our Town, are available in full-text through this database, as well as other works by American authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Booth Tarkington and Langston Hughes.