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Theater and Performing Arts: Reviews, Reception

Where to Look?

Finding reviews of plays, literature, and performances can start with UC Library Search or by using article indexes in TDPS—such as International Index to the Performing Arts (IIPA) and International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance among others. Finding a review of a performance, however, usually also requires access to newspapers or trade publications from a specific place and time. To determine which newspaper database(s) to use among the many news article databases available, consider the context of the performance you're looking for: Do you need reviews from a particular city? Do you need reviews for a contemporary performance or an historical one? Specialized collections of newspaper sources, listed below, can be very helpful as well. For recent performances see also:

Indexes & Collections in Print

American Drama Criticism: Interpretations, 1890-1977. Compiled by Floyd Eugene Eddleman. 2d ed. Hamden, CT: Shoe String Press, 1979. Doe Reference PS332.A12 .E3 1979 with supplements
Indexes reviews and criticism published in books and periodicals; some content here is not indexed in other sources.

American Literary and Drama Review: An Index to Late Nineteenth Century Periodicals. Patricia Marks ed. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, c1984. Doe Reference PN2256 .M37 1984  

The American Theatre As Seen By Its Critics, 1752-1934. Edited by Montrose J. Moses and John Mason Brown. New York: Norton, 1934. Main Stacks PN2221 .M7
Provides a selection of reviews from 1752 through 1934.

Cumulated Dramatic Index, 1909-1949. A cumulation of the F.W. Faxon Company's Dramatic index, edited by Frederick Winthrop Faxon, Mary E. Bates [and] Anne C. Sutherland. 2 vols. Boston, G. K. Hall, 1965. Doe Reference f AJ3 .D72  v. 1 / v. 2
A reproduction of the actual entries as they were originally printed in the 41 annual volumes of the Dramatic Index.

Dramatic criticism index; a bibliography of commentaries on playwrights from Ibsen to the avant-garde. Paul F. Breed and Florence M. Sniderman eds. Detroit: Gale Research Co. [1972]. Main (Gardner) Stacks  PN1654.A12 B74 An index to commentaries on modern playwrights and their plays contains approximately 12,000 entries on 300 American and foreign playwrights, the majority of which are from the twentieth century. 

A Guide to Critical Reviews. James M. Salem. 3d ed. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1984. Main Stacks PN1654.A12 S23 1984  
Pt. 1 covers American drama, 1909-1982; pt. 2 covers musicals, 1909-1989.

A Guide to Critical Reviews. James M. Salem. 2d ed. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1973-79. Music Reference & NRLF PN1654.A12 .S23 1973
Pt. 3 covers foreign drama, 1909-1977. Foreign drama is not covered in the 3d edition.

How to Locate Reviews of Plays and Films: A Bibliography of Criticism from the Beginnings to the Present. Gordon  Samples. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1976. NRLF PN1707.A12S2 
A guide to finding reviews in books, newspapers, and magazines. 

National Theatre Critics' Reviews. 1995-6. James M. Salem.
Main Stack PN 1601 .N48

Neo-classical dramatic criticism, 1560-1770. Thora Burnley Jones and Bernard de Bear Nicol. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976. Main (Gardner) Stacks  PN1707 .J61 

New York: Critics' Theatre Reviews, 1943-1995. Main Stacks & NRLF PN1601 .N48
Guide and record of the New York stage from, reprinted from New York Sun, New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, New York Post, New York Daily News, etc.

The New York Times theater reviews. 1870-2000. Doe Reference PN 2277 N5 .N482, Library has: CUMULATIVE INDEXES: 1870-1970

The Performing Arts in Colonial American Newspapers, 1690-1783. New York: University Music Editions, 1997. Music Library: CD-ROM M17
References to music, poetry, dance, and theatre found in American newspapers from the earliest extant copy (1690) to those from the end of the Revolutionary War (1783).

Review of the Arts, 1975-1996. New/Micro MICROFICHE 30355d; Guide MICROFICHE 30355d guide

[London] Theatre record. Middlesex, England : I. Herbert, [1981-c1991] and 1991-. Main Stack PN 2596 .L6 .L66, 1991-1998 stored iNRLF 
Reprints published reviews of theatrical performances in London and elsewhere in the UK. Includes production credits and dates of performance. Review sources include The Spectator, The Daily Mail, Independent, Time Out, Guardian, The Times and other UK publications. Annual Index.


News resources are especially helpful for finding information about contemporary authors and playwrights who are not yet the subjects of scholarly attention. They are also helpful when looking for historical context, interviews, reviews or biographical information.

  • LexisNexis Academic 
    Full text of some 16,000 individual titles of international, national and local newspapers and wire services; radio and television transcripts; and business, medical, industry, and legislative magazines, journals, and newsletters. Wide geographic coverage and translations from foreign-language sources, as well as news services like the Associated Press, Agence France Press, El Pais and Xinhua (New China) News Agency.
  • Access World News 
    Provides full-text of over 2,000 U.S. and international news sources with strong regional coverage of hundreds of California papers. Coverage usually from 1990's on. 
  • Times Digital Archive 
    Online access, fully searchable full text of over 200 years (1785 to 1985, with 1986 to 2003 added later this year) of The London Times, the "world's newspaper of record." [Note: "Sunday Times" is a distinct newspaper with no editorial connection to The Times London, and is not included in this database.]
  • Historical Newspapers Online 
    Contains four major historical resources: Palmer's Index to the Times, which covers The Times (London, 1790-1905); The Official Index to the Times (1906-1980); The Historical Index to the New York Times (1863- 1922); and Palmer's Full Text Online (1785-1870).
  • Historical Newspapers (ProQuest) 
    Backfiles of such newspapers as the Chicago Defender (1905-1975), Chicago Tribune (1849-1987), Los Angeles Times (1881-1987), New York Times (1851-2007), San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922), Wall Street Journal (1889-1993), and Washington Post (1877-1994).
  • Early American Newspapers 
    Access to hundreds of historic newspapers published 1690-1820. Can be cross searched with Early American Imprints, Series I and II, Early American Newspapers, American State Papers, and US Congressional Serial Set through the Archive of Americana. 
  • British Library Historical Newspapers 
    Contains historical runs of newspapers selected by the British Library as representative. It contains regional and national papers in England as well as papers from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Content comes from penny papers read by the working class and papers advocating political or social movements such as Reform, Chartism and Home Rule.
  • Chronicling America 
    This site allows users to search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1910 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Includes papers digitized for the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
  • California Digital Newspaper Collection 
    The California Digital Newspaper Collection contains over 400,000 pages of significant historical California newspapers published from 1846-1922.
  • Ethnic News Watch 
    Indexes over 330 ethnic, minority, and native press publications. Contains news, culture, and history searchable in both English and Spanish. Also includes a retrospective backfile of titles (1959-1989).