Theatre: Finding reviews

A Research Guide for Theatre from West Chester University Libraries

Review sources

The library has several ways to find a review of a specific play.

  • Databases
    • Academic Search Complete (may return reviews from newspapers, magazines, or journals)
      • In the first search box, enter DE "THEATER reviews"
      • In the next search box, enter the name of the play
      • For example, searching for Sarah Ruhl's play The Clean House returns four results, and includes reviews from the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, New York, and New Criterion (as of October 1, 2008)
      • This is a quick way to find reviews, but it is not comprehensive, as only certain citations contain the descriptor "THEATER reviews." You might also find reviews by entering the name of the play in one search box and the name of the author in another. This will return both reviews and criticism.
      • Academic Search Complete indexes but does not directly supply the full text of New York Times reviews; to access the full text, click on Check Availability, and then on Article
      • Communication Source, also available through EBSCOhost, contains some theatre reviews; use the same descriptor,  DE "THEATER reviews," to scan the entire (short) list of reviews available. You can search both databases simultaneously.
    • U.S. Major Dailies from ProQuest (Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post)
      • Search across all newspapers or individual papers
      • Choose Topics tab, click on "Look up topics A-Z," and enter playwright (last name first name order); click on View
      • If you find too much material, scroll to the bottom of the results screen and select Review from the Document Type drop-down box
      • Some reviews in the results list may only mention the play/playwright you are searching when discussing another play
      • See also ProQuest Historical Newspapers for reviews from earlier time periods.
    • The Times (London) Digital Archive, 1785-2012
      • Scroll down to bottom of screen to see results.
      • Do a keyword search by playwright name or name of play performed before 1986; combine terms using AND, OR, or NOT
      • Limit the search by section--check Reviews in the Features section
    • Literature Resource Center
      • Search by playwright
      • Contains information about playwrights, including biographies, lists of works, summaries, and citations. Some reviews and criticism available in full text.
    • Library Search
      • This is new; it doesn't not work quite as well as going directly to one of the databases above but it does work
      • In the search box, enter the name of the play in quotations marks and follow that by the word review*
      • After hitting Enter, if you get an unmanageble number of hits, click on Reviews under Source Type on the left side of the screen. You may have to click on Show More ... first to find the terms.
      • You may need to check that the review you select is of a play production, not a film
  • Books
    • The Best Plays Theater Yearbook (title varies) can be found on the 5th floor, call number 808.82 B561. The library has fairly complete coverage from 1899 to the present. Look for the volume that includes the year the play you are researching was produced
    • The National Theatre Critics' Reviews (this publication has changed title over the years--previously titled Critics' Theatre Reviews and New York Theatre Critics’ Reviews). The library owns v. 28-v. 57 (1967-1996); these volumes are shelved in Periodicals on the first floor
    • Selected Theatre Criticism (3 volumes covering 1900 to 1950), call number 792.9 S464, contains reprinted reviews of plays performed in New York
    • A Guide to Critical Reviews, call number Biblio 016.8092 S163, is available in multiple volumes and two editions. It provides an index to reviews from 1909 to 1982
    • Some books of criticism by individual authors may be found in the library catalog by doing a subject heading search on Theater--Reviews.

On the web

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