Theater & Drama: Reference Works

Why Reference Works?

Reference works are an excellent first stop in your research and are incredibly useful for the following:

  • Getting an overview of a topic
  • Getting topic ideas for a paper topic or narrowing your topic
  • Brainstorming keywords for searching and learning the vocabulary used by authors in that area
  • Learning the key works on a given topic
  • Discovering the key authors on a given topic

Reference works are a good starting off point, but should not be cited in your research as they are not considered primary or secondary sources. The only exception is when reference works contain primary and secondary sources (like collections of documents and essays).

Search for Subject Encyclopedias (PSU Only)

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Electronic Indexes


Essay and general literature index / (1900-1996)
AI3 .E752 | 1900-1996 Basement; latest at Circulation 

International bibliography of theatre. IBT / (1982-1998) Annual
Z6935 .I53 | 5th floor
An essential source for theater research. Lists theater books, book articles, dissertations, journal articles and other documents dealing with "any aspect of theatre significant to research, without historical, cultural or geographical limitations." Entries may come from theater histories, essays, studies, surveys, conference papers and proceedings, catalogs of theatrical holdings, portfolios, handbooks and guides, dictionaries, bibliographies, and other reference works, records and production documents.

Does not include reprints or purely literary scholarship. Texts of plays are excluded unless they appear with "extensive or especially noteworthy introductory materials, or when the text is the first translation or adaptation of a classic from an especially rare language into a major language." Book reviews and reviews of performances are not included, "except for reviews of sufficient scope to constitute a review article, or clusters of reviews published under one title."

Entries arranged by subject classification (Theatre in General, Dance, Dance-Drama, Drama, Media [including Film], Mixed Entertainment, Music-Drama, Puppetry) with subject sub-headings. Extensive subject index and Geographical-Chronological Index. Document Authors Index and lists of periodicals indexed.


Guide to performing arts programs / Carol J. Everett and Muriel Topaz
PN1577 .T66 1998 | 2nd floor
Profiles of 600 colleges, high schools and summer programs, citing costs, entrance requirements, financian aid and scholarships, curriculum information, student and faculty information, facilities, etc.

Theatre and Drama Reference Works

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama, 2d ed.

PN1625 .M3 1984, 5 volumes | 2nd floor Reference

Cambridge Guide to Theatre
PN2035 .C27 1995 | 2nd floor Reference

The New Penguin Dictionary of the Theatre
PN2035 .N49 2001  | 2nd floor Reference

The Oxford Companion to American Theatre (ebook)


Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television
PN2285 .C58 | 2nd floor

Biographical dictionary of the performing arts, supplements Who Was Who in the Theatre, 1912-1976 and Who's Who in the Theatre (1961-1981).

Variety Obituaries: Including a comprehensive index
PN1583 .V35 1988 | 2nd floor

Reprints, in chronological order, obituaries originally appearing in Variety, of show business personalities, giving biographical data as well as performing, directing, producing, etc., credits. Name index in final volume.

Biography index
Z5301 .B5 | 5th floor

Indexes biographical information appearing in more than 2,700 periodicals and books of individual and collected biographies.

Biography and genealogy master index / (1980-present)
Z5305 .U5 B57 | 5th floor

An index to more than 300,000 biographical sketches in biographical dictionaries.

Online Biographical Resource:

General Online Reference Sources

These are reference works paid for by the library but available online. They tend to be more general in nature. The Oxford Reference Online includes Performing Arts titles.


Bibliographies point you to the key works on specific subjects. These are in the stacks by their call number. 

Performing arts research; a guide to information sources / Marion Whalon
Z6935 .W5 | 5th Floor
Annotated guide in several sections: (1) guides; (2) dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks; (3) directories; (4) play indexes and finding lists; (5) sources for reviews of plays and motion pictures; (6) bibliographies, indexes and abstracts; (7) illustrative audiovisual sources.

The Performing Arts: A guide to the reference literature/ Linda Keir Simons (ebook) 
Includes theater, dance and drama. Lists guides, bibliographies, catalogs, indexes, dictionaries, encyclopedias and companions, handbooks and yearbooks, directories, review sources, chronologies and histories, electronic discussion groups, core periodicals, libraries and archives, professional organizations and societies.

Performing Arts Books, 1876-1981: Including an international index of current serial publications
Z6935 .P43 | 5th Floor
50,000 entries for books by subject with author and title indexes.