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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Theatre Research Resources

A guide to help students researching topics in theatre.


This guide collects recommended reference and historical sources to support students conducting research in theatre!

Use the tabs to the left to navigate the guide and explore the resources available.

As you are working on your research, remember that MPAL is not the only library with theatre materials - depending on the topic you're researching, you may also want to check out the collections in the Main Stacks, Literatures & Languages Library, and the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Be sure to double check the location listed in the library catalog for the resource you're looking for to make sure you go to the right place, and remember that you can usually request to have books sent to other campus libraries if you'd like to have books brought to MPAL for pickup. 

Can't Find What You're Looking For?

This guide primarily collects background resources. If you need help finding academic articles, playscripts, performance reviews, or dissertations check out one of our other guides linked below. 

For a full list of theatre guides from libraries across campus, check out the list of theatre subject guides. We have theatre guides on a wide range of subjects, everything from Shakespeare studies, to stage lighting, to accent & dialect resources for actors!

Tips for Exploring the Collection

Browsing the shelves for materials related to your topic can be a great way to identify items that may be useful to you! If you find one or two items in the catalog that seem promising, look on the shelves at the items surrounding them.

If you want to read more about call numbers and how to decipher them, check our guide to Classification Systems. If you're not sure where to go in the Library to browse one of these call number ranges, please ask us at the service desk and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction or walk you to the shelves! 

Playscripts are located on the first floor of MPAL across from the computer area. They are organized alphabetically by playwright's last name and then by title. 

For search suggestions to browse the catalog, check out the next tab of this box!

Suggested Call Numbers

  • Performing arts: 790-792
  • Play collections: 808 and PN6110.5-6120
  • American drama: 812
  • English drama: 822
  • Costume and fashion: GT500-2370
  • Scene painting: ND2885
  • Drama: PN1600-1988
  • Playwrighting: PN1661
  • Theater: PN2000-3307
  • Production and direction: PN2053
  • Art of acting: PN2061-2080
  • Monologues: PN2080
  • Stage, set, and lighting design: PN2085-2096
  • Theater history and criticism: PN2100-2219
  • Costume construction: TT500-975

Search by Subject

Each item in the library catalog is assigned one or more subject headings to tell you what it is about. You can search by subject heading using the catalog's Advanced Search feature. 

To search by subject in the catalog:

  • Open the library catalog and click on "Advanced Search" to the right of the search bar
  • Underneath "Search filters", you'll see that the default is set to "Any Field"
  • Click on the arrow next to "Any Field" and select "Subject" from the drop-down menu
  • Try a search with one of the subject headings recommended below
  • Once you've found a relevant book in the catalog, you can also use the subjects listed in the record to find additional related materials

Recommended Subject Headings

  • Acting -- auditions
  • African American theater
  • American drama
  • Drama -- history and criticism
  • Dramatists
  • Monologues 
  • Performing arts -- history
  • Theater
  • Theater -- history
  • Theater -- political aspects
  • Theater -- production and direction
  • Theater and society