Musical Theatre & Film Research Guide
Compiled by John Kenrick
Here are some useful resources for anyone doing theatre and film-related research. Some are web based, and some deliciously analog -- but all of them are blessings.
- Your Secret Goldmine
- Reference Books
- Search Engines
- Subject Directories
- Theatre Directories
- Library Resources on the Web
- Articles & Journals
- Recordings, Scripts & Sheet Music
- Publication & Patent Dates
- Citing Web Sources
If you know of any resources that should be added to this list, please send an e-mail and let us know.
Your "Secret" Goldmine
Whenever you are doing any kind of research, get friendly with your local librarians. That's right, walk up to one and ask for their help -- they don't bite. You may be amazed at what resources these underrated (and invariably underpaid) professionals can lead you to or access via inter-library loan. They are trained to know about resources we mere mortals have no awareness of. In particular, if your research involves vaudeville, local libraries will be among your richest potential resources for reviews and archival materials.
See our Reference Bibliography for some of the best books currently on the shelves. If you don't see these at your local library, ask about them -- they may be in hiding, or available via interlibrary loan.
Google - the web's most popular search engine
Dogpile - simultaneous results from multiple search engines
Web-based Subject Directories
Theatre-Related Web Directories
American Variety Stage: 1870-1920 - The Library of Congress site offers this extensive online collection of theatre and vaudeville programs, scripts, recordings, and film clips
Historic American Sheet Music - scans of over 3000 songs of the 19th and early 20th Century, from the collections of Duke University
Musical Cast Album Database - cover over 2600 recordings of musicals, searchable by song title, artist, etc.
Theatre Central - Playbill Online offers this extensive list of theatre links
Virtual Library for Theatre and Drama - resources in over 50 countries for everyone from professionals to students
Library Resources on the Web
Many public libraries now provide card holders with free access to a wide range of specialized internet resources – either from library terminals, or in many cases from your own home computer. (What wouldn't I have given for something like this back when I was a student!) There are also a variety of free library resources available to all web users, including --
Internet Ready Reference Collection - an extensive selection of online reference texts
Library of Congress - You might be amazed at what turns up on this ever-expanding website, which already includes a large web exhibit of performing arts materials.
NY Public Library of the Performing Arts - The Lincoln Center Library website lists their amazing archives of theatre and film-related materials, and offers outstanding web directories.
Online Books Page - The full texts for hundreds of titles that have passed into the public domain are accessible here.
Recordings, Scripts, Sheet Music
See our separate page covering searches for these items.
See our Variety links & suggested reading list for vaudeville-related resources.
Also see our special page with suggestions for researching vaudeville performers.
Publication and Patent Dates
U.S. Copyright Office - Free web database of copyright dates for songs, plays, novels, etc. registered since the 1970s -- they will search earlier dates for a fee.
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office - Free database of corporate names, products, inventions, etc.
Academic Citation of Web sources
Folks write in asking about this all the time. The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (4th Edition) gives the following format for citing web articles --
Author. "Article Title," Date of Publication, Date of Access.
Using this format, the citation for a typical quotation from Musicals101 would be --
Kenrick, John. Musicals101.com: "Stage Musicals 1900-1910," 1996-2003.