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Theatre Arts Subject Guide: Primary Sources

Start your theatre research here!

What's a Primary Source?

Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information.  Scholars analyze primary sources in order to answer research questions. Examples of primary sources vary by discipline.
Examples in the humanities:

  • a novel
  • a painting
  • a theatre performance
  • a play

Examples in the social sciences:

  • a political, social, or economic theory
  • a dataset
  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Example in the sciences:

  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Primary Sources in Theatre

Primary sources for theatre include all aspects of a production including:

  • Playscript and published text of the play
  • Performance
  • Performance documents, including playbills, director's notes, statistics on ticket sales
  • Firsthand accounts of the performers, directors, and audience who experienced the show
  • Costumes, sound, set, makeup, and lighting designs

Examples of Primary Sources

Search Primo to Find Primary Sources

Theatre Images

ARTstor has a digital collection of images that depict costumes, venues, and staged performances from around the world, as well as portraits and performance shots of notable figures, including playwrights, theater directors, choreographers, set and costume designers, actors, and dancers. Of note is the Historical Scenic Design collection which has almost 3,000 images of late 19th century and early 20th century scenic design in the United States.

Theatre Image Collection of Puget Sound Campus Productions

Puget Sound Archives & Special Collections: Theatre

The Archives & Special Collections collects, preserves, and makes available primary source material documenting life at the University as well as collections representing regional, national and international issues.

A small selection of material is listed below, for additional sources, please contact

Sartre, Jean-Paul, Five plays, 1978.

Tilley, Erna Spannagel, The history of the Tacoma Little Theatre, 1965.

Martinovitch, Nicholas N., The Turkish theatre, 1933.

The University of Puget Sound Ephemera Collection contains many theatre programs for productions performed at the University over the years. A selection of digitized material from this collection is available online, with content being added often.

In addition, a small portion of photographshistorical documents, and digitized material are available online.

LMDA Archives

The Literary Dramaturgs and Managers of the Americas Review and Newsletter are available through the library's institutional repository.

There are additional LMDA records in the University's archives.