DATABASES

Bloomsbury's Drama Online

Bloomsbury's Drama Online dramaonlinelibrary.com
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Grade Level Gr 9 UpPricing Varies based on package content and institution size. Subscriptions start at $936; perpetual access starts at $5,720.Usability This easy, inviting, and intuitive database is a dream to use. The homepage features several categories, including "Playwright & Practitioners," "Genres," and "Periods." Advanced search allows users to filter by word count, number of cast members, and male/female roles.The "Context & Criticism" category on the homepage contains navigable, printable ebooks with clear chapter headings. Video tours offer another way in.Visual Appeal The design is simple and elegant. Each page is black and gray with touches of burnt orange, and the clean-cut, sophisticated look will attract students. The homepage is light on images, and students have to do a fair bit of searching to access the 500 pictures here. A note in the "About" section explains that images can only be found in the Arden Shakespeare and New Mermaids Series. Selections include vintage and current images from performances.A Closer Look at Content Featuring classic playwrights like Oscar Wilde and Aeschylus, as well as rarer selections, such as George Huang, the Taiwanese American filmmaker best known for Swimming with Sharks, this is a resource with a wide historical and cultural scope. Its strength is its ability to offer students multiple entry points to its rich and diverse content. The selection is vast and teens whose exposure to the theater is limited to scholarly fare will find themselves falling in love with the art form as a result of the exposure to younger, edgier, and more culturally diverse playwrights.Notes about each play's settings and characters, as well as a biography of and reflections on each playwright, are available with just a few clicks and will give users additional ways to connect.Each play lists the number of acts, scenes and number of male/female and gender neutral roles, giving this resource a practical focus and making it ideal for the student actor or director. A menu on the side of the play's full text allows users to easily navigate scenes and acts.Pull-out quotes from each play, often with amusing or oddball details, give the site a playful, unpretentious feel and will readily draw in teenagers.Plays and audition monologues can be downloaded in printable format. Also available are 500 digital images from the Victoria and Albert Museum archive and approximately 48 audio files (mostly interviews with theater professionals).Audience Theater scholars may find the ebook selections somewhat limited, with only seven currently available. Even with future additions, this resource will likely be more appropriate for the theater practitioner than the scholar, who will have more luck perusing JSTOR for a wider variety.Most plays are sophisticated enough for advanced high school or college, but the clever design of the site will appeal to some younger students as well.Verdict This is an excellent resource that all schools with theater departments and libraries serving artistically minded patrons should seriously consider. Users will easily find plays that speak powerfully to the unique needs of their communities, and the various cultural and thematic entry points may inspire a lasting love in the theater in newcomers.

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