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Wikipedia:WikiProject Theatre/Draft guideline on Notability (plays)

This page gives some rough guidelines intended to be used by Wikipedia editors to decide whether a play should or should not have an article on Wikipedia. While satisfying these notability guidelines generally indicates a play warrants an article, failing to satisfy them is not a criterion for speedy deletion.

These guidelines may be considered a specialized version of Wikipedia:Notability, applied to plays, reflecting the core Wikipedia policies, including the following:

Claims of notability must adhere to Wikipedia's policy on verifiability; it is not enough to simply assert that a play meets a criterion without substantiating that claim with reliable sources.

"Notability" as used herein is not a reflection of a play's merit. A play may be brilliantly written or performed, fascinating and topical, while still not being notable enough to ensure sufficient verifiable source material exists to create an encyclopedia article about that play.

Coverage notesEdit

Though the concept of "play" is broadly defined, this guideline does not provide specific notability criteria for the following types of publications: dramatic sketches or revues, although it does apply to librettos. Until specific guidelines are developed for these other types of publications, this guideline may be instructive by analogy.

The criteria set forth below apply to plays published in electronic form (or e-books) as well as hard-copy publications.


A play is generally notable if it verifiably meets through reliable sources at least one of the following criteria:

  1. The play has been produced by a notable theatre company or producing theatre and enjoyed a long and successful run in one or more major venues.[1]
  2. The play was directed by a notable director and starred notable performers.[1]
  3. The play has been the subject[2] of multiple, non-trivial[3] published works appearing in sources that are independent of the play itself.[4] This includes published works in all forms, such as newspaper articles, other books, television documentaries and reviews. Some of these works should contain sufficient critical commentary to allow the article to grow past a simple plot summary. This excludes media re-prints of press releases, promotional copy, or other publications where the author, its publisher, agent, or other self-interested parties advertise or speak about the play.[5]
  4. The play has won a major theatrical award as "best play".
  5. The play has been considered by reliable sources to have made a significant contribution to notable motion pictures, or other art forms, or events or political or religious movements.
  6. The play is commonly the subject of instruction at schools, colleges/universities or post-graduate programs in any particular country.[6]
  7. The play's author is so historically significant that any of his or her written works may be considered notable. This does not simply mean that the play's author are themselves notable by Wikipedia's standards; rather that the play's author is of exceptional significance and the author's life and body of work would be a common study subject in literature classes.[7]

These criteria are presented as rules of thumb for easily identifying plays that Wikipedia should probably have articles about. In almost all cases, a thorough search for independent, third-party reliable sources will be successful for a play meeting one or more of these criteria. However, meeting these criteria is not an absolute guarantee that Wikipedia should have a separate, stand-alone article entirely dedicated to the play.

Other considerationsEdit

Threshold standardsEdit

Published plays should have at a minimum an ISBN (for those published after 1975), be available at a dozen or more libraries and be catalogued by its country of origin's official or de facto national library. For example, in the United States published plays are catalogued by the Library of Congress; United Kingdom at the British Library; Australia at the National Library of Australia; Canada at the Library and Archives Canada; France at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Singapore at the National Library Board; in Brazil by the Fundação Biblioteca Nacional; Argentina at Biblioteca Nacional de la República Argentina; and in India at the National Library of India. For a complete list, see List of national libraries.

However, these are exclusionary criteria rather than inclusionary; meeting these threshold standards does not imply that a play is notable, whereas a play which does not meet them, most likely is not. There will be exceptions—plays that are notable despite not meeting these threshold standards—but they will be rare and good reasons for the notability of such plays should be made very clear. In some cases, a play that does not precisely meet any of the criteria above, but which comes close to meeting several of them, may be considered notable. For example, if the play was produced at a major venue, such as Broadway or the West End, but it flopped, it could still be notable if it shows enough other indicia of notability, such as being directed by a notable director or starring notable actors, is given revivals thereafter by professional companies or receives a significant amount of critical or scholarly attention.


In this regard, it should be especially noted that self-publication and/or publication by a vanity press indicates, but does not establish non-notability.[8] Exceptions do exist, however.

Taking the preceding threshold section into account, it should be noted that many vanity press plays are assigned ISBN numbers, may be listed in a national library, and may be found through a Google Book Search, none of which implies they are notable.

It should always weigh against an article's inclusion if the author or another interested party is the creator of the Wikipedia article. See Wikipedia:Conflict of interest and Wikipedia:Autobiography for more information.

Online bookstoresEdit

A published play's listing at online bookstores such as Barnes & or is not by itself an indication of notability as both websites are non-exclusionary, including large numbers of vanity press publications. There is no present agreement on how high a play must fall on Amazon's sales rank listing (in the "product details" section for a play's listing) in order to provide evidence of its notability or non-notability.

Not yet produced or published playsEdit

Wikipedia is not a crystal ball. Articles about plays that are not yet published or produced are strongly discouraged and such articles are only accepted under criteria other than those provided in this guideline, typically because the anticipation of the play is notable in its own right. In such cases there should still be multiple independent sources providing strong evidence that the play will be performed, which sources include the title of the play and an approximate date of production.

Non-contemporary playsEdit

From a pragmatic standpoint, the vast majority of plays upon which articles are written which invite a notability judgment call and which find their way to articles for deletion, are from the modern era. Nevertheless, the notability of plays written or published much earlier may occasionally be disputed, and the criteria proposed above intended primarily for modern plays may not be as suitable. We suggest instead a common sense approach which considers whether the play has been widely cited or written about, whether it has been recently produced, the fame that the play enjoyed in the past and its place in the history of theatre.

Derivative articlesEdit

It is a general consensus on Wikipedia that articles on plays should not be split and split again into ever more minutiae of detail treatment, with each split normally lowering the level of notability. What this means is that while a play may be notable, it is not normally advisable to have a separate article on a character or thing from the play, and it is often the case that despite the play being manifestly notable, a derivative article from it is not. Exceptions do, of course, exist—especially in the case of very famous plays. For example, few would argue that William Shakespeare's play Hamlet does not warrant a 'subarticle' on its protagonist, Prince Hamlet. When a play has been split too finely to support the notability of individual subtopics, merging content back into the play article is appropriate.

In some situations, where the play itself does not fit the established criteria for notability, or if the play is not notable but the author has an article in Wikipedia, it may be better to feature material about the play in the author's article, rather than creating a separate article for that play.


  • Clicking on any linked ISBN number on Wikipedia takes you to Special:Booksources where preformatted links for the specific published play are provided, allowing access to multiple library catalogues, bookseller databases and other book resources.
This might be an issue as different formats of a published play (i.e. ebook, audiobook, printed book) will have different ISBNs, and they will often not be sequential, especially for older plays that were originally published before ebooks or audiobooks existed.
  • Library of Congress Online Catalog: A searchable database useful in identifying publisher, edition, etc.
  • The British Library's online catalogue.
  • The Literary Encyclopedia: 3300 profiles of authors, works and literary and historical topics and references of 18,000 works.
  • Norton anthology of world literature: Useful in the exploration of world literature.
  • Worldcat: search for a play in library catalogues. Contains 1.8 billion items in 18,000 libraries worldwide.
  • Questia Online Library , allows full-text search, and paid subscription reading access to 64,000+ books and 1,000,000+ journal, magazine, and newspaper articles in their collection. Their strength is full text of recent academic books by major publishers such as Oxford University Press, University of North Carolina Press, and Greenwood Press, along with thousands of older academic books that are available only in larger university libraries.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c i.e. those which would be deemed notable enough to have a stand-alone article in Wikipedia
  2. ^ a b The "subject" of a work means non-trivial treatment and excludes mere mention of the play, its author or of its production, publication, ticketing details and other nonsubstantive detail treatment.
  3. ^ a b "Non-trivial" excludes personal websites, blogs, bulletin boards, Usenet posts, wikis and other media that are not themselves reliable. An analysis of the manner of treatment is crucial as well; for example is reliable, but postings to that site by members of the public on a subject do not share the site's imprimatur. Be careful to check that the author, producer, agent, venue. etc. of a particular play are in no way interested in any third party source.
  4. ^ a b Independent does not mean independent of the publishing industry, but only refers to those actually involved with the particular play.
  5. ^ a b Self-promotion and product placement are not the routes to having an encyclopedia article. The published works must be someone else writing about the play. (See Wikipedia:Autobiography for the verifiability and neutrality problems that affect material where the subject of the article itself is the source of the material). The barometer of notability is whether people independent of the subject itself (or of its author, publisher, producer, ticket seller or agent) have actually considered the play notable enough that they have written and published non-trivial works that focus upon it.
  6. ^ a b This criterion does not include textbooks or reference books written specifically for study in educational programs, but only independent works deemed sufficiently significant to be the subject of study themselves, such as major works in philosophy, literature, or science.
  7. ^ a b For example, a person whose life or works is a subject of common classroom study.
  8. ^ Certain print-on-demand book publishers, such as PublishAmerica, claim to be a "traditional" advance- and royalty-paying publishers rather than vanity presses. Regardless of the exact definitions, PublishAmerica and similar presses are to be considered vanity presses for purposes of assessing notability based on the manner works are published through them.