Bloomsbury Drama Online | eRef Review

The Bloomsbury Drama Online database now has an additional 270 films that will benefit instructors looking to teach and engage students in stage performances and productions. 

Bloomsbury Drama Online

CONTENT Bloomsbury has added six streaming video collections to its Drama Online platform, which hosts about 30 multimedia collections. Featuring 270 film titles, these new collections consist of items from the Asian Theatre; British, American and Australian Theatre; European Theatre; Playwrights and Practitioners; Shakespeare performances and behind-the-scenes videos; and Theatre Making and Performance Training videos. All of it comes from Artfilms, an Australian independent-film distributor acquired by Bloomsbury in 2021.

The newly added films are an eclectic mix of recorded performances, documentaries, interviews and commentaries, workshops, training videos, and other footage. Most films, including a sizable number of older interviews and productions, date from 1960 to 2015 and are from small American, Australian, and British producers and distributors. Each collection contains 20–70 films. Given their relatively small size, none of the collections provides truly comprehensive or in-depth coverage of their subject matter. What these collections do offer is a starting point for collection-building or a complement to existing library holdings to support coursework and practicums in the dramatic arts or theatrical production and performance. The Shakespeare Video Collection—probably the strongest of the six newly added ones—augments the impressive array of Shakespeare materials already available on Drama Online.

USABILITY The Drama Online platform is mobile-responsive, visually appealing, and straightforward for novice users to navigate. Patrons can search with precision across all the collections to which their library subscribes (unsubscribed content is hidden by default). They can create free personal accounts to make and save film clips. They can browse content by period first performed, genre and form (tragedy, dance, experimental performance, and more), theme (death, freedom, love), setting (Australia, Italy, Japan, and other countries), practice subject (directing, playwriting, costuming), practitioner roles (actors, directors), and research fields (character criticism, teaching drama), depending on the video. Each entry has a digital object identifier (DOI) and basic metadata, including film descriptions, subjects, credits, run time, and related content.

Few of the videos have closed captions or transcripts. Per Bloomsbury, “Synchronised transcripts and closed captions are being added to videos on a rolling basis. All videos will have transcripts by October 2023.” A long-term consideration is that the quality of the video and audio varies, with grainy footage, echoey sound, poor lighting, and clumsy camera angles being common.

PRICING Each collection is available by annual subscription or purchase of perpetual access. The Asian Theatre, European Theatre, and Shakespeare collections each cost from $48 to $386 (subscription) or from $580 to $2,314 (purchase). The British, American, and Australian Theatre; the Playwrights and Practitioners; and the Theatre Making and Performance Training collections each cost $97–$770 (subscription) or $1,160–$4,620 (purchase). A hosting fee of $200–$600 begins one year after purchase. Pricing is based on size and type of institution, and discounts may apply.

VERDICT The 270 films recently added to Bloomsbury Drama Online cover a wide range of topics and strategies for teaching and engaging in stage performances and productions. Once captioned and transcribed, these films will benefit instructors looking for material to assign to students.

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