Quick Look: New Play Exchange
New Play Exchange is a searchable database offering access to playtexts at an affordable price point.
What is it?
New Play Exchange (NPE) is a platform offered by the National New Play Network. It purports to be the “largest digital library of scripts by living writers.”1 Focusing on contemporary drama, the platform is available via subscription to professionals in the field, as well as institutions and organizations. At the time of writing, the site has a little under 43,000 scripts available. The platform is very affordable, which may be appealing to community college libraries. It is not currently offered by the Consortium.
Created by an “alliance of professional theaters that collaborate in innovative ways to develop, produce, and extend the life of new plays,”2 this platform offers reasonably priced access to play scripts. It is easy to search plays according to representation of characters and the creators (eg. playwrights). Individual user (creator) accounts are not included in the institutional subscription. This individual/creator account enables users to upload their work, which helps new playwrights gain exposure to the profession.
Upon entry, the platform promotes a featured list in the initial view. At one point while examining the product for this review, the featured list was on "Scripts About Body Positivity and Autonomy,” and later, on “Scripts About Being Asian in America.” It was not clear if the featured lists would be archived to be viewed on the platform over time, but this section may be of interest to drama departments, faculty, and students. (Note: it does appear there is a Twitter thread linking to these featured lists.)
On the site, a user can read brief profiles about the creators, including an “Artistic Statement.”. “Readers” and “Organizations” can also share profiles. The script webpage may include recommendations, which come from other creators on the site (and their names are hyperlinked to their own profiles), so it appears the professional networking features of the site contribute significantly to the structure. While students cannot create their own profiles as creators under the institutional subscription, it might be inspiring to see how creators position themselves and speak of their work.
There are three search types possible: Plays, People, and Organizations. It does not appear that these can be cross-searched at the same time, though the use of facets might make an equivalent experience possible. There are additional filters within a search related to play metadata, as well as playwright demographics and playwright location. A wild card search option was not obvious.
The main focus of the platform is contemporary scripts, but it does include adaptations of classic works. For example, one part of the play listings included Alice in Wonderland by E. P. Klopp, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Rachel Teagley, Alice's Christmas in Wonderland by Tommy Jamerson, and Alice's Wonderland - A Hip Hop Musical Adventure by Linda Chichester et al.
Script records display information such as the title, playwright, a summary, genre, subject keywords, run time length, cast size, age appropriateness, and narrative attributes (which could include ‘Centers Characters of Color,’ ‘Centers Characters with a Disability,’ ‘Centers Female Characters,’ and ‘Centers LGBTQ Characters’). The play record also includes short details about the characters, the play’s development history, and awards.
NPE exists as a ‘Database’ electronic collection in Alma, so the platform name could be searched in Primo. It is not offered as an aggregator or selective package, so there is no chance for discovery at the play (portfolio) level, nor indexing (via CDI) in the Ex Libris system. A brief search of other academic libraries’ systems does not retrieve play-level results, so users must search the database directly.
No VPAT was readily available at the time of this review. A brief accessibility check by the University Libraries at the University of Washington indicates that it meets basic compliance with respect to keyboard testing. It would be important for the subscribing library to be ready to meet accommodation requests for this database.
It is clear that this resource was made for industry, rather than for academic subscribers, and due to its lack of VPAT, CCL-EAR understands it may not be possible for some California community college libraries to subscribe. That said, the database access is very affordable, so if a library is able to make accessibility accommodations, a subscription to this resource may be appealing.
If you have any experience with this product, please leave a comment and rate its appropriateness for use in a community college environment.
† The offers and trials information are password protected. Actual prices are confidential between the vendor and the consortium.
For access contact Amy Beadle, Library Consortium Director, 916.800.2175.