You're taking a scene study class and you need to find the play your scene is taken from. The library doesn't seem to have it and neither does Chapters. So what do you do? I've been collecting plays and building up my own personal library for years, ever since I took my first Theatre History course in University and had to purchase 10 different plays for class. I truly believe it's important to build a good collection if you want to work in the theatre. I regularly make the rounds of used bookstores and get what might be of interest to me. Last year, season announcements were made all over Ottawa. I went straight to my bookshelf and realized I was only missing a few texts. This meant I could instantly consult the character breakdowns, see which shows I may be suitable for and send a message to the various artistic directors expressing my interest. And the plays I didn't have? I quickly ordered.
But what if it's a modern text or something a little more obscure? What then?
You can always try Theatrebooks in Toronto or BizBooks in Vancouver. They both offer an excellent selection and if they don't have the title you are looking for, they might be able to order it for you.
Unfortunately (and I hate to go all big business here), it can take forever to get something if they have to order it for you and, if you do a little price shopping, it's often cheaper to go through Chapters or Amazon for more common pieces. Still, a great option. I always make a stop at Theatrebooks when I'm in Toronto.
Which brings me to this little gem of advice: Skip the middle man and order the play yourself.
First, find out who the publisher is. In most cases, it's probably Samuel French, the Dramatist Play Service, Pioneer Drama, or Broadway Publishing for most American titles. It's fairly cheap too. A play purchased through Samuel French will generally cost you about $7.50 US plus shipping. Order multiple titles to save on shipping.
If the text has yet to be published or is out of print (it can happen), then find out which theatre may have had the first official production or, better yet, contact the playwright or the playwright's agent directly. (Yes, you CAN do that!)
If you have any other tips or suggestions on where to find a play, please feel free to mention it in the comments section.
Good luck and happy reading!