MLA Format for Plays & Theater

The Modern Language Association is one of two leading authorities on documentation and style. This format is widely used in universities and secondary schools across the nation. While citation of books is often straightforward, citing plays and theatrical performances can present a challenge. Following simple steps will make the process less daunting.

In-Text Citations of Plays

When citing a play or performance within your essay, you must include a parenthetical citation. If you have included the author's name within the body of your text, you don't need to include it in the citation; instead, use the first important word in the title of the play. For example:

Ibsen writes, "You neither think nor talk like the man I could join myself to" (Doll act 3).

Because Ibsen's "A Doll's House" is only separated by act, that is all the information necessary for this citation.

Some plays, though, such as "Oedipus Rex," are broken into further divisions. A citation for this play might look like this,

"... horror everywhere?" (Oedipus exodus. strophe 2. lines 114-116).

When formatting plays in MLA style, the title of the play should be italicized, rather than set off in quotes, both in the text of the essay and in citations.

Quoting the Speech of a Single Character

The speech of a single character can be included in the body of your text.

For example, if discussing Ibsen's "A Doll's House," you might write:

Nora's epiphany occurs when she ... stands up to Helmer, telling him, "You neither think nor talk like the man I could join myself to" (Doll act 3).

Quoting Dialogue Between Two Characters or More

When quoting the dialogue between two characters or more, begin the quote on the next line. The quotation should be indented one inch from the body of your text, and, if the line extends onto the next line of your paper, you should indent that line 1/4 inch more.

All lines should be double-spaced. Characters names should be typed in capital letters and followed by a period. No quotation marks are necessary. For example:

KROGSTAD. Yes... to the point... use your influence to prevent it. NORA. But Mr. Krogstad, I have... no influence. (Doll act 1)

Citing Plays in the Works Cited List

How you cite the play in your works cited list will depend upon the source of the play. If the play is from an anthology or collection, it should be cited at follows:

Playwright Lastname, Firstname. Title of the Play. Title of the Anthology. Ed. Firstname Lastname of the Anthology Editor. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Page Numbers. Medium.

If the play you are citing is a collection of plays by a single playwright, the following rules apply:

Playwright Lastname, Firstname. Title of the Play. Title of Collection. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.Page Numbers. Medium.

If the play is published as a single volume, delete the Title of Collection and Page Numbers fields. All else remains the same.

If you are citing a live performance, follow this format:

Title of the Play. By Playwright Firstname Lastname. Dir. Director Firstname Lastname. Venue of Performance. City of Performance. Day Month and Year of Performance. Medium (i.e. Performance).

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