by JoAnn Giannobile

SUBJECT AREA: Creative Arts/Language Arts


COST: $79 retail


REQUIRED HARDWARE: Macintosh: LC III or greater (Power Macintosh recommend), System 7.1 or higher, 8MB RAM, 13" or larger color display, 5 MB Hard disk space, Double-speed CD-ROM, optional printer. A Windows version for 486 or higher computers is available.

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: To enrich the writing process while inspiring students to explore elements of character, plot, conflict, setting, dialog and conclusion; to help students understand, experience and explore the theater by working with actors, props, sets, lights, sound effects and music; and to provide opportunities for students to exercise higher-level thinking skills during the creative process.

DESCRIPTION: Developed in collaboration with the Children's Theater Company of Minneapolis, Opening Night is an interesting variation on popular story-writing programs. Students can create, direct and perform their own Victorian-era plays in a multimedia on-screen theater. The introduction presents examples of everything students can do with the program - the music plays, the "audience" hears dramatic sound effects, lighting evoke various moods, actors in costume move around the stage, and the scenery changes. Then, the lights dim, the curtain rises on Act One, Scene One, and the creative process begins.

STRENGTHS: Numerous choices which are available at the click of a mouse can spark students' imaginations. Scenes can be created from more than 110 sets, 300 props, and a cast of 40 Victorian-era characters. The actors are video clips of real people in costume (and animals and birds, too), and students can direct their movements and emotions. The sound effects and musical clips are of high quality and offer a myriad of options.
Pull-down menus are easy to use, and questions about using the program's special features can be answered using the on-screen help file.
A "Behind the Scenes" CD-ROM that accompanies the program gives students a backstage tour of the stage and the scene, prop, and costume shops of The Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis. It also contains a Theater Glossary of 120 theater-related terms, with color photos. The School Version's manual includes helpful suggestions for related activities.

WEAKNESSES: The consumer version does not come with a manual. Although on-screen help and tutorials are available, it takes a great deal of time to scan through all the icons and all the sub-menus to see the variety of selections available. This problem is rectified in the School Version which comes with an extensive manual which includes a complete picture library of choices.

SUMMARY: This program provides a unique interactive experience in creating and directing a play. It brings the concept of theater to life and provides a valuable alternative for motivating children to write.

JoAnn Giannobile is a graduate student in the Special Education Department at Trenton State College.

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