by JoAnn Giannobile
SUBJECT AREA: Creative Arts/Language Arts
COST: $79 retail
INTENDED AUDIENCE: Ages 8 to Adult
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
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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