The Johns Hopkins Gazette: August 31, 1998
August 31, 1998
VOL. 28, NO. 1


CD-ROM Allows Viewers to Get Lost in "A Doll House"

By Leslie Rice
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

In high schools across the country, students read classic plays in literary form, just as if they were novels or poems. Because schools rarely can afford to send students to see these dramas performed on professional stages, these students often miss the complexities of important plays.

But with a click of the mouse, students anywhere can get lost in a CD-ROM version of Henrik Ibsen's great drama A Doll House, created by undergraduate and graduate students at Johns Hopkins. The disk, funded by the Annenberg/CPB Project, includes video, images, text and music that together offer users an engaging and interactive introduction to one of the most influential works in modern literature. By the time students have explored every aspect of the CD-ROM, they have not only a sense of the importance of the play but also an understanding of how a wonderful script can be interpreted in a new way with every performance and of life in the theater.

Enter the simulated theater and click on an image of Ibsen sitting in the balcony. From there you can pore through excerpts from biographies of the playwright, notes he wrote while writing the play, photos, poems, letters and speeches. Or go back to the theater and click on actors rehearsing on stage. Then compare scenes from three film versions of the play, featuring Anthony Hopkins, Jane Fonda and Juliet Stevenson, each offering a different interpretation of Ibsen's characters. Or click on the set and enter the design archive, where you can view photographs and drawings of the work's stage history and compare the choices set designers have made since the play's first production in the mid-19th century.

In the library, you can learn about the historical context of the play and explore topics of great significance to Ibsen's work, like feminism, disease and the bourgeoisie. The library also contains reviews and other written pieces that document how critics and social commentators responded to Ibsen's work 100 years ago.

As educational as the product is for those who use it, its creation was an equally charged learning experience for the Hopkins students who developed it. A Doll House is the first of a digital drama series by the Center for Digital Resources and Development, which is led by English professor Jerome Christensen and biology senior lecturer Harry Goldberg. Through this project, graduate and undergraduate students from a variety disciplines have not only become acquainted with the technology and graphic artistry that goes into making a CD-ROM, they have also learned about issues like copyrights, publishing original archival material and designing the most interactive and effective learning experience possible.

"It was an amazing learning experience," says Maura LoMonico, assistant editor of the CD-ROM and a 1996 Hopkins graduate, who is now Web site coordinator for the Annenberg/CPB Project. "One of the beauties of multimedia projects is that they require a collaboration of people with all sorts of backgrounds and skills. With all those different types of minds working together--from the students who were programmers to humanities majors like me--we were all doing what we do best but in ways we'd never tried before. We learned a lot from each other." Support from the Annenberg/CPB Project for the non-profit undertaking has made it possible for the CD-ROM to be sold for $39.95.