Stephen Sondheim isn’t keen on sending his art down the information superhighway. “I’m strictly a theater man,” he explains. “I wouldn’t know what to send.” Which is not to imply that the composer-lyricist of the Tony-nominated Passion is uncomfortable in the world of multimedia. Sondheim owns “about seven” Macintoshes and has a passion for electronic games. Two of his favorites are game creator Cliff Johnson’s 3 in Three, a puzzle in which a numeral 3 wanders through the innards of a computer, and The Fool’s Errand.
In a twist reminiscent of one of Sondheim’s intricately plotted shows, in 1989 he wrote a fan letter to Johnson, who, it turned out, had been inspired to devise puzzles by The Last of Sheila, a 1973 whodunit film Sondheim cowrote.
Now Sondheim hopes to devise a CD-ROM game based on his fairy-tale musical, Into the Woods, that would teach players musical principles. The project is on hold, pending permission from Columbia Pictures, which owns the rights to the play.
Couldn’t Sondheim just develop his educational game around a different musical? “The thing about Into the Woods is there’s a built-in game in the plot, [since two characters] have to go and find four objects in the woods,” he says. “You have to have either a thing to discover or a thing to solve in a game, and there’s nothing to solve in Guys and Dolls or Oklahoma!, except who’s going to take Laurey to the picnic.”