Rosen, Louis 1955-
ROSEN, Louis 1955-
(Louis H. Rosen)
PERSONAL: Born January 31, 1955, in Chicago, IL; son of Arnold G. Rosen and Judith Ruth (Sinton) Rosen; married Charlotte Maier (an actor), December 26, 1983. Education: Earned B.M. and M.F.A.
CAREER: Composer, lyricist, librettist, author, and educator. Composed scores for stage productions, including (incidental music) Arms and the Man, New York, NY, 1985; A Christmas Carol, Princeton, NJ, 1991; Mother Courage and Her Children, Washington, DC, 1992–93; (incidental music) Picnic, New York, 1994; Northeast Local, Lincoln Center, 1995–96; Coriolanus, Washington, DC, 2000; and The Rainmaker (guitar arrangement), 1999–2000. Composed scores for Peer Gynt, Shakespeare Theater; As You Like It, Titus Andronicus, Twelfth Night, A Winter's Tale, Galileo, The Tempest, Orchids, The Art of Self-Defense, On the Verge, and First Young Playwrights Festival. New York University, New York, NY, adjunct assistant professor of arts.
AWARDS, HONORS: John W. Schmid Award for Best New Work, for Book of the Night; Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Musical Theater Award, 1992, for A Child's Garden; Galileo Award, Sloan Foundation; New American Works grant, National Endowment for the Arts; five Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowships; thirteen awards from American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; School of Continuing and Professional Studies award, New York University, for teaching excellence.
The South Side: The Racial Transformation of an American Neighborhood (nonfiction), Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 1998.
(Author of book and lyrics) The Ugly Duckling (musical), produced in Ann Arbor, MI, 1984.
(Author of book and libretto; with Thom Bishop) Book of the Night, produced in Chicago, IL, 1991.
(Author of book and libretto, with wife, Charlotte Maier, and Arthur Perlman) A Child's Garden (musical), produced in New York, NY, 1996.
Adapted The South Side, as a stage play.
SIDELIGHTS: Louis Rosen is a music composer for the stage who has also written books, lyrics, and librettos for several musical productions, including The Ugly Duckling, Book of the Night, and A Child's Garden. Now an adjunct professor at New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies, he has also written a nonfiction book about the transformation of his old neighborhood from a largely Jewish area into a residential district populated by African Americans. Rosen has also adapted his book, The South Side: The Racial Transformation of an American Neighborhood, for the stage.
The action in the musical Book of the Night, which Rosen co-wrote with Thom Bishop, takes place over the course of one night in an urban neighborhood. Thirteen characters of various backgrounds—including a drug dealer, a widowed mother, a pair of immigrants from Guatemala, and a hotel clerk—tell their stories, sometimes interacting with the other characters in a series of vignettes illustrating what Henry David Thoreau once called "lives of quiet desperation." The appearance of each character is accompanied by a different style of music. Comparing the musical play to Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, Hedy Weiss quoted artistic director Robert Falls in the Chicago Sun-Times as saying that "this show is an extension of the 'Iceman' journey—a study of people in isolation, questioning their existences."
Rosen's A Child's Garden is based loosely on the life of Robert Louis Stevenson around the year 1880, when he composed his poetry collection A Child's Garden of Verses. At the time, Stevenson had become ill and was reflecting on his childhood days in Scotland. Rosen, along with libretto collaborators Arthur Perlman and Charlotte Maier, Rosen's wife, sought to capture this moment by combining action and music with Stevenson's verses. The result, contended Back Stage critic Karl Levett, is a "sensitively conceived musical," though the reviewer did have difficulty with the fact that adult American actors were playing the parts of Scottish children. Elyse Sommer, writing for CurtainUp.com praised the "melodic" score, as well as the choreography, but complained that the play "never coalesces into the charming musical it should be." However, she laid a large part of the blame for this on poor production values.
With a number of awards to his credit for his stage music and original plays, it was an unusual turn for Rosen to write a serious nonfiction work about urban life in The South Side. Reflecting on his childhood in the south side of Chicago, he recalls how the neighborhood was transformed during the 1960s and 1970s, as white Jewish residents fled to the suburbs and African Americans moved in. However, the author does not convey sadness about the loss of his neighborhood's former character; rather, he bemoans the fact that more whites did not decide to stay and work to form a richly diverse, integrated neighborhood. Rosen interviews present and former residents and relates their stories to the reader to illustrate how the area has changed and what people's attitudes were and are toward other races.
Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Richard Christiansen observed that The South Side "cannot encompass all the factors of the very complex social history of South Chicago's transformation; but it can, and does, ring true in the voices of its individuals." A Publishers Weekly critic called some of the stories "fascinating" and noted that "the author's intentions are noble," but felt that many of the interviewees' comments do not add anything "meaningful to the debate" over issues like whites' suspicions that black residents will bring higher crime rates to their neighborhood. Nevertheless, Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush asserted that "Rosen provides vivid memories of the way the community was, and he muses about what could have been."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 40, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.
Back Stage, January 5, 2001, Karl Levett, review of A Child's Garden, p. 38.
Booklist, July, 1998, Vanessa Bush, review of The South Side: The Racial Transformation of an American Neighborhood, p. 1839.
Chicago Sun-Times, June 16, 1991, Hedy Weiss, "Outlaws & Outcasts: Lonely People Go Bump in 'The Night,'" p. 3; June 25, 1991, Lon Grahnke, "'Night' Musical Pulses with Passion," p. 37.
Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1998, Richard Christiansen, "The Transformation of a Neighborhood and a Writer's Life," review of The South Side, p. 1; August 16, 1998, Arnold R. Hirsch, "South Side Story: The Changing of a Chicago Neighborhood," p. 6.
Library Journal, July, 1998, Deborah Bigelow, review of The South Side, p. 117.
Publishers Weekly, June 1, 1998, review of The South Side, p. 43.
CurtainUp.com, http://www.curtainup.com/ (May 13, 2005), Elyse Sommer, review of A Child's Garden.
Internet Broadway Database, http://www.ibdb.com/ (May 28, 2003), "Louis Rosen."