Eric Rosen was Artistic Director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre (2008-18), and was previously the co-founder and Artistic Director of Chicago’s About Face Theatre (1995-2008). Most recently, he was honored with the Helen Hayes Award for best director of a play for his production of Indecent (Arena Stage, tour). World premieres under his direction include Venice (KCRep, CTG, Public Theater, named “Best Musical of 2010” by TIME, original cast recording Ghostlight), Clay (About Face/Lookingglass, CTG, LCT3, Jeff Award, Best Solo Performance, Ovation nomination), Roof of the World (KCRep), A Christmas Story: The Musical (KCRep, 5th Ave, subsequent Broadway production Tony nominated for Best Musical), The Fairy Tale Lives of Russian Girls (Alliance), M. Proust (Steppenwolf/About Face, by Mary Zimmerman and starring Mary Beth Peil, Jeff nomination, Best New Play) and Theater District (Jeff Award, Best New Play, Steppenwolf/About Face). Other directing credits: Goodman, Hartford Stage, Baltimore Center Stage, St. Louis Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Chicago Shakespeare, Melbourne Theatre Company (AUS), the O’Neill, and Sundance. At KCRep, Rosen launched many pre-Broadway productions and numerous major careers, and built a national profile for the theater. At About Face Rosen produced the original production of the Pulitzer and Tony winning play I Am My Own Wife (About Face/MCA) and One Arm (About Face/Steppenwolf/Tectonic). In 2000, he co-founded About Face Youth Theatre, one of the nation’s foremost arts and advocacy programs for at-risk LGBTQ youth; the 20 year old program continues to serve thousands of young people in Chicago.
As a playwright, his work includes Lot’s Wife (earlier version called Wedding Play – Jeff nomination, Best New Play), Dream Boy (Jeff Award, Best Play, Best Direction), Winesburg, Ohio (Jeff Award, Best New Play), and Venice. Rosen served on the Board of Directors of TCG, was twice a finalist for the Zelda Fichandler Award from SDC, and was inducted into Chicago’s LGBT Hall of Fame. He holds a doctorate in performance studies from Northwestern University and a BA in performance studies from UNC-Chapel Hill.
I’ve been a theater artist for 25 years, and NETUSER is my first film. In the space of roughly 15 minutes of screen time, I’ve challenged myself to create the most theatrical of forms – the tragedy. Enter our flawed protagonist, Peter Sardovski, a hero who has lost his way. Over the course of a single day, Peter will take an action that leads to his own reversal, because of both his tragic flaw, and because of unseen forces that are working against him, what the Greeks call Fate. A wiser prophet will warn him, and an antagonist will hasten his downfall. By the end of that day, his life will be changed.
What better than a tragedy to frame our current political nightmare, in which we, blind to our own flaws and the forces that shape our political discourse (Russian trolls, anyone?), take actions that lead to our own undoing. NETUSER is a small story about a queer activist struggling to make sense of a world that has gone mad. But it’s also about something larger that affects all of us – the way history and technology conspire to make choices seem inevitable until it’s too late.
Queer people, like other marginalized groups, have something unique to say about the American experiment, but we aren’t immune to our own vices, problems, and yes, pride. Like all social critics, we are dangerous, and we are best muted when we turn against other marginalized people, or they turn against us, through forces of power that win when we are at the margins. As a short film, I hope it is provocative, political, and effective at causing audiences to think more deeply about who wins when we cancel each other out.