18 MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY • SEPTEMBER 2013
Theatergoers flocked to the St. Louis
Fringe Festival in June to see an hourlong
musical about a support group for teens
with Asperger’s syndrome.
The play — “Asperger’s: A High-functioning Musical” — is the brainchild
of St. Louis psychologist Dean Rosen,
PsyD, and his 34-year-old son Adam, a
composer and writer who was diagnosed
with Asperger’s syndrome in his early 20s.
In the play, six teens with Asperger’s
gather in a support group and share
their experiences through songs that
are alternately serious, funny, touching
and sad, Dean Rosen says. One song,
“The Littlest Thing,” is a comedic look
at all of the many things that annoy the
characters. In another, “One of Them,” a
newly diagnosed young woman struggles
to accept her diagnosis and questions
whether she wants to belong to a
The Rosens hope the play will help
audiences gain a better understanding of
Asperger’s syndrome. A support group
seemed like the perfect way to introduce
them to the characters, the elder Rosen
says. “Adam and I both understand
support groups,” he says. “And it works
well as a theatrical concept” — especially
in a play where characters are more
important than plot.
The play is not the pair’s first father-son artistic venture — they also co-wrote a musical about gay teens when
Adam came out in high school. But
this is their first play to make it to the
stage. Dean Rosen and his son were
responsible for finding a director and
a cast — all on a shoestring budget
of $1,500. “I didn’t realize at first that
submitting it to the fringe festival meant we produced it
ourselves,” Rosen says.
But the work was worth it. The play sold out its three-night
run during the festival, and the Rosens and their director,
Ed Reggi, planned to schedule an encore performance in late
August. After that, Dean Rosen — who has a private practice
in St. Louis — hopes to find grant support to bring the play to
universities, schools and educational conventions.
“We see these issues — belonging, isolation — as being very
specific to Asperger’s, but also universal. And I think that makes
for the best art,” he says.
— LEA WINERMAN
A ‘high-functioning musical’ brings Asperger’s syndrome to the stage
Video: Click here to see
an excerpt from the play.
Adam and Dean Rosen, the son-and-father team behind “Asperger’s: A High