Shows D

DESSA ROSE musical in 2 acts. Book and Lyrics by: Lynn Ahrens : Music by: Stephen Flaherty : the Novel by Sherley Anne Williams Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre - 21st March, - 29 May, 2005 (80 perfs) Rights Holder: USA - M.T.I. / U.K. Josef Weinberger Ltd SYNOPSIS Told as an oral history by two women, Ruth and Dessa Rose, this powerful tale of an unlikely friendship takes place in 1847, fourteen years before the outbreak of the American Civil War. Variety called it “An absorbing story of two strong women in the pre-civil war south. Played with grit and conviction… beautiful songs, strongly etched characters and soaring emotions—in the story of these proud independent women.” And the London Financial Times said: “The work of Ahrens and Flaherty …achieves overwhelming power. The friendship of Dessa Rose and Ruth may not be joined sexually but their friendship is the most affecting love story currently on a New York stage." Based on both fact and fiction, the musical weaves together the stories of two real women who struggled for different kinds of freedom in an era defined by men. Ruth Sutton is a white woman abandoned by her husband and living on an isolated farm. Dessa Rose is an escaped slave on the run from a bloody slave rebellion, with a newborn infant to protect, who seeks refuge on Ruth’s farm. Hidden in this Alabama backwater, the two women’s uneasy alliance ultimately transcends any racial barriers as they find the strength to confront the world on their own terms. Their dangerous journey to freedom and self-realization makes for a musical that is by turns comic, tragic, uplifting and inspired. STORY ACT ONE Tthe cast assembles to tell the story of Dessa Rose and Ruth, two women from whom each of them may well be descended. (The company will play all the parts in the story.) Old Dessa and Old Ruth are revealed and begin to "hand down" their extraordinary tale in the form of an oral history. As our narrators, they transform from old women into their young selves and back again throughout, living their tale in the present and also telling it from the vantage point of old age. Now, they conjure up a scene from the past, as Kaine comes down to the slave quarters looking for his girl, the youthful Dessa Rose. Old Dessa transforms into young Dessa Rose and greets him joyously. He shows her his handmade "banjar", and tells her what this primitive instrument means to him. Dessa Rose is pregnant, and her mother Rose does not want her to have the baby. Dessa Rose responds passionately that this baby is is wanted. So strong is her plea that Kaine, Rose and Dessa Rose come together and embrace. The scene segues away from their embrace to a cellar jail, and we realise that we have been watching a flashback. Dessa Rose is, in fact, imprisoned, sentenced to death for taking part in a slave rebellion. A journalist, Adam Nehemiah, has come to take her story for a book he is writing. He tells her that once she gives birth, she will be hanged and her child will be sold, but if she agrees to talk to him.she can at least leave her child her true story. At last Dessa agrees, and begins to tell her tale to Nehemiah, and we return to the moment of the embrace. Master Robert Steele enters and interrupts them, telling them all to get back to work. In anger, he breaks Kaine's banjar in half. Kaine erupts. attacking him. and Steele hits Kaine in the head with a shovel. killing him. Dessa Rose leaps on Steele, trying to kill him in return. She is pulled away and beaten, and then sold to the brutal Trader Wilson, who chains her on a "coffle" - a chain gang of slaves being marched south where they will be sold. On the coffle, Dessa Rose is befriended by two slaves, Nathan and Harker. who admire her fierce courage, and try to smooth her way. In the middle of the night, as they are resting, Trader Wilson drags Dessa Rose away