Dessa Rose

Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Music by Stephen Flaherty
Based on the novel by Sherley Anne Williams

Directed by Artistic Director Lili-Anne Brown
Music Direction by Collective Member James Morehead
Featuring Jayson “JC” Brooks (of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound)

March 6 – April 5, 2014

Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater
2433 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago

Contains mature content and situations. Parental discretion advised for those under 13 years old

Highly Recommended…breathtaking power and poignancy.” Chicago Sun-Times
“★★★…the best sung show I’ve experienced by this particular company.” Chicago Tribune
“★★★…they leave it all on the stage.” Time Out Chicago

Dessa Rose is a stirring musical drama based on the noted novel by Sherley Anne Williams. Told as an oral history and related by two women, Ruth and Dessa Rose, this powerful tale of an unlikely friendship takes place in 1847, 14 years before the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Based on both fact and fiction, the musical weaves together the stories of two real women, one white and one black, 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 with Ruth. 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 inspiring.


Letter from the Artistic Director

Lili-Anne-Brown“You think I got a soul?”
“…I do believe you do. Yes.”
“Then I believe you got one, too.”

There are several obvious reasons that this play first set me ablaze personally and artistically. It is a story of women, told by women. The title character is a black woman, like me. The two women at the heart of the story are strong, intelligent, independent, and brave; qualities I aspire to every day. And while all those things, too infrequently seen onstage, were very attractive to me, they are only a small fraction of the reason this show is so important here and now.

America is at a tipping point in the national conversation about oppression of all kinds.

The era of political correctness is being hurried toward its end, in favor of more raw (and often inflammatory) exercises of freedom of speech. We may not be in the most useful, solution-oriented conversation yet; but the rising accessibility of unchecked and uncensored sources of information, communication and entertainment has certainly changed the tone. As more people who formerly felt voiceless find their voices, we are hearing increasingly diverse pleas for equity and justice, and, sometimes surprisingly, an equal backlash of exhaustion, resentment, guilt and fear. Everyone involved in this show felt a responsibility to be a part of this conversation. We wanted to set forth an acceptance of America’s history and our separate and common ancestors that brought us to this point. We wanted to show that compassion, and earning each other’s trust, even when we have been taught not to trust one another, is necessary in order to achieve progress together. We have to be vulnerable in our struggles, put in actual work toward dismantling our preconceptions, be accountable for our ignorance, and be willing to say and hear things that are extremely uncomfortable—and stay in the conversation. It takes bravery and vigilance. To commit to this risky and frightening change is to make ourselves free.

“Oh, we have paid for our children’s place in this world. We have paid again and again.”


Lili-Anne Brown, Artistic Director

Jayson "JC" Brooks (Nathan)

Nathan • Jayson “JC” Brooks

Sydney Charles (Dessa Rose)

Dessa Rose • Sydney Charles

Brigitte Ditmars (Ruth's Mother)

Ruth’s Mother • Brigitte Ditmars

Gilbert Domally (Philip)

Philip • Gilbert Domally

Harmony France (Ruth)

Ruth • Harmony France°

Jasondra Johnson (Dorcas)

Dorcas • Jasondra Johnson

Jaymes Osbourne (Kaine)

Kaine • Jaymes Osborne

Steven Perkins (Harker)

Harker • Steven Perkins

Pavi Proczko (Mr. Steele)

Mr. Steele • Pavi Proczko

David Schlumpf (Nehemiah)

Nehemiah • David Schlumpf

Sasha Smith (Anabelle)

Anabelle • Sasha Smith

Eunice Woods (Rose)

Rose • Eunice Woods

°Denotes Bailiwick Chicago Collective Member

Jayson “JC” Brooks (Nathan) is an actor/writer/musician who has called Chicago home for a decade. He has performed with Second City (South Side of Heaven); Bailiwick Chicago (Passing Strange); Porchlight Music Theater (Ragtime, A Wonderful Life); and done readings with many local companies. He also fronts a post-punk soul band called JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound.

Sydney Charles (Dessa Rose) is ecstatic to be making her Bailiwick Chicago debut with this anticipated production of Dessa Rose. A native Chicagoan, Northern Illinois University graduate and former corporate banker, Sydney was most recently seen at the Jeff-Recommended production of The Color Purple (Mercury Theater Chicago). Some of her favorite roles include: the role of Brenda in Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater), Grizabella in Cats (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater), Glinda in The Wiz, and Sister Robert Anne in Nunsense. She gives thanks to her family and friends for not laughing at her dream of quititng her day job to pursue acting. “Look ma! I’m dancing, I’m dancing.”

Brigitte Ditmars (Ruth’s Mother) is excited to finally work with Bailiwick Chicago. Chicago credits include Hostage Song, The Ballad of the Sad Café, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Signal Ensemble Theatre); The Women, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Mack and Mabel (Circle Theatre); The Odd Couple and Dating Walter Dante (Raven Theatre); Nine (Porchlight Music Theatre); Bittersweet (Light Opera Works); Caged Dames (Hell In A Handbag Productions). Brigitte is also a Jeff Award winning choreographer and an Artistic Associate with both Signal Ensemble Theatre and Hell in a Handbag Productions. She holds a BFA in Acting from Wright State University.

Gilbert Domally (Philip) is thrilled to be making his Chicago Debut with Bailiwick Chicago. He attends Roosevelt University where he is a candidate for a BFA in Musical Theatre. His most recent credits include the staged reading of Princess Mary Demands Your Attention (Bailiwick Chicago), A Chorus Line (Timberlake Playhouse), Hairspray (Grandstreet Theatre) and the Midwest Premiere of Lysistrata Jones (Roosevelt University). Gilbert is thankful to God, his family, and friends for their unending support.

Harmony France (Ruth) is so happy to be back on stage with Bailiwick Chicago where she was seen as the title role in Violet: A Musical (Non-Equity Jeff nomination and Broadway World Award for Leading Actress). Recent credits include Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre); Sweet and Sad (Profiles Theatre); Rise of the Numberless (The New Colony/Bailiwick Chicago); Man of La Mancha (Theatre at the Center); Meet John Doe (Porchlight Music Theatre); Bernarda Alba, Songs for a New World (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble); Secret Garden (Light Opera Works); Tell me on a Sunday (Chicago Tribune: Hottest Ticket in Town); Jerry Springer: The Opera (Jeff Award: Best Musical Production) (Bailiwick Repertory); and A Little Night Music (Peninsula Players). Harmony studied Opera at Brenau University and Acting at Columbia College. She is a company member and the Casting Director at Bailiwick Chicago. Love and thanks to Lil, Kate, Jimmy, and Eric. www.harmonyfrance.com

Jasondra Johnson (Dorcas) is excited to join Bailiwick Chicago for the first time. Jasondra was last seen in The Color Purple (Mercury Theater Chicago) as Sofia. Other credits include Crowns (Goodman Theatre), Will You Stand Up? (Erasing the Distance), and a national commercial campaign with LasVegas.com. Jasondra is honored to share this beautiful story with all of you. “This is for all the heroes who came before me and for those to come. Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Jaymes Osborne (Kaine) is excited to make his Bailiwick Chicago debut with Dessa Rose. He is involved with the raising of Chicago’s youth working with CPS by day and with American Eagle Productions, bringing live and educational entertainment to children in schools and the community. Jaymes was last seen in his favorite role as himself in Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Theo Ubique/Royal George Theatre). Other Chicago credits include The Wiz (Theater at the Center); The Color Purple (Mercury Theater); Annie Get Your Gun (Light Opera Works). As a Lafayette, Indiana native, he has been choreographer for shows such as The Wedding Singer, Grease, and Hairspray (Tippecanoe Dinner Theater). “Thanks to family, friends and cast for undying love and support to see goals reached.”

Steven Perkins (Harker) is pleased to be returning to Bailiwick Chicago where he was previously seen in both Rise of the Numberless and the Jeff-nominated production of Passing Strange. He was most recently seen in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Griffin Theatre) and before that spent ten months in the Jeff-nominated Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Theo Ubique). Steven is thrilled to be working with so many old friends and grateful that he gets to do such important and poignant work with them.

Pavi Proczko (Mr. Steele) makes his Bailiwick Chicago debut. Other Chicago credits include: The Merry Wives of Windsor (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); The Light in the Piazza (Theo Ubique); Meet John Doe (Porchlight Music Theatre); The Suitcase Opera Project (Chicago Opera Vanguard); Much Ado About Nothing (First Folio Shakespeare); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Paramount Theatre); and Godspell (Brown Paper Box Co.). Regional credits include work with Acorn Theater and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre. Mr. Proczko received his BFA in musical theatre from Roosevelt University and studied improvisation and writing at Second City Training Center.

David Schlumpf (Nehemiah) is very excited for his first show with Bailiwick Chicago! He was most recently seen as Sydney in Sweet Smell of Success (Kokandy Productions). Other Chicago credits include Cliff in Cabaret, Gershwin’s Greatest Hits (Light Opera Works); Timon of Athens, As You Like It (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); Dartmoor Prison (Goodman Theatre); A Christmas Carol (Drury Lane); The Awakening (Workshop Theatre, NYC); Eugene in Grease! featuring Frankie Avalon (Phoenix Productions, National Tour). David is a recent MFA Acting graduate from Roosevelt University’s CCPA. For more about David as a performer and teacher, visit his website: davidschlumpf.weebly.com

Sasha Smith (Anabelle) is over the moon to be working with Bailiwick Chicago! Chicago credits include Horse Girls (Collaboraction), Down and Derby (The New Colony), Little Shop of Horrors (Street Tempo Theater). Sasha is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. She is truly honored to be a part of such a tremendous cast!

Eunice Woods (Rose) is overjoyed to be making her Bailiwick Chicago debut! She is a proud Acting Ensemble member of Barrel of Monkeys. Other Chicago acting credits include The True History…of Julia Pastrana (Tympanic Theatre Company); Raskol (Vintage Theater Collective); Miami Nice (Gorilla Tango Theatre); The Rose Parade (Body Project Ensemble & VOTC). Eunice is the creator and host of TalkBack – a video blog exploring relevant topics for up-and-coming Chicago actors (actorstalkback.blogspot.com). She holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University.

Daryn Harrell (Dessa Rose Understudy) is thrilled to be returning to Bailiwick Chicago, where she previously appeared in Elton John’s AIDA. Hailing from Peoria, IL, Daryn spent the last year and a half with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a lead vocalist. Other past credits include Sweet Charity, Children of Eden (Timber Lake Playhouse); RENT (Harrison Hilltop Theatre). Daryn received her B.A. in Musical Theatre from North Central College, where she appeared in Elephant’s Graveyard, Distracted, and The Wedding Singer. A BIG thanks to God, the creative team for this amazing opportunity, and family and friends for their constant love and support.

Sara Reinecke (Ruth and Ruth’s Mother Understudy) is pleased as punch to be working at Bailiwick Chicago for the first time on this wonderful show. She was last seen in the Chicago premiere of both Ripper and Lysistrata Jones at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She would like to thank Lili-Anne and Jimmy for the opportunity to work on this show and her CCPA family for their unconditional support.

Lili-Anne Brown (Director), a native Chicagoan, is the Artistic Director of Bailiwick Chicago. Previous directing credits for BC include: Michael John LaChiusa’s See What I Wanna See (part of Steppenwolf Theatre’s Garage Rep), and the critically acclaimed Chicago Premiere of Passing Strange (Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Director of a Musical, Jeff Award nomination for Best Director of a Musical). Other directing credits include: Hearts of Darkness at Roosevelt University; and Unnecessary Farce, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, all at Timber Lake Playhouse, where she is an Artistic Associate. Lil thanks this awesome cast and crew, and dedicates this show to her mother, the strongest woman she’s ever encountered, and her father, who always made sure the family story was passed down.

James Morehead (Music Director) is thrilled to work with Bailiwick Chicago on Dessa Rose. Previous shows include Jerry Springer: the Opera, bare (Jeff Nominated: Music Direction), Passing Strange (Jeff Nominated: Music Direction), See What I Wanna See, Elton John’s AIDA, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Trouble in Tahiti, The Mikado, The Impresario, The Old Maid and the Thief, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Copacabana, Cupid and Psyche, Promises, Promises, and many others. He is also music director for VOX3 , choir master/organist at St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Burr Ridge, IL, Assistant Conductor for the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and Adjunct Faculty at Roosevelt University. Classically, James has performed at the Auditorium Theater, Harris Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, Rockefeller Chapel, Chicago’s Gospel Fest 2012, multiple times on WFMT 98.7 FM

Danny Bernardo (Assistant Director) is a resident playwright and marketing manager at Bailiwick Chicago, where his play Mahal received its world premiere last season. Other companies he’s worked with (as actor or production) include Goodman, Victory Gardens, About Face, Lifeline, and Silk Road Rising. Favorite directing credits include a six-month run of Hair (Tonkawa Theatre); Macabaret (co-directed with L. Walter Stearns, Porchlight), and Shuffle Off (Collaboraction’s Sketchbook 13). He has taught theatre at the Chicago Academy for the Arts and AfterSchool Matters at Gallery 37. Training: Columbia College, Second City, and American Conservatory Theater. Love and thanks to Lil, the cast and production team, and the entire collective for this amazing journey.

Aaron Benham (Associate Music Director) is pleased as punch to be a part of the Dessa Rose team. Chicago credits: The Sweet Smell of Success, Kokandy Productions; We Three Lizas, About Face Theatre Co.; A Cole Porter Songbook & Time After Time: The Songs of Jule Styne, Theo-Ubique; Sweet Charity, Writer’s Theater; Anyone Can Whistle & Putting It Together, Porchlight; Avenue Q & Spamalot, NightBlue; Parade, Harper College. He performs with the Improvised Sondheim Project and with Second City at Sea. BFA, Emerson College. Up next: the Chicago premiere of Carrie the Musical with Bailiwick Chicago.

Mary-Catherine Mikalayunas (Stage Manager) is very grateful to be a part of such a wonderful production. After graduating from Webster Conservatory of the Theatre Arts last May, she moved to Chicago to continue to do what she loves. She worked ChiArts in the fall where she was the Production Stage Manager for The Drowsy Chaperone. She would like to thank her parents, Lil and everyone who has continued to support her. Keep on keepin on!

Sydney Sarah Stier (Assistant Stage Manager) is a senior in her final semester at Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Her first passion is being on the stage, but in her downtime she thoroughly enjoys being on the other side of the production team. She has recently stage managed for Princess Mary Demands Your Attention workshop directed by Lili-Anne Brown, as well as Hearts of Darkness at CCPA, also directed by Lili-Anne Brown. She is looking forward to graduation when she will have more time to be involved with this wonderful team!

Kate Garassino (Executive Director) is the Executive Director of Bailiwick Chicago and was recently seen in Bailiwick Chicago’s production of Resident Playwright Danny Bernardo’s Mahal as Mari. Some notable stage credits include Christmas Eve in Nightblue’s Avenue Q and Lady Thiang in Porchlight Music Theater’s production of The King & I where she received an Equity Jeff Nomination. She is a Jeff Award recipient for Best Supporting Musical Theater Actress in Bailiwick Repertory’s production of Bombs Away! Kate is also performing in Carrie the Musical opening June 1 with Bailiwick Chicago. Her gratitude for this amazing cast and crew is boundless and she is thankful every day to work alongside the extremely talented Lili-Anne Brown. Most importantly, thank you for giving live theater its pulse and continuing to support Bailiwick Chicago.

Megan Truscott (Scenic Designer) is thrilled to be returning to Bailiwick Chicago after designing last year’s Joseph…Technicolor Dreamcoat. Her work has been seen at Milwaukee Repertory, Pennsylvania Youth Theatre, TheatreSquared, Pavement Group, and others. Megan received her BFA from DePaul University. “Much love to Tony for all the support.”

Brian Hoehne (Lighting Designer) is excited to be returning to Bailiwick after designing lights for last years Chicago Casting Auction.  Recent designs: Do I Hear a Waltz, Triumph of Love, The Baker’s Wife (Music Theatre Company); Nutcracker, Schoolhouse Rock Live! (Marriott Theatre); Master Class, Chess (Theo Ubique); Spamalot, Buddy!, West Side Story (Timber Lake Playhouse).

Patrick Bley (Sound Designer) is a Chicago-based sound designer and engineer and graduate of Columbia College Chicago. His work has been heard in and around Chicago with Bailiwick Chicago, The Music Theatre Company, Pride Films and Plays and Lookingglass. Patrick has also been the Resident Sound Designer and Engineer at Timber Lake Playhouse in Mount Carroll IL for the past four years. Thank you for supporting live theatre in Chicago and enjoy the show!

Samantha C. Jones (Costume Designer) is thrilled to return to Bailiwick Chicago where she previously designed See What I Wanna See. Around the city she has designed with Next Theatre Co., Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 16th Street Theatre Jackalope Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, American Blues Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Co. Elsewhere she has designed for Peninsula Players Theatre, ACTCO and Florida Studio Theatre. Her designs can also be seen in Victory Garden’s world premiere of The Gospel of Lovingkindness, and at Next Theatre in The Great God Pan, as well as Eclipse Theatre Co. production of Ruined in the spring.

Beau Forbes (Fight Choreographer) Happy to be working with Bailiwick Chicago again, Beau has previously choreographed Fucking Men, Aida, Violet, and Mahal for Bailiwick. Recent projects include the independent film Hunter, Men Exposed for Redtwist Theatre, Golden Boy for Porchlight Theatre (concert) and F*ggot for Infusion Theatre’s New Play Development Workshop. Other projects include Trainspotting USA at Theatre Wit and Tales of the Twinkling Twilight at Raven Theatre. Beau has also worked with Griffin Theatre on Port, and Project 891 Theatre Company on Epic Proportions, as well as with Hobo Junction for The Regulars and Bad Guys in Suits. Favorite previous productions include The Lost Colony in Manteo, NC and Johnny Appleseed in Ohio. As an actor, Beau was last seen in Men Exposed for Redtwist playing the role of Jim.

Chris Jones on Dessa Rose (CBS Local News)

About Dessa Rose

Racial Tension (Then & Now)

Click below to download Bailiwick Chicago’s official Dessa Rose digital materials.