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.
Design Brief: For the Los Angeles premier of Dessa Rose at Chromolume Theater, I chose a palette of browns, creams and reds. Because of the time shifting, the clothes were kept in a period range that could span the 40 years of the show easily without being distracting, while accommodating quick changes.
The device I used for the onstage transformations of Dessa and Rose from young to old was a shawl; When old, the ladies would pull the shawl forward over their shoulders and when young, the would drop it to elbow level or wrap it around their hips. Both had black shawls. Dessa’s was a rustic crochet with a rose closure and Ruth’s was a more delicate sunflower pattern lace.
Broadway World “Kudos to designer Kara McLeod for her dedication to time period and class appropriate costumes in the show.”
Bucking Trends “Kara McLeod’s Costumes also favor the simple approach but successfully recall the times and social status (or hoped for status) of those wearing them, while also granting her a few subtle touches of ingenuity that similarly get their point delightfully across if one is sharp-eyed enough to catch them. A prime example of this is Ruth’s ‘scarlet’ red dress and crimson silk shawl (scandalous for the times) once she begins to aid (and in due course grows to excel) in the gang’s confidence game to help them all earn enough money to ‘buy’ their collective liberty.”