The musical team (lyricist Ahrens, composer Flaherty) added that Dessa Rose was only a working title. The piece received a readings at Lincoln Center in June 2002 and 2003. “It's a piece based on a novel called 'Dessa Rose,’” composer Flaherty previously told Playbill On-Line, “and it's set over the course of the 1800s and it's based on two historical women: A runaway slave and a woman who helps her to freedom, and in doing so becomes 'free' herself. The two women who did the reading were Donna Murphy and La Chanze. The characters get to play themselves at different points in their lives, so La Chanze gets to be an 85-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl.”
Flaherty added recently, "We are waiting to hear when it might be produced [at LCT]." A staged reading of the piece in June was helmed by director-choreographer Graciela Daniele.
In the past, Lincoln Center Theatre has produced such Ahrens and Flaherty works as My Favorite Year and A Man of No Importance.