Season 34

The Bottle Tree

a world premiere
by Beth Kander
directed by Amy Szerlong*

October 15 – November 20, 2016

Previews: 10/15, 10/19 & 10/20 @8pm; 10/16 @3pm
Opening: Friday, 10/21 @8pm
Regular Run: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8pm; Sundays at 3pm

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Five years after a school shooting, Alley, the struggling, smart-mouthed teenage sister of the shooter, wrestles with forgiveness, moving forward, and the lingering questions left in the wake of her brother’s crime. Another decade later, as an adult, finding satisfying answers proves no easier. Will she ever find an opportunity for hope and healing, or will the ghosts of her past forever haunt her? The Bottle Tree is an exploration of American gun culture that is at once heartfelt, humorous, and heartbreaking.

The Bottle Tree was developed in part through Stage Left’s Downstage Left Playwright Residencies 2014-2015, then in LeapFest 2015. The script was also presented and workshopped at the 2015 Ashland New Plays Festival, and has received an Honorable Mention on The Kilroys List for the past two years.


Alley: Kathryn Acosta
Rhoda: Christina Gorman
Dr. Berlin: David Lawrence Hamilton*
Myrna: Kathleen Ruhl
Rick: Nick Savin
Monica: Allyce Torres
Rae: Toya Turner
Joseph: Emilio Velasco
Understudy: Maddie Sachs
Understudy: Judith Laughlin
Understudy: Jeffrey Paschal


Production Team:

Stage Manager: Adam Greye*
Production Manager: Michael Starcher^
Scenic Designer: Katherine Arfken*
Lighting Designer: Matt Kooi
Costume Designer: Brenda Winstead*
Props Designer: Arielle Valene
Sound DesignerStephen Gawrit
Technical Director
Matt Super
Assistant Director: Kyle McCloskey
Dramaturg: Annaliese McSweeney*
Producer: Vance Smith^
Graphic Design: Bridget Schultz
Photographer: Ian McLaren

*Ensemble Member   ^ Stage Left Staff

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“a sincere, non-condescending and compassionate piece of writing…Kander has painted a rich portrait of her empathetic central character.” Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“It’s always a pleasure watching good actors do good work, and if they’re well cast, that experience becomes even more enjoyable. Under the thoughtful… direction of incoming co-artistic director Amy Szerlong, Kander’s play aims high… The Bottle Tree has plenty of things going for it” —Allison Shoemaker, Time Out Chicago

“creates a convincing and rich character portrait” —Dan Jakes, Chicago Reader

“Director Amy Szerlong’s microcosmic approach to Allison’s recollections and subsequent conclusions likewise rejects stereotypes. Whether you regard firearms as evil destroyers of innocents ( sometimes true ) or noble guardians of the meek and oppressed ( also sometimes true ), whether you shudder at the thought of teenagers operating shooting irons—while making exception for combat soldiers and Ralphie Parker’s Daisy rifle—if you wear your opinions like body armor, you do well to leave them at the door of this latest in the 30 world-premiere plays making their debut in Chicago this fall.” —Mary Shen Barnidge, Windy City Times

“Fantastic…. a nuanced and humane story about a topic that is usually hard to speak of outside of overly simplistic cliches… a great cast, and the production is very slick. Kathryn Acosta, who plays Alley, is fantastic, and in particular in the way she manages to convincingly portray a child, a teenager, and an adult.” —Wrongsideblog

” a nuanced examination of a current controversy…. Ruhl’s performance is what really makes Myrna’s presence memorable. Besides being completely believable, Ruhl’s earthy character is lovable…  Joseph and Alley’s relationship is heartwarming…Recommended.” —Jacob Davis, Around the Town

“Amy Szerlong’s direction brings out fine performances by the cast. Acosta has a wrenching role to perform as the sister of a shooter, as does Gorman as his mother. In Katherine Arfken’s effective bare-bones scenic design, the bottle tree sits at the side of the stage” —Nancy Davis, Third Coast Review