Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bottle Tree Productions One Act Play Competition for Writers

Bottle Tree Productions announces its 2011 Third Annual International One Act Play Writing Competition. The winners of the first competition were Evan Guilford-Blake with 'American Blues', Talia Pura with 'Demons in the Mind' and Richard Rossi with 'Sister Aimee'.

The winners of the 2010 contest will be announced on January 31st.

So test your writing skills against the world.

There will be a first prize awarded of $1,000

Second prize of $250

Third prize of $100

The contest is open January 1st 2011. It closes November 30th 2011.


Hard copy Scripts need to be bound and should be mailed to Bottle Tree Productions at 445 Southwood Drive, Kingston Ontario. K7M  5P8

A manuscript-sized SASE should be attached if the script needs to be returned

There is a twenty-five dollar entry fee.

A twenty-five dollar cheque should be enclosed with any hard copy submissions and made payable to Bottle Tree Productions.

No entry will be considered until the entry fee has been paid.

You may enter as many scripts as you like but there is a twenty-five dollar fee for each entry.

The winners will be announced in January of 2012.

If you would like critical input about your play, please submit a $50 cheque made payable to Bottle Tree Productions, along with a manuscript-sized SASE.

The playwright’s name and other contact information should be included on the title page.

Please number your script pages.

For email submissions and PAYPAL deposits of the twenty-five dollar entry fee

go to the bottletree contest page

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

In the sequel to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael Blumquist(Michael Nvquist) is being released from jail, and Lisbeth Salander(Noomi Rapace) is being hunted by the police for three murders attributed to her. This is a good movie, lots of action, but alas, things are only superficially dealt with this time.

In this film, Salander is beaten up, shot several times and buried in a grave, but like the Crow, the grave cannot keep her, and the earth spits this avenging angel back out.

A young reporter investigating government complicity in human trafficking is murdered along with his girlfriend. The young man has been working for Millenium and so Michael Blumquist follows up with his own investigation.

We find out more about Lisbeth's horrible background and that has a direct impact on where the film goes. You can't hide from your past and it catches up to her in some awful ways.

Blumquist, in trying to prove her innocence, finds that his investigation into human trafficking and Salander's troubles with the law have merged onto the same path.

But like most great films, sequelitis sets in and the villains get bigger and more unreal. Think Rocky in Russia.

Fire is a recurring theme in this film. While Lisbeth tried to burn her demons, there is another, almost Frankenstein scene where the soul-less demon tries to burn her friends.

Overall, a good movie that lacks the depth of the first one.

Rating ***

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Film Review

Like La Femme Nikita, this film focuses on a troubled young woman who ends up solving problems for the authorities, Lisbeth Salander played by Noomi Rapace has been institutionalized since the age of 12 when she attempted to burn her father to death. Out on probation, she works for a security company as a computer hacker. Through her surveillance of an investigative journalist by the name of Mikael Blomquist played by Michael Nyqvist, she finds someone with integrity, whom she can trust,

Much like Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame Blomquist has been sentenced to some jail time on trumped-up charges brought against him by those in the Swedish government who wish to stop his investigation of corporate interests. Before he goes to jail, Salander and he end up working together on a murder mystery.

The film is in Swedish with subtitles, but after a while your brain incorporates the subtitles into the speech of the actors and you forget that they are speaking another language.

It is a brutal and violent film with disturbing images. Stieg Larsen; the writer of the Millenium Trilogy of which this film is the first of the three that have been made from his novels, was an investigative journalist who made it his mission to expose the far right and the rise of neo-nazism in Sweden. This film focuses on a string of neo-nazi crimes in Sweden against women.

A venerated Swedish family has a few skeletons and swastikas in its closet. Blomquist and Salander are looking into a cold case file of the murder of a 16 year old girl and nothing is as it seems.

This movie has tremendous style and substance. While La Femme Nikita was mainly style, this film is a mystery, an action adventure, a political thriller, and a searing indictment of the treatment of women by men,  Salander is vengeance personified. She is Skadi; the viking goddess of justice, vengeance and righteous anger wreaking a world of hurt on the bad men in the world. Blomquist has a pure and noble heart in his desire to expose corruption. Together, they form an unstoppable team. Rapace is amazing to watch as she deals with being damaged goods. Stoic in the face of adversity, she has a deep seething anger  which occasionally rises to the surface in vicious pay back.

Nyquist is a highly subtle actor who plods along with his investigation within the limits of the law, analyzing the tidbits of information that come his way, slowly stripping away the lies and exposing the truth, while Rapace's dark avenger operates in the shadows. She operates outside the law to get her results.

A riveting movie experience.

Rating ****

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Register for Fall Acting Classes in Kingston 2011

Starting Saturday September 17th at The Kingston Christian School
on Woodbine Road in the West End, Bottle Tree Productions offers fall classes. Classes run for ten weeks.
Acting Classes Bottle Tree Productions
Through our classes we can get ticket deals for shows and discounts for workshops.

Acting classes are a great way to develop self-esteem and reading skills. We have a very child-centered approach, so most of our students do very well at school. Each child is indeed a snowflake and each child requires their own special support and instruction. We stretch kids' minds and polish their ability.

Classes are broken up into different age groups; 6-10 year olds, 11-12 year olds and teenagers. We also have an academic class for Shakespeare enthusiasts. 'Bard on the Boards' where we study Macbeth.

For further information about registering and paying for classes go to Bottle Tree Productions/ Acting Classes

Winter's Bone-Film Review

A stark tale, Winter's Bone has as real a collection of rednecks as you will see on film. Jennifer Lawrence as 17 year old Ree Dolly struggles to keep what is left of her family together, a younger brother and sister, as the law is threatening to take the family property because her father didn't show up for court. Her father makes Crystal Meth and he is the unseen character in the film, casting a long shadow over Ree and her quest to save the family home. Jennifer Lawrence gives a great performance as a young woman who won't rat out the criminal gang that is her extended family as she searches for the truth. John Hawkes gives a brilliant, very real performance as her uncle Tear Drop. He is one scary dude.

Director Debra Granik has some very nice touches in the film in the detail department. The sound of crushed dead leaves underfoot, the Ozark music, the junk gathered in front of the houses, the trampoline, and the new cars amidst the poverty, the rural use of crystal meth, the stoic women who act as gatekeepers
to the various criminally-minded men in their lives. Good performance from some locals who had featured roles in the film.

Jennifer Lawrence who is just 19 now has never taken acting classes and had no formal training, and she shines on film.

The scene between Hawkes, Lawrence and the sheriff played by Garret Dillahunt is brilliant and feels so real. The Sheriff has pulled over the truck driven by Hawkes' Tear Drop and Lawrence is in the passenger seat. What happens is not what you would expect, but it makes perfect sense.

The local musicians glue the production together with their music, as indelibly a part of the atmosphere as are the sparse trees and the dilapidated properties.

This film was made for 2 million dollars and made over 6 million at the box office, as well as garnering numerous awards.

A couple of parting thoughts I had. Ree Dolly in not breaking the code of talking to outsiders manages to grab a victory of sorts with her integrity and her courage but her future is in the hard faces of the women she encounters on her trek through the rural landscape where the women are servants to the men. This is no Disney ending, and speaking of endings, I was disappointed by the solving of the mystery. It seemed anti-climatic, though well-shot, and surrounded by great atmosphere. It all seemed kind of rushed and ambiguous. Tear Drop has a great scene with the banjo near the end. I know what happens next, but I would have liked a stronger bridge to what happens next. The viewer is left to make assumptions.

But certainly, well worth the watching.

Rating ***1/2

Interview with Jennifer Lawrence

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Trotsky-Film Review

The Trotsky is a very good film burdened by a very hard sell.

Twenty-nine year old Jay Baruchel plays teen ager; Leon Bronstein, who thinks he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky...Who? You know, the guy that started the Russian revolution, the guy who was assassinated in Mexico with an ice pick. You know; the guy. Only in Canada would the creative team try to be smarter than the audience. Up here in Canada, we look down on commercial success as not really being art. Leave that to the Americans.

Myself, I liked the movie. I like the humour. I liked the intelligence. Well shot and well acted. Though I thought the first bit dragged,, when Bronstein organizes the workers at his father's shop. That part could have been cut out for all the difference it made to the movie. They should have started with him going to school and filled in the back story there. But heck, when the Canadian and Quebec governments give you 4.3 million dollars of tax payers money, why not play? Since they had already got their money up front, like most government-funded Canadian films, they had no incentive to turn a profit. Tax credits must have given them another nice chunk of change, and there you go. Thank you Mister and Missus Tax Payer.

You know a comedy about communism is going to die an ugly death at The American Box Office. It did gross 440,000 dollars. So it needs about another 12 million to break even. It will have to do that in dvd sales, downloading and perhaps Walmart, though of course Walmart takes a dim view of unions.

Alliance Films; headquartered in Montreal, distributed the movie.

Saul Rubinek, Michael Murphy and Colm Feore add a lot of depth to this comedy. Old hands at the acting game, they anchor this 'teen comedy'.

Jacob Tierney directs this movie with assurance and style. His last film about 6 or 7 years ago was called 'Twist' a low budget film about Toronto street youth which was shot for only 300,000 dollars that had a ROI of 30,000 at the Box office.

Jacob had submitted other scripts to Telefilm and received funding, but these screenplays were never developed.

Having first written a version of this particular film ten years ago, the wheels were finally put into motion as Jacob's dad Kevin, who was responsible for 'Bad Cop, Bon Cop', received discretionary funding of 3.5 million dollars from Telefilm to do with what he wanted. He and his son decided to make that Trotsky movie.

In Canada, the goal of most film makers is to actually get a movie made. Once that happens is where it breaks down. Though Canadian distribution companies like Lion's Gate and Alliance Films have been successful players in the business, they seem unable or unwilling to help Canadian movies along. Of course, they have their bottom line to look out for. The government is incapable of running a profit making business. With the government controlling the purse strings of most films in Canada, there should not be an improvement any time soon in box office dollars for Canadian films.

Take out The Trotsky in 'The Trotsky' and you would have a very marketable film. It wouldn't be as loaded with jokes about things most people know nothing about, but it would be marketable. And it would be just as good, and the poor Canadian tax payer might even get a return on his investment.

Rating ***


Jay Baruchel

Michael Murphy

Colm Feore

Saul Rubinek

Genevieve Bujold

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life

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When Jimmy Stewart was a boy, he built model air planes and dreamed of flying. After graduating from high school, he wanted to join the Naval Air Academy but his father shot that idea down and sent him to Princeton instead. His mind still on flying he had written a paper on airport architecture which had persuaded his professors that he should be given a scholarship for graduate studies. But Stewart also had another passion which Princeton provided for. He joined the music and drama clubs. Having mastered the accordion as a child, he also liked to entertain and soon he had joined the University Players Summer Stock company with his good friends Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan. After leaving Princeton, he roomed with Fonda in New York, as they looked for work on Broadway. First bit parts and then more substantial work followed. Fonda was the first to get called by Hollywood, but it wasn't long before Stewart made the trip as well, being put under studio contract for seven years at 350 dollars a week.

In  Hollywood he hooked up with his good friend Margaret Sullavan who had for a year been Henry Fonda's wife before that union collapsed. She encouraged Stewart to be himself on film. Being himself is what made Jimmie Stewart one of the most popular actors of all time. People paid and paid to see Jimmie Stewart weave his magic on film. He was charming and awkward. There was a lot of acting intelligence behind those eyes. But perhaps that was why he was such a good actor, because he wasn't only an actor. He also played the accordion, and you gotta love someone who plays the accordion.

He made such films as the western 'Destry Rides Again', as a pacifist sherrif with costar Marlene Deitrich,  'The Shop Around The Corner' with his good friend Margaret Sullavan and 'The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn which garnered him an Oscar as best actor. He beat out his good friend Henry Fonda and his portrayal of Tom Joad in 'Grapes of Wrath'

Stewart also collaborated with  Director Frank Capra on two films; 'You Can't Take it With You', and 'Mister Smith Goes to Washington'.

World War Two then put Stewart's acting career on hold but it allowed him to pursue another love; flying

When The Second World War hit, Stewart who had gotten his flying license in 1935, was drafted. He was initially rejected not once but twice, because he was underweight, but he wasn't going to let a little thing like that get in the way of his boyhood dream and he enlisted the help of a Hollywood strong man to bulk up.

The army relented and eventually Stewart, who was a skilled pilot, was put in charge of a bomber group rising to the rank of colonel as he led many sorties into the skies over Germany, including the infamous Black Thursday attack which saw over 60 bombers shot down.

By the time Stewart's flying career ended he had won ten medals.

After the war in 1946, Frank Capra tapped Jimmy Stewart on the shoulder for his new film 'Its a Wonderful Life' based on a novella called 'The Gift' by Philip Van Doren.

The movie cost over 6 million dollars to make and was the story of George Bailey who is trapped in a small town existence. He is a good guy, making sacrifices for other people. never thinking of himself first. His dreams are probably like Jimmy Stewart's dreams of being a pilot. of seeing the world. But instead of George Bailey going to fight it is his brother Harry who becomes a pilot and who wins The Medal of Honour. Of course, what is ironic is that Stewart himself had won medals for his air heroics.

In the movie Bailey faces financial ruin and is about to commit suicide when an angel rescues him, well a second class angel rescues him, well I guess he doesn't actually rescue him, he jumps in the water and forces George to rescue him. In order for an angel to get his wings, he has to save someones life and he has been assigned to George, a perhaps extraordinary man who lives an ordinary life. Clarence the angel shows George what life would have been like had he never been born, and the sacrifices he has made tells a larger story of the lives far from his own that he has affected.

The world without the good heart of George Bailey is a dark nightmarish vision of the town that he has grown up in. Interestingly, Bailey's good deeds include providing low income housing which we now know becomes poverty traps and he also provides low interest loans to the poor so they can buy houses. The sub prime monster just waiting around the corner.

Of course they sounded like good ideas at the time.

Stewart having seen death and destruction all around him infuses the movie with tremendous life and charm. His George Bailey, like Stewart himself and like the United States had wakened from a nightmare and returned to the comfort of family and friends. The ordinary man and woman, and ordinary children with extraordinary names like Zuzu, can sing poignantly about Peace on Earth.

In the movie, a bell rings and an angel gets his wings. Stewart answered that bell and got his wings. Stewart served for 27 years in the air force and reached the rank of Brigadier General. He served the professional stage and screen from 1932 to 1991 and achieved ten lifetime achievement awards and one Oscar.

'Its a Wonderful Life' failed at the box office and Frank Capra's new film company collapsed into bankruptcy and they never worked together again. But while other award winning films and actors fade from memory, 'Its a Wonderful Life' lives on at Christmas time, on television and on dvd. The film had been nominated for five academy awards and received none. Jimmy Stewart was nominated for best actor but didn't win. He was nominated five times and won only once. But his affect on American cinema is certainly reflected on his many lifetime achievement awards and the fact that ten of his films are regarded by the American Film Institute as in the top 100 films of all time.

Christmas is a time to invite friends and family in to your home, exchange gifts, eat too much, and to share another Christmas with Jimmy Stewart and 'Its a Wonderful Life'. As George Bailey gets a second chance at Christmas time, so did Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra and 'Its a Wonderful Life'

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's On in Kingston for kids?

Bottle Tree Productions presents Sleeping Beauty at The Wellington Street Theatre, December 15-18, Wednesday to Saturday with matinee performances Saturday and Sunday December 19th-20th at 2 pm.

Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased online at Bottle Tree Productions

Cameron Watson who has played Puck in a Midsummer Night's Dream plays the bumbling servant; Jack. Dana Lynn Farrell lends her great voice to the title role of Sleeping Beauty. Davin Allan (Ralphie in Til the Boys Come Home) and Kira Wieting(Linda in Til the Boys Come Home) are the king and queen. Allyson Foster plays the evil fairy Carabasse, who finding out she was not invited to the new baby princess' christening casts a spell that will put the princess to sleep for a hundred years.

Lots of songs, magic and fun for the whole family.

Written by Charles Robertson with music and lyrics by Michael K Myers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Getting an agent could be as simple as 1-2-3

The simplest way of getting an agent is to

  1. Put your head shot in an envelope
  2. Put your resume in the same envelope
  3. Mail the envelope to an agent.
This might seem like an over-simplistic way of getting an agent, but if you don't do those three simple steps you won't get an agent. The agent won't know you exist. The agent won't know you are seeking representation. The agent is not out there looking for you. He or she is a very busy person. He or she already has talent making money for them.

Let the agent know you exist.

Of course, you need a good head shot, an effective resume, and you need to know which agents to send your information to. But, when it comes down to it, those three steps; putting your head shot and resume into an envelope and mailing that envelope to an agent is the most important thing to do.

You might have never acted in your life and you would have a better chance of landing an agent than those that have all the talent in the world simply because you mailed in that head shot and resume. If you are looking for a job of any kind you need a resume, and in show biz, because agents need to know what you look like, you need a head shot.

You might be the ugliest person in the world and you would stand a better chance of landing an agent than a beautiful person if you send in that photo and resume and they didn't. You never know what sort of look an agent needs to fill out their stable of clients.

You have to research legitimate agencies and in Canada you can do that through the ACTRA site or you can check out our website at Bottle Tree Productions for legitimate Hollywood agents or you can check out the Screen Actors Guild website(SAG) or The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists(AFTRA) website.

Unfortunately in my experience, I find that many very talented actors that I have worked with won't do those three simple steps. Now, one can say that was because they don't really want it, but I am not so sure. I think that many actors don't realize how simple those three steps are. They think it must be way more complicated than that.

While it is true that this method won't guarantee you an agent, if you don't do those three simple steps, I can guarantee you that you won't get one.

For info on head shots, resumes, auditions, acting classes and much more check out Bottle Tree Productions

Remember; getting an agent can be as simple as 1-2-3!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Asperger's Syndrome and Theatre

I didn't really know anything about Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism until probably ten years ago when I had a very creative, and also slightly difficult child in my drama class. She wrote a play for me which was very good and she went into creative writing at a university when she got older. As the years have gone on, more and more kids seem to be diagnosed with this particular syndrome. Not being a doctor, I don't know the particulars of this condition but as a drama teacher I always see wonderful growth in these children when participating in acting classes.

Children with Asperger's Syndrome can use theatre as a way of developing their social ability, of learning the rules of communication. Since Asperger's kids are socially handicapped, being unable to read people's faces and being unable to have normal conversations, Improvisation and playing characters can help greatly in developing a child's ability to deal with other people.

Kids with Asperger's need to be comfortable with their surroundings. They need to know that they are not going to be forced into anything, They need to participate in their own time and at their own pace. As a matter of fact, when writing plays for kids in our acting classes, I often write monolgues for kids with Asperger's because they are usually very clear, very well-spoken and since they don't relate well, a monologue allows them to participate without forcing them into social situations which they are not equipped to handle.

It is an amazing metamorphosis to see kids with Asperger's become socially successful after being involved with theatre for a while. Theatre does not seem to work with low functioning autistic kids, but as Asperger's seems more prevalent than past years, there are often a few kids with autism taking acting classes. Sometimes Asperger's is associated with other conditions as well which makes the process more difficult. The ability to read people becomes less important when a child is playing a role because the script tells the child how to react. The ability to read people becomes less important if the situations are less threatening, less apt to cause anxiety, especially if everyone in the class is pursuing a common goal, like working together to create a play.

My favourite story is about a kid who came to take acting classes and he wouldn't participate. He wouldn't do anything. But he certainly enjoyed watching the other kids perform. In drama, you can't push kids. They have been pushed all their lives and usually for the benefit of someone else's sense of peace and quiet. Not only did this boy have Asperger's but he had Cerebral Palsy as well. So after about a year, his dad came up to me and said he wasn't participating, that maybe he should pull him from the class. The problem was, his child was really enjoying the classes, but he didn't seem to be learning anything. I said I know, but when he's comfortable, when he's ready, he will participate. He ended up doing a brilliant scene of the Odd Couple with another autistic child as well as being class valedictorian at his school, as well as developing a hilarious stand up routine, as well as getting into university for drama as well as joining a local wrestling circuit. And the great thing as with all kids with Asperger's, they are completely accepted in acting classes.

They can get anxious when their routines are altered, but when they find a place they can trust then some amazing things start happening. I am sure that whatever discipline accepts them the way they are, I am sure that discipline will do amazing things for children with Asberger's. Involved as I am with drama, I find that Asperger's kids exhibit a profound development when involved with acting classes and theatre.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Self Esteem through Acting Classes

Acting Classes are a great way to instill self confidence in you or your child.

One of the major flaws in education and the work environment is the way that they deal with failure. They don't.

Our society becomes so afraid of rejection and failure that they don't act. They don't act on anything if there is the chance of rejection and the chance of failure. In school, the kids with learning disabilities, organizational issues, bullying issues and those that have run afoul somehow of the curriculum have their self esteem robbed from them. Self esteem issues lead kids to act out, to act up, to become bored, disinterested and cynical. In the education system where style trumps substance, where penmanship trumps quality of content, it becomes difficult for kids with substance and kids with disabilities to succeed. How many parents have seen their happy pre-schooler become depressed or anxious at school. Perhaps the child is often in trouble. Boys of course bear the brunt.

How many boys have their emotions imprisoned by drugs such as Ritalin because they committed the crime of being a boy? The school system, at least at the elementary level is taught mostly by women who can't handle normal boys. Thus the self-esteem of boys takes a dive at school. If these boys are lucky enough to be good at sports then they have an outlet and a positive way of dealing with the self-esteem issues that the education system crushes,

If they are not good at sports, then they have to find some sort of extra-curricular activity that can develop their potential and promote the positive in them.

Many girls succeed by being people-pleasers. They tend to be liked by their teachers. But that is certainly a triumph of style over substance. Girls learn to avoid failure like the plague and they suppress the things that they might actually have an interest in. Any type of failure becomes a great source of anxiety.

For adults, weaned on the school system, they learn to embrace the middle of the road, the mediocre, because they don't want to stick their neck out and risk getting it cut off. Fear of failure and rejection stops people from going after the things that they really want, of avoiding the risk of embarrassment or failure.

In today's society failure is never an option.

But successful people have many failures, many rejections and many embarrassments. It just doesn't stop them. Most people would rather avoid failure than embrace success.

Acting Classes are great for developing the potential within adults and kids because it has safe built-in failure possibilities. When an improv game bombs, when an actor in class is learning disabled and struggles to learn their lines, when a child is rejected for a part, it becomes part of the learning process. The whole class is in it together, so the whole class learns the positive effects of failure at the same time. Being allowed to fail in a safe supportive environment allows one to succeed. Kids learn to walk in a supportive environment of family members thrilled with each failed attempt.

One of the most anxious times for kids is reading. From my experience it is a great source of anxiety. In acting classes, it doesn't matter. Dyslexic kids might take a lot longer to translate the word scrabble on the page but they do. And then nothing can stop them

Self esteem is achieved through actual achievement. Self esteem is accomplished through dealing with failure in a positive way. When everyone is working on a common goal, such as a play, and when every kid or adult gets the same-size part based on their particular strengths the group succeeds only as much as every individual in the group succeeds.

In acting classes, one learns that failure is only one possibility of many. You learn from it and you move on.
For more information about Acting Classes in Kingston go to
Bottle Tree Productions/Acting Classes

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sleeping Beauty in Kingston Ontario

At The Wellington Street Theatre Dec 15-18 Wed-Sat at 7 pm and Sunday matinee Dec 19 at 2 pm

Buckets of fun for the whole family! In the story of Jack's mistake or as the history books call it; Sleeping Beauty, a palace sweeper by the name of Jack relates the story of how he was demoted from King's Messenger to a lowly palace sweeper. It seems that all by himself, he managed to get the king's palace shut down for over one hundred years.

Sleeping Beauty pink rose
And the princess? Sleeping Beauty is a rebellious teen who doesn't like being kept shut up in the palace. The plot thickens when an evil fairy arrives in disguise with a spinning wheel.

Written by Charles Robertson with music and lyrics by Michael K Myers, this show has lots of music, magic and fun for the whole family.

Tickets are only ten dollars!

Purchase tickets here at Bottle Tree Productions