Kingston playwright brings new play ‘Dressing Amelia’ to the Bottle Tree Studio

Promotional photo for Dressing Amelia. Photo via Chloe Whitehorn.

Dressing Amelia is the newest play from prolific Kingston playwright Chloe Whitehorn. This is her seventh full-length play, and will be performed as a part of Bottle Tree Productions’ Studio Series 2023-2024. The play will run from late May to mid-June.

Dressing Amelia is a drama, with elements of humour, about a mother-daughter relationship. The play begins with Amelia arriving at her childhood home and going through the clothes in her bedroom.

“You know when you hear a song or see a photo that you have really strong memories attached to, and it brings you right back to that moment?” asks Whitehorn. “Even if you’ve changed as a person, you can still see how that made you feel when you were younger. I did that with clothing. So, many different outfits come up through the play, and it’s her reaction to the memories that they’re associated with.”

Whitehorn has described Dressing Amelia as her most personal play to date. She started writing it in 2010, after her mother passed away as a way of processing her grief. Like Whitehorn, Amelia is an only child to a single mom with bipolar disorder.

“There’s a unique, complex relationship between single parents and only children… I think there’s a different kind of closeness than what happens in a regular nuclear family,” Whitehorn explains.

“So Amelia, growing up with a bipolar mom, not knowing she was bipolar, it was her normal. It was adventurous and fun, but she’s seeing how that has affected her as an adult. It’s her discovering that your parents have their own flaws and they’re human.”

Whitehorn moved several times between the United States and Canada before settling in Kingston. She was born in San Francisco and moved to Winnipeg when she was nine years old. She attended Queen’s University for theatre, and since then has lived in Toronto and South Carolina. She came back to Kingston with her husband in 2020. Whitehorn mentions that the theatre scene is one of the things that keeps pulling her back to Kingston.

“It’s a small theatre scene, but it’s very close. Everybody knows everyone. When I moved back, I hadn’t been here since 2008, but I still knew half of the people involved… it’s just been really welcoming and lovely.”

Two important members of the Kingston theatre scene, Will Britton and Anne Marie Mortensen, are the director and producer of Dressing Amelia, respectively. Whitehorn expresses how excited she is to work with Britton: “I like directors that let the actors contribute their talent and find their own way through it with guidance. And that’s the sort of director he is, he’s an actor’s director.”

Mortensen is also the artistic producer of Bottle Tree Productions. She’s big on promoting Kingston theatre and seeks out Kingston writers and actors for Bottle Tree Productions, which she found in Whitehorn and the four local actors in Dressing Amelia: Sandie Cond, Alexzander McLarry, Jennifer Verardi, and Sophie Vollick.

Back in October of 2023, Whitehorn’s play Blood River premiered in Kingston. After Dressing Amelia, Whitehorn’s next play will feature in the Theatre Kingston Fringe Festival, which is a part of the Kick&Push Festival this coming August.

“I’ve got a slot in August for the Fringe. I percolate about things, I don’t often write right away,” Whitehorn explains. “It’s been really great coming back to Kingston and having a full season of theatre with October’s show, then this one, and then the Fringe.”

Dressing Amelia will run from Thursday, May 30 to Saturday, Jun. 15, 2024. The shows will be Thursdays to Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sundays at The Bottle Tree Studio, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. To order your tickets and for more information about the play, visit Bottle Tree Productions website.

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