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Chrysalis, opening

Writer takes five years to incubate musical

By STACEY MORRIS
morris@poststar.com

Chrysalis. Season's final production by Adirondack Theatre Festival. Opening at 8 p.m. today at the former Woolworth's store, 217 Glen St., Glens Falls. Through July 21. Tickets are $19. Call 798-7479 for more information.



GLENS FALLS ---- Gilles Chiasson sat in the back row of the darkened theater Wednesday afternoon surveying the fruits of five years' labor.

That's how long it took the actor, writer, director and founding Adirondack Theatre Festival member to get his play "Chrysalis" to the point of being production-ready.

"It feels extraordinary," he said, gazing down at the set's comfortably furnished living room. "And it feels like I'm in very good hands ---- the festival is a very good place to spread my wings."

A two-act musical, "Chrysalis" tells the story of a young man who returns home for Christmas and the impact his chosen life path (photography) has on other members of his family.

The idea to write a play took root in the form of a question Chiasson posed to himself about Jesus.

"I began wondering, if he were on the planet today, would Jesus be followed or locked up?" said Chiasson. "That got me started. The play's really about a young man who is an artist, but more importantly, he's a truth-teller. His truthfulness serves as a catalyst for his parents and siblings to explore their own truths."

An essay by playwright Arthur Miller that Chiasson read also helped his ideas for "Chrysalis" to flourish.

"Miller said that the American family is an excellent vehicle for examining tragedy," he recalled. "Every single one of us who grows up has to separate from their family, but for an artist it's a starker contrast because it's an unconventional profession."

As the principal players of "Chrysalis" rehearsed a scene from the two-act play Wednesday, Chiasson alternately watched the action and scribbled notes on a pad, still fine-tuning before today's opening night.

"We'll probably be rehearsing until midnight," he said.

The play is directed by Beth Schacter, who last year directed ATF's "Five & Dime Plays," five 10-minute plays that each had a connection to the Woolworth's building.

Based in New York City, Chiasson has long dabbled in songwriting and has been in such acclaimed musical performances as "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "The Civil War."

But the prospect of writing musical dialogue proved particularly challenging.

He has spent nearly every free moment of the past several years writing not only the plot of "Chrysalis," but also its musical score, backed by a four-piece live band.

"Most of the play is sung; there's very little spoken dialogue," he said.

"The music is catchy," said ATF Producing Director David Turner of the pop-rock score, which features drums, guitar, xylophone and a cello. "Gilles did an incredible job, and it's a real opportunity for audiences to see something they don't usually get to see."

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