'Chrysalis' deals with grief, hope

One-woman show to hit Asheville Thursday
By Stina Sieg | May 14, 2012
Photo by: Donated photo Evangeline Crittenden's "Chrysalis" is coming to Asheville Community Theater for one night only, at 8 p.m. this Thursday night.

ASHEVILLE — Nearly everyone has lost someone they love. And nearly no one wants to talk about it onstage in front of an audience full of strangers.
But Evangeline Crittenden does, and she wants you to be there — not just for her, but for you, too. Her one-woman show, “Chrysalis,” is both a journey into her grief and a place for others to explore their own. It’s about the death of her brother when he was 20 and she was 19, but that’s just the beginning.

“Even though the show is semi-autobiographical and it talks about my experience, what it’s done is open me up to other people and their stories,” the Bay Area-based performer said recently via phone.

Now on an East Coast tour, her show will be coming to Asheville at 8 p.m. this Thursday, May 17. Though “Chrysalis” will be at Asheville Community Theater for one night only, Crittenden, now 27, sounds hopeful it will reach the people who need to see it. That’s how things have been since she debuted the piece back in California months ago. She described how one of her guy friends, a “tough sort of New Yorker type,” walked up to her after a performance and was clearly affected. He described how the show made him want to be a better son — and someday, a better father. He had even been crying, though he’s not the type to usually do it.

That kind of thing “makes it all worth it,” Crittenden said.

A big part of healing and a big part of her show is realizing that you aren’t the only one who is hurting, she explained. That’s part of why, even though she alludes to her brother’s death, she doesn’t divulge every detail in “Chrysalis.” She leaves some things private and sacred, and gives the audience room to insert their own memories and feelings.

“Even though this is something I want to share with the world, it still is very personal,” she said.

And while she’s very much the show’s only actor, she deals with the fallout from this tragedy with the help of various angles and characters — and even puppets. This mixture of levity and sweetness not only counterbalances the piece’s sad core but makes the focus bigger than Crittenden and even her circumstance. It speaks to a greater truth, one that is hardly ever discussed, at least in this country. In typical American culture, we aren’t given very much time or many opportunities to connect to grief. People get that funeral day and maybe even another week when their close friends will drop by covered dishes, but beyond that, most everyone is left to fend for themselves in a culture that doesn’t really recognize what they’re going through.

“Part of the reason I wanted to do this show was in response of what I felt was a lack of ritual concerning grief,” Crittenden said.

So, she had to make her own — for her sake and the sake of everyone caught at the same heart-wrenching crossroads of dealing with the past and moving forward. It’s a place almost everyone ends up eventually, yet is easily ignored by the unaffected.

This Thursday, Crittenden wants to not only shine a spotlight on this emotional issue but also give her audience something to take home with them. Of course she won’t give them any answers or solutions (who could?), but she might  give them some hope.

“I would like for people to come out of it feeling uplifted, feeling optimistic, feeling a sense of acceptance that loss is a part life, but that life is beautiful,” she said, pausing a moment. “So, by that logic, loss is somewhat beautiful.”

“Chrysalis” is coming to 35 Below at ACT, 35 E. Walnut St., in Asheville, at 8 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $12 and will be available at the door. For more information, call 254-1320.

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