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A Chat With Executive Director Matthew Mooney


One of the newest theaters in the Buffalo theater landscape is Chrysalis Theatre Company. Under the executive direction of Matthew Mooney, the group opened with Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits and then delivered the camp Christmas offering, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Now, Chrysalis is really making a bid for attention, opening two shows, at different theaters, on the same night: Oscar Wilde’s 1895 comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, opening at the Grange Theatre in Hamburg, and the contemporary rock musical, Spring Awakening, opening in the Lecture Hall Theatre on the Medaille College campus in Buffalo.

The Chrysalis home base in Hamburg is upstairs from Tina’s Italian Kitchen at 22 Main Street. The historic building, originally called the Salisbury Building, was constructed in 1892 as home to the William L. Froehley furniture and undertaking business, which occupied the first two floors. The third floor was home to the Hamburg Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry from 1913 until 1974. American “Grange” organizations were formed in 1867 to assist farmers after the Civil War.

Matthew Mooney answers some questions about the founding of Chrysalis and the logistics of producing two shows simultaneously.

How did Chrysalis Theatre Company come to be?

While walking through the Village of Hamburg scouting out locations to house our theater company, I noticed a nice Italian restaurant in the heart of the village and inquired about a “For Lease” sign on their third floor. Without knowing it, I stumbled upon a theater space that had been occupied by a religious group for the past thirty years and had recently become available. By October, our first production Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits opened to several weekends of sold out shows and started the beginning of our very first season.

Can you describe the logistics of doing two plays at once?

Our artistic director, Melissa Leventhal and I have been working together over the last six months to coordinate rehearsals, set constructions, costuming and production meetings. We rehearse throughout the week and then focus on building sets for these shows on the weekends. This also meant having to find double the help on each production for two locations. It’s a lot of work but with effective time management, we have been very successful getting things done on time....[Other] theater companies in the area have also been very generous in lending a hand when we reach out for equipment or costumes that we are looking for. Both shows will open on Friday, February 13th.

What determined the eclectic choice of plays?

We looked at our pool of talent first and then had a meeting with members of our company do discuss their ideas. Everyone had a chance to explain their choices and from that, we also took into account our budget, audience, goals, and mission statement. We didn’t want to pigeon hole our company either but we had several very specific goals for our first season that narrowed what we could do. It was also very important to look at how we could market the shows and sell them as a new company to continue to be profitable while adding value to the theater landscape.

What is the relationship between Chrysalis and Kaleidoscope?

Both Melissa and I have worked for Kaleidoscope in shows over the years and they have been very generous in allowing us to borrow equipment and use the Medaille Lecture Hall Theatre for our upcoming musical.

What are your aspirations for the future?

We would like to become a place where actors come to learn more about their craft and also apply that knowledge in the shows that we produce. There is a section of our website called the “Performers Toolbox” that we hope will grow our business by offering services that actors will use. We are looking forward to our second season and working with other theater companies throughout the region on collaborative projects or having them perform at our space at the Grange Theatre in Hamburg.

For tickets or more information about the Chrysalis season, go to