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Aida: Chris Marsala Walks it Out on the BHS Stage

The Branford stage will be a little darker after senior Chris Marsala takes his last bow following the close of Aida.

 senior is so well-liked and so well-known that his "walk", the The Chris Marsala *Chin Up*, has its own Facebook page. 

Outgoing and enthusiastic, Marsala is gearing up for his last time on the Branford High School stage when he stars as Mereb, a Nubian slave in the . 

Marsala has held several lead roles during his tenure with BHS Performing Arts and most recently portrayed Monsieur André in last spring and Malvolio in the fall play, . 

In addition to his acting career, Marsala was a contestant in last year (where Patch first witnessed "the walk") and was a member of the BHS Italian Club all four years. 

Marsala gravitates towards studies in foreign language and plans to possibly pursue the field post-graduate; he has not decided where he will attend college yet. 

During high school, Marsala achieved Spanish, English and Philosophy Excellence Awards.  Marsala is also a CAPT Scholar who has earned high honors and is the recipient of the DAR Good Citizen's Award. 

Without , meet the man with "the walk."

Branford Patch: Congratulations on your hard work through the years on the BHS stage. Do you have plans to continue performance after graduation?
Chris Marsala: Thank you so much for the compliment! I have worked really hard, and I've always wanted the quality of my performance to make itself self-evident to the audience. It's wonderful when they're cheering wildly and they shower you with beautiful praises. But to answer your question, I've absolutely discovered theatrical/musical performance as a talent, and I'm blessed it has been revealed to me this early. I might take a little break and focus on some other talents of mine for a little while, but I adore the thrill and energy that I am able to feel with cast members during the whole rehearsal/performance process. I promise that you haven't seen the last of me! 

Branford Patch: How are you dealing with the fact that Aida will be your last time on the BHS stage?
Chris Marsala: It's really strange to think about Aida as being my last show. My freshman and sophomore years I always thought, "Well, I still have time." Then junior year hit, and I had a lead in Phantom, but I still thought "I've got time." It's surreal to think there's only about 17 [at time of interview] days until opening night, and then after those shows, my BHS Performing Arts career will be complete. I'm a bit sad thinking about it, but I've been so blessed over the years to meet so many incredible, funny, talented people, and like everything in life you have to enjoy it while it lasts. I've absolutely loved working at rehearsal every single minute, and I know that once it ends, I'll be able to reflect on all of the wonderful times I had with all the cast members. Aida is really a great show to end with; it has so much pop/rock flavor, and it's a story about forbidden love. I certainly can relate to that, and I know I'm going to have fun with every single performance!

Branford Patch: If you had to offer one small piece of advice to aspiring young actors hoping to head to the stage what would it be?
Chris Marsala: Well, I can't exactly say ONE piece of advice; I'd probably have to write a book about it! I would say that the most important thing an aspiring actor should consider is to never get complacent with their acting/singing ability. It's so easy to do the same gestures or have the same singing ability every year, but I would never want to fall in that trap. I feel like every single year, I've improved as a performer, and I still want to take myself to the next level! Mrs. Roding and Miss Cartisano have demonstrated that to me and to their cast members for 27 years, and that's pretty inspiring. 

Branford Patch: Can you pick one defining moment of your BHS stage career and tell readers a little about it?
Chris Marsala: Actually, I haven't revealed this with a lot of people, but here goes: My sophomore year, I was considering not doing the BHS musical because I felt insecure about my singing and acting ability. My freshman year had also been a bit stressful, because I was still acclimating to all of my classes and new social scenes, so I hadn't known what to expect during "Pirates of Penzance." Everybody encouraged me to try out again, though, and I was so happy that I did. "On the Town" was one of the most delightful shows I've ever performed – everyday during rehearsal, I put my tap shoes on and worked every dance move until I got it right! When it was show time, I really was beaming with joy and happiness, and I felt like I was soaring to great heights with my tap-dancing abilities. The cast that year was also wonderful, and I'm still friends with them today.

Branford Patch: You’re gearing up to play Mereb, a Nubian servant to Radames and the first one to realize Aida’s true identity. How do you embrace this character – one who seems to have to walk a fine line between realities?

Chris Marsala: It's funny you mention the phrase "having to walk a fine line," because that's EXACTLY what I have to do!! [Laughs] At the beginning of Aida rehearsals, Miss C [director and producer of the BHS musicals] told me that I would really have to channel a lot of different emotions and sides to my character – like grief, anger, sadness, etc. I've been so used to either just reacting to scenes on stage, or my character naturally fit my happy-go-lucky personality; it was really a wake-up call to be like, "Okay, I have to really think and feel what Mereb is feeling." That's not to say there aren't funny moments, but this is definitely a more dramatic show than it is a comedy. 

Branford Patch: Of all the characters you have ever portrayed, how does Mereb compare?
Chris Marsala: Mereb is absolutely the hardest character I've had to portray. He is a Nubian slave – although at a higher status than other slaves due to his good relationship with Radames – who is still Nubian even though he works for the Egyptians. In a heartbeat, he would betray the Egyptians if he knew it would bring him and his people back to their homeland. He also worships Princess Aida, even though she is so reluctant to assume her role as princess. He knows that she is the shining light for all the Nubians; as long as she's safe, hope exists for Nubia.

Branford Patch: What has been the hardest obstacle to surmount while performing?
Chris Marsala: I think the hardest obstacle to surmount has been (like I've said) portraying more complex emotions based on the events that go on in the show. The fact that the Egyptians are at war with the Nubians definitely brings that drama to the forefront. There's also a lot of grieving moments and angry moments in the show, and I'm still doing the best I can to really produce a real-life portrayal of those moments. Being a lead is also really interesting, because you have to figure out who you are in relation to other characters while still maintaining your specific identity. Like always though, I trust this process and I'm confident Aida is going to blow people away. Really.

Branford Patch: In a few words, why should people come out to this show?
Chris Marsala: First off, it's an Elton John/Tim Rice show. If you've ever seen Tarzan or The Lion King on Broadway, you know that this duo is absolutely FABULOUS with their song creations and lyric writing. Aida is full of pop/rock deliciousness, and some of the things Tim Rice throws in the script are hilarious... you definitely don't want to miss those moments! Aida is also about forbidden love between an Egyptain captain and a Nubian princess, and forbidden love is a timeless theme that caters to all social palates. This musical also reaffirms what it means to be a human being in the face of imprisonment and despair, and the need to constantly remind yourself that you are human and that there is a hope for a beautiful, new day. And of course, there is a dazzling fashion show number called "My Strongest Suit" that everyone will enjoy. Come and see Aida--it's outrageously good!

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