Written by Lorrie McCoy
After the recent upheaval at the Oscars and the ongoing struggles of Hollywood productions companies to turn out our favorite movies during the pandemic, it's easy to forget that actors have lives just like the rest of us. For Palm Coast native and Hollywood alum, Annie Gaybis, the glitz and glamor of life on stage and screen is balanced with the realities of life in the time of COVID, though.
And the actress has made it her mission to stay on top of her career in art throughout all of it. From discovering the wonders of dancing on YouTube to slowly getting back on stage as restrictions ease up, Annie Gaybis has run the COVID gamut and come out the other side with some stories to tell.
For Annie, it starts with being considerate of the people around you.
An Actor In A Time of Self Isolation
Annie Gaybis is an American film, stage and television actress, singer, and humanitarian, currently living in Florida. She is known for her Broadway co-starring roles, as well as parts in major Hollywood productions such as Showgirls and Friday the 13th Part III.
And, for the last two years, she's been experiencing the explosion of COVID-19, alongside the rest of the world. When COVID first began taking root in the United States in February 2020, Annie Gaybis did what most of us did: watched as the restaurants and malls around her began shutting their doors, one after another. Soon, though, it wasn't just her favorite establishments, but the places and people who employed her that were being shut down and taken off the market.
Like many of her peers, Annie discovered the stage and screen industry changing, as more and more updates to this fast-moving virus started to trickle in. She was determined to be cautious and not put the people around her at risk. But taking precautions and working hard to prevent the spread of COVID can have disasterly effects on an actor's career. Whether at the airport terminal or the box office, opportunities to earn a living on the stage began shutting down left and right. "I was ready to begin rehearsals for the play 'Night Of The Iguana' when everything got closed down," she recalled. "I was going to travel to Branson Missouri and Hilton Head for work and that all got canceled, as well. Everything that I just did and never thought anything about: facials, dance classes, voice lessons, auditions, trips to the movies, projects that I had auditioned for that now would never see the light of day. All of it, just wiped out. Yes, I saw 'Cancel Culture', big time."
Discovering New Opportunities
Still, it wasn't all doom and gloom for Annie Gaybis. Like everyone else, she began to explore the world from her living room, discovering new ways to entertain herself and keep thoughts of Coronavirus at bay. And how exactly does a stalwart actor with a full dance card amuse herself when all of the roles around her begin to disappear in the middle of a global pandemic? Where does she go? Why, her home state, of course. "I spent those two years in Florida and I felt extremely lucky that, though things were closed, we could go out and about. Of course, for a while there was nothing to go out-and-about to, but biking, walking, masking up for the drugstore and to go get groceries and take-out became my friend."
One new distraction in particular became a full fledged feature in Gaybis' life: "That was when I discovered ZOOM! I thank my lucky stars for it. I got to sit and catch up with people that I was just so busy with living a life, before, that I was not able to do. I discovered that my favorite dance teacher started ZOOMing his classes from his studio in L.A., because no one was allowed to teach classes in studios or gyms, or they could get a real big fine."
"I love dance. We would ZOOM up to three times a week for an hour and a half class. Then he would video all of us. That's how my YouTube channel developed. My instructor, Bill Brown, suggested I start one. I shared some of my dance videos on it, and now subscribers can hopefully have a small, happy interlude in their workdays or whatever is going on in their lives.
Discovering New Opportunities
Sounding off on the explosion of COVID across America and the rest of the world in 2020, Annie had the following to say: "In L.A., New York, and everywhere else in the USA, in a million years, who would have thought? But, then, who would have thought we would have [these] crazy variant[s] that just won't go away? Everyone Lysol-ing away their groceries, their tables at Starbucks?"
Annie speaks about the years before COVID and remembers that masks weren't exactly new when they arrived in the US in 2020. "I remember leaving a drugstore in Beverly Hills and going to a nearby elevator. A door opens from a staircase leading from the other floors and Michael Jackson steps out with a medical mask covering his mouth and nose. I remember how cool he looked with a hat on, a dark zip up jacket with matching pants and a striped shirt. He was unmistakable – he was Michael Jackson. And I wondered: "What the heck? Why is Michael Jackson wearing a mask?"
But Annie simply shrugs off the poetry of masks coming back into her life in such a big way, a few short decades later. Instead, she focuses on the growing opportunities for her to get back on stage, as the pandemic retreats and restrictions ease up. "I actually did a few things live onstage once crowds started coming back and conventions started back in. Still it was important to me to be careful of spreading anything to anyone who came to see me. Sometimes they'd have special sponsors or people who would just like to meet you. I said no to side-by-side meetings with people I didn't know and no to shaking hands. I am also sure they didn't want a picture with someone with a mask or gloves on, either."
A Personal Tragedy
This caution wasn't just out of fear of news stories of COVID's spread, either. Annie Gaybis suffered loss, herself, during this period. "Tragedy from losing someone to COVID? Yes! One of my favorite people in all the world, Joni Berry, the President of The Professional Dancers Society. When all of it started really happening bigtime, she was returning from Mardi Gras in New Orleans and it just consumed her. They did everything they could at that time at Cedars Sinai in LA, but she never recovered."
"She was so beloved and respected by so many choreographers and dancers. This was all before the shots were introduced. It's hard to say if that would have saved her."
Looking to the Future
"As a performer, I was luckily bunkered down in a state that gave me a certain amount of freedom, but I was still in a state of mind, wondering if theater and touring was ever going to come back. I am an actor. A singer. A dancer. I am not a teacher of acting, singing, or dancing. So finding creative outlets meant everything to me."
In the months since, Gaybis has been able to return to the sets and stages she uses to make her living. Still, the landscape has changed, and Annie is very aware of her newfound responsibility. "People have to make their own personal choices. Now, when I am on a set, we have to be tested before we start shooting and also during the shoot. Everyone has to be vaccinated. Everyone that is on the crews, at least where I have worked, wears masks. The costumer, the wardrobe people. Actors wear their masks right onto the set and then take it off. Sometimes, when they get the shot and want to reshoot it, they make us put it back on until the shot is reset."
And her personal mantra, through all of this preparation? "No one wants to be the one causing a full production lockdown."
"If someone asked me what I wanted most in this world, at this particular moment in all our lives: peace on earth and to make COVID a thing of the past. Let's just get past it all."
Annie is currently looking forward to the release of her co-starring role in the movie, "D.O.A.", later this year. "It's a remake of a cult classic." Not to rest in her downtime, Annie Gaybis also used the pandemic to help film a pilot for television called "Unfinished Business" based on a book by the same title. "I got to star in a famous Noel Coward play, "Blithe Spirit," and I danced onstage in "La Traviata" (her second time in the role) and "that" you can see on my Annie Gaybis channel on YouTube."
During this pandemic, while I have been ensconced, I put together my own YouTube channel with dance videos for anyone who would like to see. I dance away to everything from Cole Porter to "Hamilton".