So, here I am in beautiful downtown St Augustine Florida, guesting at The Limelight Theater which has been in existence for around 35 years. I am here, in fact, to do the most wonderful romantic story. It's so good it even won a Pulitzer Prize. "Love Letters" by A. R. Gurney, with a wonderful actor, Stephen Mitchell as my co-star and a dedicated director Grace Reed who brought it all to life. And, to the delight of all who came to see our production, I am oh-so-grateful for the many (and there were many) who came, because our limited run, well, our opening night was the "Super Bowl" and our closing two nights included going against a Valentines Day sold-out performance of 'Willie Nelson' at their big outdoor amphitheatre and one more thing: a Big Gala for First Coast Opera, with dining and dancing the night away in a 1920's theme at this very famous museum nearby in town.

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Hearts in their eyes! Stephen Mitchell and Annie Gaybis

Well, it didn't deter the romantics! Every night, they gave away certificates to the couples that were married the longest, and one night a couple married 62 years! Another night, a couple married 65 years! In Hollywood, they would have erected a building in their honor, because noone (as in noone) stays with the same husband, wife, agent, manager for that amount of time. The young. The young at heart. All were there because they wanted to be there, and trust me they got to see one great theatre piece, presented fullout by both myself and my co-star, for all its worth.

It's interesting, this play. A very simple set, as you can see. Two actors come out and sit and become these two larger-than-life personalities in their exchanges of letters and knowing each other from third grade. It follows them throughout their lives.

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Love to spare! Annie Gaybis prepping for the stage!

Before the actor, Ryan O'Neal passed away, he toured all over the country with his Love Story co-star from many decades ago, Ali McGraw. It was the first time that they had worked with each other since that epic film that made them both stars. So you can see that this is a very powerful vehicle. It's been done on Broadway with everyone from Matthew Broderick to Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Alan Alda, Brian Dennehy, Candice get the idea. Believe it or not, I saw it with this pairing back in Los Angeles...ready for it? Charlton Heston and Gwen Verdon. And it was marvelous.

And so were we!

The audiences responded tremendously to our lifetime journey with laughs, gasps and tears. Yes, we hit all the marks and I wish Gurney could have been there to see our journey. Grace Reed brought into focus and intensity. She made every word count.

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Stephen made his character come alive with feelings, regret, passion. Gurney wrote about any two actors embarking on this project: "They just have the text. It's like hang gliding: they jump off a cliff and they fly."

This play actually gives notes to the actors, directly from the playwright's mouth. The actors never look at each other and there is no memorization since it's all feelings shown through their characters. The audience is really pulled into the story of these two.

When we would finish each performance, the lights went to blackout and, I have to say, I was so into my character that the last thing I wished to do was get up and stand by the side of our desk, bowing. I just wanted to put my head down on that desk for five minutes. This role took everything I had in me to give to my character, Melissa, and I held nothing back.

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I actually heard many things said outloud by the audience. First, I am thirlled they got so into it. Each and every night, we got a standing ovation. I could only see shadows from the footlights but i saw them, each and every time, rising to their feet as one.

I heard "Wow!"



We had truly touched them all.

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On a personal note: Valentines is my anniversary with my husband, the talented John Byner. The theater gave us the crew. Steven's parents, who drove two hours to see him in this, a private reception. My co-star provided the best champagne. They even concocted a special drink - the Bellamore, created by my co-star and named by my husband. It was a terrific hit with the nightly theatre crowd and they had ushers dressed in tuxedos handing out roses and kisses (as in Hershey) to all who wore red.


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