Annie Gaybis Actress, Singer, Dancer

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There are two roles that I hold dear to my heart. One is portraying MAGGIE in ARTHUR MILLERS “AFTER THE FALL” and now once again playing a MAGGIE this time in TENNESSEE WILLIAMS “CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF”

    
If you thought the series DALLAS had a dysfunctional family....DALLAS has nothing like THE POLITT family....

I had worked on it intently even before rehearsals had started. Of course I had seen the movie....the B&W starring Elizabeth Taylor, which was a Hollywood styled version of the play. The actual production is very coarse , very sexual, full of anxieties and vengeance and hatred. Now I've seen the DEBBIE ALLEN directed version of it on Broadway as well....I just didn't realize that the first twenty-two pages were like a one woman show since the role of BRICK played by RYAN ANTONY NICOTRA, is turned away from me, is turned off by me, and is full of disgust and distrust for me.
  

So, the challenge begins right at Act 1, Scene 1....our director LORRAINE PORTMAN...who has an original style of directing very organic-like gave me the confidence to explore different ways of approaching the situation 

I framed one of her notes that she wrote for me to put in front of my face when I was rehearsing on my own.

From Left to Right: Doc Baugh played by Jerry Wisner, Big Mama played by Margaret Kaler,  Maggie played by (anyone want to make a guess), Brick played by Ryan Anthony Nicotra and Big Daddy played by Rober Dimsey

It say, "Seduce, Seduce, Seduce. You want to have Brick's baby and you don't want to ever be poor again." Kind of like, "I'll never be hungry again." Scarlett O'Hara...same force of nature....

When I first started the process I was loud and screaming...that was toned down to a very sexy portrayal with wants and lusts for a man that doesn't want to touch me....So, how do you have a baby with someone like that? Hence the note "Seduce, seduce, seduce"....PORTMAN made me realize and gave me confidence to go forward with a softer yet strong portrayal of MAGGIE THE CAT, which is what she is actually called in the production and WILLIAMS has MAGGIE making analogies to being on a hot tin roof ...all the time...."I'd rather stay on this hot tin roof" she says at one point it might be hot but "I can stay on it just as long as I have too."
    

The Ensemble

Now, one of the things that everyone thinks of when they think of this play is MAGGIE in her slip. I had as you can see the perfect slip.  Our director costumed everyone from her own theatrical collection and I remember when I did CITY LIGHTS in Las Vegas there was this steep staircase that I came down each and every night with a mike in my hand and even though I did that show for a full year ...each and every night after warm-up I would run up those stairs...hold the pretend mike in my hands...and sing and walk down those steps...always made me feel ready...so now in front of each audience as MAGGIE I had to slip out of my zippered dress and have my slip on underneath.
   

The first time I did a costume run-thru...I got a director's note saying, " You looked beautiful in the way you took off the dress and stood in front of the mirror in your slip, but it was too theatrical...just do it as though you are home and taking off your dress." Of course all the time I am jabbering away...its just me onstage...Brick is in the bath hiding out for as long as possible...so I took that dress and slip back with me and would do my lines and take that dress off each and every time before dress rehearsals and before each and every show....I kept thinking, "What if that zipper sticks?"

Then at one point while still chatting away....I go behind the screen...take off the slip and put on a halter style dress...I had about five lines to do this and if I didn't come out from behind the screen in time it would throw off the timing of the family finally entering....

   

Big Daddy and Big Mama

So, yes, I also took that dress back with me, and in my room would take the slip off and put the dress on while doing the dialogue before each and every dress and each and every performance...and like the stairs in CITY LIGHTS...it made me feel ready....

We had a wonderful cast and I was so happy to be reunited with ROBERT DIMSEY once again...my perfect BIG DADDY...and MARGARET KALER...who shows a petite woman has no bearing on creating a forceful fiery BIG MAMA....

This production was done in the most beautiful theatrical space in all of St AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA and very well beyond. 

The space was designed by "the" LOUIS TIFFANY so their was chandeliers "everywhere" and a gigantic marble fireplace with gold inlay....I mean it was what you would envision Big Daddy's plantation to look like. This space is housed in FLAGLER COLLEGE and it was the most ideal spot for a production of "CAT."

So, wanting to get the buzz early-on for the production the main reviewer for their daily paper came to a rehearsal before the final two weeks and,  well, here's the story from my POV: It had gotten quite warm in the rehearsal room so the heat had been temporarily lowered. We did a run-thru without pause for intermission and when I came back out after a big confrontation between BIG DADDY and BRICK, I start asking questions to BRICK. Now, as I am asking these questions I see the reviewer stand up and walk to a nearby chair and retrieve his coat. Then as I continue asking these questions, I see the reviewer put on his coat.... Then, as I am asking these questions, I see the reviewer buttoning his coat. (As I write about this now I am surprised I continued spewing out dialogue while thinking crazy thoughts about him hating the production and couldn't watch one more minute of it or "me.")
  

Since I wasn't feeling fully ready with my portrayal, I was also thinking I never should have been talked into letting him come this early in the process...and then, after I see him buttoning up his coat--yes, it gets C-O-L-D in Florida--he mercifully sits down. He was just cold. So I kept spewing my dialogue and brought my mind back to where I was and what I was saying...but oh, what an awful fright!! I mean what would you think if you saw that happen in front of you?

And, we were a HIT...."A Superb Cast" was the headline from the freezing reviewer...standing ovations...the personal notes sent from audience members afterwards...and the review in THE ST AUGUSTINE RECORD where I was called a "revelation" and a "tour de force" which I had to have explained what that meant. I had heard those words before but never in context to me and I didn't know what to think....and having the reviewer come back to see the show and purchase his own ticket, well, I knew I was doing something right. When the director told me that her father who rarely comes to her productions or falls asleep during them took a front row seat and stayed awake the entire time much to her shock and awe...it made me delighted.

It was a long journey to find my way to Maggie--a lot of detours and roadblocks-- but I succeeded and when I hit that stage I was Maggie from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes. I gave everything I had to that role and it was so gratifying to cross the finish line each and every night....An audience member e-mailed me "You were born to play Maggie"....and so I was.


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