Annie Gaybis Actress, Singer, Dancer

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“La Vie Parisianne”

The morning of dress rehearsal for the Offenbach Classic "La Vie Parisianne," I didn’t wake up with "stage fright," I woke up with "dog fright." There is a famous line that W.C. Field is famously quoted, "Never work with animals or children."

Well, I had never worked with any animal onstage much less mine. It all started when artistic director Curtis Tucker wrote me about what I was going to be doing for First Coast Opera. He wrote as an afterthought, "You by chance don’t own a small dog, do you?" I couldn’t reply fast enough "I DO!"

What could be next for these two? A road tour of "Annie?"

 

So this role was created for me by both our director Nelson Sheeley and conductor Curtis Tucker ... the role of a character who also dances thru-out the production but whose biggest moments come in two different interludes in front of the curtain where the orchestra usually just plays and nothing happens. Now there is an entire play within the play in front of the curtain with what I do with the two male leads...and it all involves my dog....
 

Pix With The Entire Cast In Costume With Zeke

So I am well into rehearsals and now it’s getting close to when I bring the dog in and I tell my husband that Zeke our beloved four--legged child is going onstage with his mother. When I phone my husband who is a performer and knows about backstage bigtime about this jubilant moment for our dog he says, "Backstage? Who’s going to watch him when you’re on without him? Annie, if anything happens to that dog…." Hence the "dog fright." Well, off we go with one of his doggie beds, a favorite toy, his H2O bowl and some treats to keep him happy.

When Alan Smith the costumer who was flown in with his precious one of a kind costumes was told about the dog, he did not want the dog in the same dressing room with all the other girls because it could cause problems all around. There was one private dressing room for the maestro which I had previously used when I worked that theater with my husband when it was under a different name. So now the maestro walks in just as I set everything up ...and I smile...and tell him what the costumer thought would be better for "Zeke." He understood and joined the men upstairs in their dressing room.

The first time I left the room and was talking in the hall, Zeke managed to wiggle out of his safety harness, which my husband always puts on, so now I was confused and sought the assistance of the stage manager to figure it out. Well, how did things go: you know that expression "Like a duck takes to water" or "So-and-So was born to do this," well, ladies and gentleman ...A Star Was Born. (See a small moment in the video.)


Highlights From The Production...Where You Can See Zeke Make His Professional Stage Debut....

Lead Tenor Jorge Garza, Zeke and Moi

Our leading tenor Jorge Garza whom after years of training in voice, and prestigious lead roles, traveled all the way from Houston to have a dog collar placed around his neck--yes, his neck--while holding onto my dog....

He will probably never forget this--he may never fully understand this bit that will never ever be seen in any other production that he will ever do of this operetta and I thank him for his goodwill. He has tremendous presence onstage, has the "it factor" in my opinion.

So now back to my dog Zeke, the audience did collective sighs when Zeke came out nonchalantly for his moments. There were limited backstage personal so after finishing a scene, I would rush to the dressing room only to find Zeke zonked--he is a deep sleeper. I pick him up and run like a bat out of hell, crossing backstage thru the Set Designers Shop, just in time to get to the other side and hand the dog to Jorge who is preset wearing the dog collar and Zeke's lease. Quickly placing my props--a compact into my bra, attach a silk hanky to my apron and "zoom out " holding the lease where the scene begins....sigh! Just in time.... The narrator’s role was written by our director Nelson Sheeley in a very witty Dorothy Parker style since the actual piece would have involved two intermissions. I loved helping to create the role of the chambermaid and when I asked Zeke he said, "I loved it, but no road tours!"

Entire Cast In Our Rehearsal Clothes. Standing On My Left Is Lee Weaver Who Narrated
and Standing On My Right Is The Artistic Director/Conductor Curtis Tucker and Next To Him Is Our Director Nelson Sheeley

 


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