Annie Gaybis Actress, Singer, Dancer

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I PAGLIACCI
SEGUES INTO
THE STRANGERS TALE

aka "How I somehow managed not
to get the flu while doing these shows"

Well, there I was at First Coast Opera having a wonderful time. They updated I Pagliacci all the way to 2005 and since it's only a one act (or did you know that already?), it was coupled with a new opera written by our conductor Curt Tucker and Nelson Sheely entitled A Strangers Tale. Also set it in 2005. Also set in Central Park. All of us segued with our characters from one opera to another. It was great! Everyone sang full-out at all the rehearsals and everyone was soooooo nice..., Everyone was brought in from everywhere

THEN....one of the principals went off to a wedding in Miami and when he returned-- yes, tis was a "he"--it became a bedlam of flu and lost but regained voices and coughs into arms.

When the chorus and children joined up with us, oh boy, lots of dealing with continual coughing and  sneezes and sniffles and believe me it was not allergies. It became a bit of a mess, but with no understudy or stand-by for ANYONE, we pulled thru with determination and dedication. And I happily (the most scantily dressed of all) did my best--my utmost--not to stand or sit at rehearsals and backstage near those that coughed or sneezed.

Annie with Jamison Walker who portrayed Canto the lead

...I sanitized EVEYTHING!!! I TOUCHED, including myself, and took at least two to four Cold-eeze a day just for protection!... I could do a commercial for them, but they got me thru it.

Such a great concept a homeless man who knew everything. Actor Lou Agresta, who had a very tricky role in A Strangers Tale, spoke when the music stopped.  Imagine that....  The music was like if Sondheim had written an opera, this would be it--major/minor--very hard to follow for a non-operatic talent, but he did it and it was tough.

So, what did I do? Well in the clip (below) you will see a little bit of it. I was "the streetwalker" for both operas. It was great fun. I got a knife drawn on me when I am with my Opera Singer pimp Wilford Kelly, I was assaulted by Sean Stork (let me mention this was only onstage) who caught,  I don't know if it was the flu, I think it was right towards the end of rehearsal and of course he was the one that touches me all over, drags me to a park bench and jumps on top of me--he is a bad bad boy. 

And I was a wicked wicked girl (so wicked that on the first day of rehearsal I wore my "Wicked T-shirt" to get me into character).  Yet his performance was so strong and energetic.  Amazing what mind over matter can do.

With Sarah Beckham-Turner who portrayed Nedda in Pagliacci

I also had to get up close and personal with Gregory Gerbrandt who also gets quite nasty to my character whose only trying to make a living.  He has amazing stage presence and reminds me so much of Rodney Gilfrey. Well, he lost his voice completely during the last final rehearsals and that never happened to him before in all of his twenty yeas performing, but by g-d, it came back...and just in time.

Front of my Dressing Table in Lewis Auditorium With  Orlando Make-up Artiste Supreme Jana Henry

But as Sonny and Cher once sang in "The Beat Goes On" and so it did. Because of prior commitments with the performance auditorium, we had dress rehearsal and final dress in two different church halls. We only got to walk our spaces for a couple of hours the afternoon prior to the show.  Sooooo when we heard the orchestra surrounded by carpeting and upholstered seats for the first time in the auditorium in front of the opening night audience, it sounded like an entirely different score. I could hardly tell when I was suppose to come on and the scuttle-butt was that the opera singers followed the conductors baton because the music seemed so different and you can imagine what it was like for the non-opera techs calling cues. But the audience liked it LOTS. And the second day these union musicians must have had emergency rehearsals with themselves because they were so right on!

A Strangers Tale was completely done in English, and is so unique and special I hope it gets a chance to be heard by younger audiences because it was so now and hip and relatable. Pagliacci in Central Park --with a raised stage for the performers--it worked out great.

Wish you could have been there...you would have enjoyed yourself. Lewis Auditorium is simply a beautiful theatre, so take a peek at the video. The day après the opera you would have thought I sang in it. I was like sooooo exhausted. It's not easy being bad...but is sure is fun!!


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