Annie Gaybis Actress, Singer, Dancer

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Well, whatever gave me the silly idea that the Bill Manhoff comedy The Owl and the Pussycat was going to be a simple walk in the park ...I must have been thinking along the lines of a town square cause in reality it was more  about walking the complete circumference of Central Park blindfolded ...this is one complex script with two complex characters—Doris and Felix—challenging, liberating and an exhilarating feeling to finally reach that characterization and let it fly.

 

Directed by Anne Kraft who left no stone unturned in finding out each and every aspect of what we were doing, why we were doing it and making us both rethink certain moments, just by changing our intentions or body position created such amazing dimensions in our characterization.

This Broadway play was done back in the early 60's with Alan Alda and Diane Sands, and then of course the movie with Streisand and Segal and nothing was modernized or changed in our script. It was edited down to two acts by playwright and director Nelson Sheeley.

Annie and Curtis Tucker

This must have been so daring when this premiered in the early 60’s because their were gasps when we did it due to the language and a lot a lot of laughter thru each and every performance. What’s so amazing about this particular comedy was that the laughter came in so many places where I did not expect to hear it and places where I thought "how funny"...well, maybe only "how funny" for me.

I got to do this with Curtis Tucker, the artistic director of First Coast Opera...who writes operas and conducts operas all over and yet intrigued with the idea of doing this—taking a big step out of his comfort zone—informed me that he had never done a theater piece that did not involve singing. I think he told me this opening night. Well, he can’t say that anymore. I bet that really came thru loud and clear for him when we were doing our final performance—a matinee to be exact—and the AC went o-u-t during the first act. All I saw were tons of people fanning themselves with our programs and my co-star looking like he had just arrived onstage from a sauna.

The director was there and made a big announcement about the AC going awol during intermission. Somehow on a Sunday they got an AC expert to come there and somehow he managed to get it on again after an extended intermission. I thanked g-d in my dressing room—I mean I looked up to the ceiling with my hands in prayer and thanked Him since I knew I was about to enter the second act in a long sleeved jumpsuit with over-the-knee suede boots.
  

I enter Act Two by myself and I couldn’t help but ad-lib "Oh, its so nice and cool in here" to believe you me a tremendous response, but no matter how warm the audience had felt during act one they weren't feeling what Curtis and I were feeling under those lights

We did it at the most unique three theater complex: The Corozon Cinema and Café in St Augustinethe café where the entire menu is named after famous individuals, like The Bridget Bardot is "the French dip" and The Alfred Hitchcock is "Egg Salad." You get where I am coming from with this?! And for our show they made the "owl" mimosa and the "pussycat" mimosa. Oh, and my dressing room was the room where they put the film in for one of the other theatres so I would get a knock on my door to ask if they could enter and put the film on and then right around intermission they would come and again ask if they could take the film out of the projector.

Oh, somehow one individual really wanted to let me know how much he liked the show and found my dressing/screen projector room during an intermission. He just wanted to tell me, "Your really good." ...I asked him to please leave and from then on they roped off my area. I swear to you I don’t know how he found it when it was hard for me to find but find it he did. It’s kind of a queasy feeling to have that happen and their is no one their but you and him.

We rehearsed in an empty storefront since the theater was being used right up until our tech rehearsal. The storefront was located right next to a Dominos that I wish I had invested in, since this was a store front I could see the drivers with stacks of pizzas in their arms running to their cars to deliver all day and night. Oh, and the storefront had no carpet  and bare walls so every time we said our lines or the stage manager or director said something it was like whoever’s voice it was vibrated thru-out the room. At first both Curtis and I thought we were going to have headaches, but we finally got accustomed to it.

I had a lot of fun rehearsing this piece and my co-star was just what I had hoped he would be and very giving. I had done "Venus In Fur" Vanda/Wanda a few seasons back and I thought that prepared me for "anything," but this was its own special challenge and I hoped that I conveyed this character to its utmost. We didn’t have any reviewer but we were SRO and received a standing "o," but I wanted to close with the most touching note I have ever gotten—from the actor Lee Weaver—who has seen it all and done it all—onstage anyway. This touched my heart so much.

 

Dear Annie - I've sent only three "fan letters" in my life. Jimmy Carter 
(with whom I've broken bread and corresponded). Also, Steven Schwartz, lyricist behind "Godspell." You are to be my next.

I enjoyed "O and PC" much, much, more than I planned. You were absolutely over-the-top. I was overwhelmed by your performance this time. How I envy Curt being able to work with you. Difficult room! But wow - how you made that room feel like the best on Broadway.

Thanks for a great show. Cheers! Peace! -Lee


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