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    Posted March 31, 2010

"Yes Sir, that's my…Gypsy Robe!"


Director/Choreographer/Conceiver Twyla Tharp and robe recipient Kristine Bendul

Brava! Kristine Bendul, currently performing in COME FLY AWAY, is the newest recipient of Equity's fabled "Gypsy Robe." The colorful icon was presented to the chorus member at a special opening night ceremony at the Marquis Theatre on Thursday, March 25, 2010, recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway 60 years ago.

Equity's National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal welcomed everyone on stage and invited company members to form a large circle to begin the ceremony. Then, cast members who were making their Broadway debuts were acknowledged at the center of the stage. David also introduced AEA VPs Rebecca Kim Jordan and Ira Mont.

Mr. Westphal then introduced Gypsy Robe volunteer Terry Marone, who invited prior robe recipients to come center stage, including Pi Douglass, Austin Colyer, and James Dybas. She then introduced Stephen Buntrock, who received the robe in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, to explain the robe's history and announce the newest recipient.

Stephen excitedly proclaimed that Kristine Bendul was the newest recipient of the iconic garment. Kristine has previously performed on a Chorus Contract in several Broadway shows, MOVIN' OUT, MAN OF LA MANCHA, SWING, ON THE TOWN and THE KING AND I. She donned the robe and circled the stage, as company members reached out to touch the robe to receive its "blessing." A few minutes later, in accordance with the robe tradition, she visited everyone's dressing room and COME FLY AWAY was blessed.

The Gypsy Robe began in 1950, when Bill Bradley, in the chorus of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, borrowed a dressing gown from Chorus member Florence Baum and sent it to a friend in CALL ME MADAM on opening night (Oct 12, 1950) saying it was worn by all the Ziegfeld beauties and would "bless" the show. A cabbage rose from Ethel Merman's gown was added and the robe was passed along to next Broadway musical on opening night. The tradition evolved so that the robe is now presented to the "gypsy" who has performed the most Broadway musicals on a chorus contract. Along the way, the robe is decorated, painted, patched, stitched, and signed by everyone in the show, becoming a fanciful patchwork for an entire Broadway season.

Recognizing their cultural and historic value, Gypsy Robes can now be viewed at two of Equity's Offices. The National Headquarters in New York now houses two of the historic Robes. The second floor Audition Center's newly designed case displays the Robe from the 2006-2007 season, which was dedicated by the ACCA to the memory of Patrick Quinn. The 2007-2008 Robe, dedicated to Broadway veteran Adrian Bailey, can be viewed on the fourteenth floor Council lobby.

The Robe from the 2003-2004 season is now housed in the Orlando office and members can stop by to view the Robe during business hours. In the coming year, the Los Angeles and new Chicago office will have their own Gypsy Robes for display. Periodically, the Robes will be rotated so members may have the chance to see various Robes. Robes are also on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, The Museum of the City of New York and the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts.

More Gypsy Robe info...

AEA VP Rebecca Kim Jordan, Kristine Bendul, AEA VP Ira Mont, AEA staff member David Westphal
photo: David Lotz

Kristine Bendul, Laurie Kanyok, Ron Todorowski
photo: David Lotz

L-R: Joel Prouty, Cody Green, Jeremy Cox, Colin Bradbury, Heather Hamilton, Holley Farmer, Laura Mead, Hilary Gardner with Kristine Bendul
photo: David Lotz

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