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    Posted May 12, 2011

Shannon Lewis Garners Gypsy Robe for THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE

Shannon Lewis, Donna Murphy
Photo: Walter McBride

Shannon Lewis is the final recipient of the Gypsy Robe for the 2010-2011 Broadway season. The colorful icon was presented to Shannon backstage at Studio 54 on at the opening of THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE on Thursday, April 28, 2011, recreating an historical tradition that is 61 years old.

Equity's National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal welcomed everyone onto the stage and invited company members to form a circle to begin the ceremony. First, cast members who were making their Broadway debuts came forward and took a bow. Then previous robe recipients were called out including Richard Korthaze, Eileen Casey, and Adrian Bailey. Westphal also introduced AEA President Nick Wyman and AEA Executive Director Mary McColl who excitedly witnessed the ceremony.

AEA President Nick Wyman, Shannon Lewis, AEA Executive Director Mary McColl
Photo: Walter McBride

Next, Kevin Ligon, who received the robe in SISTER ACT, stepped forward to read the robe's history and explain the ceremony. He then announced that Shannon was the newest recipient and the entire company applauded as she donned the robe and circled the stage three times to let everyone reached touch the robe to receive its blessing.

Shannon has appeared in the chorus of six Broadway shows, including: CURTAINS, SWEET CHARITY, CONTACT, FOSSE, CANDIDE and CRAZY FOR YOU.

The Gypsy Robe began on October 12, 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, saying it was worn by all the Ziegfeld beauties and would "bless" the show.

Hal Robinsin, Shannon Lewis, Joyce Van Patten
Photo: Walter McBride

A cabbage rose from Ethel Merman's gown was added and the robe was passed along to the next Broadway musical on opening night. The tradition evolved so that the robe is now presented to the "gypsy" who has performed in 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 seen at Equity's Offices around the country. National Headquarters in New York now houses two of the historic Robes. The second floor Audition Center's case displays the 1982-1983 robe. The 2007-2008 Robe, dedicated to Broadway veteran Adrian Bailey, can be viewed on the fourteenth floor Council lobby. In Orlando, the robe from the 2003-2004 season can be viewed during business hours. In October, a Gypsy Robe went on display at Equity's new Chicago office at 557 West Randolph Street. It covers Broadway musicals between May 2005 and May 2006.

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.

Adrian Bailey, Shannon, David Westphal
Photo: Walter McBride

Gypsy Robe Recipient for SISTER ACT Kevin Ligon
Photo: Walter McBride

Click here for more Gypsy Robe information...

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