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    Posted November 21, 2012

AEA's Gypsy Robe® !

Kirsten Wyatt Garners AEA's Fabled Gypsy Robe® for A CHRISTMAS STORY

Timothy J Alex Kirsten Wyatt and David Westphal
Photo: Walter McBride

On opening night of A CHRISTMAS STORY the cast couldn’t put their arms down from the excitement on stage as Kirsten Wyatt became the most recent recipient of Equity’s coveted Gypsy Robe® on Monday, November 19th 2012 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

The elaborately decorated stage reflected a winter wonderland as an excited cast, crew and family gathered in a circle to begin this time honored tradition. Equity’s Business Rep for Chorus Affairs, David Westphal welcomed A CHRISTMAS STORY to Broadway and spoke about the “greatest back stage tradition that acknowledges and celebrates those working on a Broadway chorus contract.”

Next it was time to bring to the center of the circle 23 Actors who were making their Broadway debut. They jumped up and down and chanted as they came together and put their arms around each other and posed for photos.

Kirsten Wyatt & Nick Wyman (AEA President)
Photo: Walter McBride

AEA President Nick Wyman, 3rd Vice President Ira Mont, and previous Robe recipients Dennis Stowe (THE APPLE TREE, LEAP OF FAITH), Eileen Casey (MARILYN), Kevin Ligon (SISTER ACT), Eric Sciotto (THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, PAL JOEY), and the most recent Robe recipient Timothy J. Alex (ELF) were all in attendance to celebrate.

Timothy J. Alex donning the Robe read the history of the Gypsy Robe tradition and then announced Kirsten Wyatt at the recipient for A CHRISTMAS STORY. Everyone cheered and yelled and touched the Robe as she circled the stage three times as instructed. In February, Kirsten will pass the Robe on to the recipient for CINDERELLA.

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.

Kirsten Wyatt with Dan Lauria, Erin Dilly, Johnny Rabe, John Bolton & Zac Ballard
Photo: Walter McBride

Recognizing their cultural and historic value, Gypsy Robes® can now be viewed at three of Equity's Offices. The National Headquarters in New York now houses two of the historic Robes. The second floor Audition Center's case displays the Robe from the 1982-1983 season. 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. A robe from the 2005-2006 season is on display in the Chicago office.

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.

Cast members making their Broadway debuts
Photo: Walter McBride

Circling the stage
Photo: Walter McBride

Kirsten Wyatt & Company
Photo: Walter McBride

Kirsten Wyatt & Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from the Movie Version)
Photo: Walter McBride

Kirsten Wyatt with Company
Photo: Walter McBride

Kirsten Wyatt with Lily & Pete
Photo: Walter McBride

Kirsten Wyatt with the Company & guests
Photo: Walter McBride

Click here for more Gypsy Robe® information...

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