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    Posted February 28, 2007

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Gypsy Robe Event

GYPSY ROBE - IN OUR TIME Honors African-American Recipients of the Gypsy Robe

Vicky Nitchie - Tyson Jennette
Photo by Walter McBride

On Monday, February 12, 2007, Actors' Equity's EEO Committee (Co-Chairs, Christine Toy Johnson, Julia Breanetta Simpson) and the Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs (Chair, Second VP Jean-Paul Richard) (ACCA) presented THE GYPSY ROBE - IN OUR TIME at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, Bruno Walter Auditorium. Staged by A. Wellington PerkinsPi Douglass and A. Wellington Perkins, THE GYPSY ROBE - IN OUR TIME honored African-American chorus actors who have received the Gypsy Robe, a time-honored opening night tradition among the chorus of Broadway musicals, and the many contributions African American performers have made to the American theater. The evening was co-sponsored by the League of Professional Theater Women to celebrate Black History month.

Nikki Renee Daniels - Ramon Flowers - Brynn Williams
Photo by Walter McBride

EEO Committee Co-Chairs Christine Toy Johnson and Julia Breanetta Simpson and ACCA Vice-Chair Thomas Jay Miller narrated the colorful pageant, which showed off six of the legendary Gypsy Robes. AEA 2nd VP and ACCA Chair Jean-Paul Richard assisted in planning the event, but due to a family emergency, could not attend. With words and music, the show intertwined the history of the robe while retracing the history of African-American performers and shows on Broadway. Onstage, the stellar line-up of former robe recipients included Nikki Renee Daniels (LES MISERABLES - 2006), Ramon Flowers (HOT FEET - 2006), Tim Hunter (FASCINATING RHYTHM - 1999), T. Oliver Reid (THE WEDDING SINGER - 2006), Judine Somerville (HAIRSPRAY - 2002), Lynn Sterling (THE LIFE - 1997), Gwen Stewart (RENT - 1996), and Brynn Williams (IN MY LIFE - 2005). Joining them were AEA members Daria Hardeman, Stacey Haughton, Tyson Jennette, Harrison Lee, Vicky Nitchie, Richard Waits and Steven Ward. Attending the event were Martial Roumain (THE WIZ - 1984), Yolanda Graves (UPTOWN..IT'S HOT - 1986), Deidre Goodwin (THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW - 2000), Devin Richards (JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR - 2000) The Musical Director was William McDaniel.

Ms. Johnson and Ms. Simpson commented: "It was thrilling to be a part of an evening where both the tradition of the Gypsy Robe and our African-American members who have helped to carry on its legacy were celebrated with such style, humor and spirit. The robe recipients were so appreciative and genuinely moved by being honored in this way, and we were very proud to a part of the celebration."

At the zenith of the event, a cabbage rose was placed on an undecorated robe, as the list of 34 known African-American recipients was read to sustained applause. Terry Marone, the Gypsy Robe Ceremony Director was also acknowledged in the audience.

The Co-Chairs especially thanked the Committee volunteers, including: K. Kevyne Baar, Bill Bateman, Hal Blankenship, Joanne Borts, Brian Cooper, Marjorie Horne, Delphine T. Mantz, Orville Mendoza, Francis Eric Montesa, Mel Silverman, Roger Preston Smith, Joan Valentina, and especially Linda Carol Young, who stage managed the event.

Special thanks to EEO Business Rep Scott Watanabe !

Richard Waits - Gwen Stewart - Vicky Nitchie - Tyson Jennette - Lynn Sterling - Harrison Lee
Photo by Walter McBride

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