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July 23, 2004

David Lowenstein Dons Equity’s Famous “Gypsy Robe” In THE FROGS at Lincoln Center

David Lowenstein, who is currently appearing in THE FROGS at Lincoln Center, is the latest recipient of Equity's famous "Gypsy Robe." The colorful garb was presented to David at a special backstage ceremony at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre on opening night (Thursday, July 22, 2004), recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway over 50 years ago.

David has appeared in a number of Broadway shows, including SEUSSICAL, ON THE TOWN, 1776, KING DAVID, JEROME ROBBINS’ BROADWAY and A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

"It is a great honor for me to part of this tradition and to be among the very esteemed group of actors that work as gypsies,” said David.

Equity Chorus Councillor Thomas J. Miller presided over the ceremony. Tom introduced Rommy Sandhu, who garnered the robe in BOMBAY DREAMS. Rommy described the historical significance of the robe, before proclaiming the new recipient (drum roll): David Lowenstein! David circled the stage three times counter-clockwise as each cast member touched the robe to receive its "blessing."

Joining in the celebration were previous robe winners, including Harvey Evans and Bill Noble. Assisting Miller were Equity Chorus Councillor Bill Bateman and staff member Keith Sklar.

The Gypsy Robe began as a lark in 1950, when Bill Bradley, in the chorus of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, borrowed a dressing gown and sent it to a friend in CALL ME MADAM on opening night (Oct 12, 1950) saying it was worn by all the Ziegfield 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 done 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, Actors' Equity recently donated two robes into permanent collections at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History; three robes are permanently loaned to the Museum of the City of New York. Other "elderly" robes are still maintained by the Union at its national headquarters on West 46th Street, and one is always on display in the Equity Audition Center.

Photos and a list of robe recipients may be viewed by clicking here.

Lowenstein circles the stage

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