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November 25, 2003

EQUITY'S "GYPSY ROBE" GOES TO VINCE PESCE IN "WONDERFUL TOWN"

Vince Pesce, winner of the Gypsy Robe for WONDERFUL TOWN, with Donna Murphy (left) and Jennifer Westfeldt
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

Jennifer Westfeldt (left) and the WONDERFUL TOWN cast touch the Robe, worn by Vince Pesce, for luck.
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

Previous winners of the robe Jennifer Cody (URINETOWN) and Felice B. Gajda (TABOO).
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

BROADWAY OPENING NIGHT TRADITION CONTINUES FOR OVER 50 YEARS!

VINCE PESCE, currently performing in WONDERFUL TOWN, is the newest recipient of Equity's famous "Gypsy Robe." The colorful icon was presented to the chorus member at a special backstage ceremony at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Sunday, November 23 (opening night), recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway over 50 years ago. Mr. Pesce has appeared in a number of Broadway shows, including KISS ME, KATE, HIGH SOCIETY, VICTOR, VICTORIA, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and GUYS AND DOLLS.

Terry Marone, Director of the Gypsy Robe, introduced Felice Gajda, the previous winner of the robe from TABOO. Joining Felice were two previous robe recipients: Joyce Chittick (CABARET, SEUSSICAL), and Jennifer Cody (URINETOWN).

Marone conveyed "best wishes" from Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, who was attending a performance of ANNIE at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, starring Equity President Patrick Quinn.

After explaining the robe's tradition, Felice announced the winner: Vince Pesce! Vince donned the garment and swept around the stage three times, as everyone in the cast touched the robe to bring "blessings" to the new musical.

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. Seven "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 past robe recipients may be viewed here.


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