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July 28, 2003

EQUITY'S "GYPSY ROBE" GOES TO GINA FERRALL In BIG RIVER - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN

Historic Robe Ceremony Begins 2003-2004 Season

Gypsy Winner Gina Ferrall with cast members Drew McVety, Gwen Stewart, Phyllis Frelich, Troy Kotsur, Tyrone Giordano, David Aron Damane, Guthrie Nutter, Michael Arden, George McDaniel, Alexandria Wailes, Melissa van der Schyff, Christina Ellison Dunams and Scott Barnhardt

Gypsy Winner Gina Ferrall with cast members Drew McVety, Gwen Stewart, Phyllis Frelich, Troy Kotsur, Tyrone Giordano, David Aron Damane, Guthrie Nutter, Michael Arden, George McDaniel, Alexandria Wailes, Melissa van der Schyff, Christina Ellison Dunams and Scott Barnhardt
photo by Walter McBride/Retna


Gina Ferrall and Eric Jordan Young

Eric Jordan Young, the previous Robe recipient hands the robe off to Gina Ferrall.
photo by David Lotz


Gina Ferrall and BIG RIVER cast

Members of the BIG RIVER cast touch the Gypsy Robe for luck.
photo by Walter McBride/Retna

GINA FERRALL is the first recipient of Actors' Equity's famous "Gypsy Robe" for the 2003-2004 season. The colorful icon was presented on the opening night (Thursday, July 24, 2003) of BIG RIVER - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, recreating an historic, theatrical ritual that began on Broadway over 50 years ago. Ms. Ferrall has appeared on Broadway in JANE EYRE, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED…and LES MISERABLES, among many other credits.

The ceremony onstage at the American Airlines Theatre was overseen by Equity Chorus Councillor Thomas Jay Miller, who introduced David Lotz, Equity's Communications Director, and Zalina Hoosein, Equity Senior Business Representative to the enthusiastic cast. Also on hand were Robe Historian Gloria Rosenthal, Broadway Institute's Helen Guditis, and Equity staff members Willie Boston, Larry Lorczak, and Nancy McClernan.

Eric Jordan Young, the robe winner from LOOK OF LOVE , read the history and the "rules" of the robe and then announced the "winner:" Gina Ferrall, who donned the resplendent costume and circled the stage three times in accordance with the robe tradition to bring "blessings" to the new musical. Tyrone Giordano, the acclaimed deaf actor who plays Huck Finn, touched the robe as it swept around the stage, along with many other cast members from this landmark production.

BIG RIVER is a co-production of the Roundabout Theatre Company and Deaf West Theatre, in which both deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing actors perform in a synchronized ballet of speaking and signing. Spoken English and American Sign Language (ASL) are used in the musical tale by Roger Miller and William Hauptman which is adapted from the classic novel by Mark Twain.

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 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 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.

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