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    Posted July 25, 2011

Let The Sunshine In!

Arbender J. Robinson Receives AEA's Coveted Gypsy Robe for HAIR

President Nick Wyman, Arbender J. Robinson, 2nd VP Rebecca Kim Jordan

Arbender J. Robinson, a chorus member in HAIR, is the second Gypsy Robe recipient for the 2011-2012 Broadway season. The colorful garment was presented to Arbender on opening night (Wed July 13) at the St James Theatre.

Recreating a time-honored tradition that began more than 50 years ago, the ceremony began as cast members formed a large circle onstage. Equity's National Chorus Business Representative David Westphal welcomed everyone with an energetic "Hello, Tribe" and introduced Equity President Nick Wyman, 2nd VP Rebecca Kim Jordan, Executive Director Mary McColl, Eastern Regional Director Rick Berg and Robe Historian Gloria Rosenthal. Then, David invited company members who were making their Broadway debuts to come forward, where they exuberantly posed for photos.

Next, Gypsy Robe volunteer Terry Marone invited past recipients of the robe to be acknowledged, including Jennifer Smith and James Dybas, who spoke about working with HAIR writer/lyricist Gerome Ragni:

"Ragni (aka Raggles) and I were both part of a group actors chosen for the NEA funded Jerome Robbins American Theater Laboratory in 1966. We all met for 8 hours every day, five and sometimes six days a week and worked on many diversified projects. One day, I noticed that Raggles was sitting against the wall on the other side of the room and jotting things down on a pad of paper. I thought he was taking notes about our improvs. Later I asked him what he had written and he replied, "I'm writing a musical." I laughed and said "Oh, come on, a musical? I thought you were taking notes." He said "yeah, that's what I want Jerry Robbins to think. I gotta keep writing because I'm trying to finish this draft."

Steel Burkhardt, Arbender J. Robinson

"I asked him what he was calling it and he said "HAIR." I howled at the title, but as history has shown, the laugh was on me. I'm sure Raggles is smiling down on us right now."

Luther Creek, who garnered the robe in SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK then stepped forward to recite the robe's history and the ritual of passing it along to the Chorus member with the most Broadway musical chorus credits before announcing the newest recipient: Arbender J. Robinson. Robinson previously appeared on Broadway in RAGTIME, THE LITTLE MERMAID, HAIRSPRAY and the 2009 revival of HAIR.

"For me, growing up in in the mid-west, I lived for theatre and the arts," said Arbender. " I thought it would be great to do a play, but the dream of Broadway to me was never an option. How could a little boy from Illinois ever be on Broadway ? I never dared to dream such a thing, and now many years later I have five Broadway credits (two revivals, one original cast) and one week after I pass along the robe I will be getting my 6th Broadway credit in THE BOOK OF MORMON. So now I tell everyone to dream and dream BIG."

Robinson donned the robe and circled the stage three times as everyone reached out and touched the robe to receive its blessing.

Welcome back to Broadway, HAIR.

Click here for more Gypsy Robe information...

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