Three "Gypsy Robes" will be donated to the Theatre Collection of the Museum of the City of New York on April 9. Actors' Equity and the Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs will present the Museum with three robes during a star-studded ceremony in the Council Room of the Actors' Equity building.
One of the theatre's most enduring traditions, the passing of the Gypsy Robe dates back over 50 years. Dancing and singing chorus members — known as "gypsies" because they move from show to show — pass along a robe from show to show on each production's opening night. The chorus member who has appeared in the most Broadway musicals receives the robe and takes ownership until the next Broadway opening. Along the way, the robe is decorated and signed by everyone in the show becoming a fanciful patchwork for at least one theatre season.
The three robes that will be presented to the Museum are "May 1994 to October 1995," which includes designs from such shows as Grease!, Show Boat, Sunset Boulevard, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public and Hello, Dolly!; the "March 1987 to Nov. 1989" robe, featuring decorations from the companies of Les Misérables, Starlight Express, Late Nite Comic, Cabaret, Teddy and Alice, The Phantom of the Opera, Mail, Chess, Carrie, Legs Diamond, Jerome Robbins Broadway, Chu Chem, Dangerous Games, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Threepenny Opera and The Prince of Central Park; and the "Nov. 1998 to Dec. 2000" robe, which boasts lavish additions from the companies of Peter Pan, Parade, Fosse, Annie Get Your Gun, The Civil War, Fascinating Rhythm, Saturday Night Fever, Kiss Me Kate, Marie Christine, Swing, Aida, Contact, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Music Man, The Full Monty, The Rocky Horror Show, Seussical and Jane Eyre.
Actors' Equity has also donated two robes into the permanent collection at Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History. Eight "retired" robes are maintained at the Union's national headquarters, and one is on display in the Equity Audition Center. In a recent statement, Equity's Eastern Regional Director, Carol Wasser, explained, "Broadway theatre is woven into the history of New York. I can think of no better repository for the Gypsy Robes than the Museum of the City of New York, where everyone can view our proud tradition."