Actors’ Equity Association has revealed the new name for the “Gypsy Robe” ceremony, one of the theatre’s great opening night traditions honoring the work of chorus members in Broadway musicals.
As of the July 26 opening night of the new Broadway musical Head Over Heels, the pre-show ritual will be known as the “Legacy Robe” ceremony, a name selected by AEA members in an online survey.
Names also under consideration were the Baum Bradley Robe, and the Chorus Robe.
“The Legacy Robe reminds us why our tradition exists. It emphasizes the history of Chorus performers, their years of dedication and hard work and just how essential they are to every Broadway musical,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity. “The ceremony on opening night will go on like it has for years, and I look forward to celebrating another season’s long serving Chorus performers with recognition of their professionalism as they receive the Legacy Robe.”
The union’s decision to change the name of the 70-year-old tradition came in response to passionate dialogue about the cultural implications of the term “gypsy.”
“While the original name was intended by members to be an honorific, the name change was made to recognize that the usage of the former name no longer has that impact, but is instead insensitive,” Equity said in a statement. “As a Union for actors and stage managers, Equity has an obligation to lead by example on this issue.”
The ceremony dates back to 1950 and involves the passing of a robe to each musical featuring a chorus on its respective opening night. The chorus member with the most Broadway credits dons the robe, circles the stage three times (with fellow cast members touching the robe as it passes), and “blesses” each dressing room. A panel representing the musical is added to the robe before it's passed on to the next opening production.