Roma Peoples Project Responds to Name Change From 'Gypsy Robe' to 'Legacy Robe'
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. As a Union for actors and stage managers, Equity has an obligation to lead by example on this issue.
Today, Actors Equity posted to Twitter a message they received from the Roma Peoples Project at Columbia University.
"Given the actual Roma history and its entanglement with the 'gypsy' misnomer, we at the Roma Peoples Project believe that the change of name from 'Gypsy Robe' to 'Legacy Robe' initiated by the Actors' Equity Association is remarkable," the statement says. "It is a step towards accurate representation of Roma people in mainstream society. We are moved by their honorable choice."
Read the full statement on the Actors Equity Twitter account.
Following the tradition, the Robe recipient circles the stage three times while cast members reach out and touch the Robe for good luck. The recipient of the Robe then visits each dressing room to "bless" the show. A decorative panel representing their show is then sewn onto the Robe, which is passed on to a recipient in the next chorus musical that opens.
This ritual began in 1950 when Bill Bradley, a Chorus member of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, persuaded fellow Chorus member Florence Baum to give him her dressing gown. As a lark, he sent it to a friend, Arthur Partington, a Call Me Madam Chorus member, on opening night, telling him it had been worn by all the Ziegfeld beauties. Arthur added a rose from star Ethel Merman's gown and sent it to a chorus member on the next opening night of Guys and Dolls.
It was then passed from show to show and was often presented to a friend of the previous recipient or awarded to a chorus member based on popularity. Through the decades, the passing of the Robe became a specific ceremony with official rules stating how it is to be presented, worn and paraded on stage. Three retired Robes are at the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts; there are also Robes at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and at the Museum of the City of New York. All others are with Actors' Equity.
The next presentation of the Legacy Robe will take place on July 26 at the Hudson Theatre, where the musical Head Over Heels will open.
Actors' Equity Association, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its Members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. www.actorsequity.org #EquityWorks