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A page devoted to our Gypsy Award

Rules of the Ritual of the Gypsy Sweatshirt (rev. 3/13)

1.  The Gypsy Sweatshirt is awarded to someone who is part of the cast as a chorus member/dancer/supporting player.  It is intended for someone who is not in a starring role.  It is for a student who has somehow gone above and beyond in terms of dedication, professionalism, participation, and enthusiasm to make him/herself worthy of the recognition.  The Gypsy stands out even if his/her part is not the most significant, or through his/her impressive work behind the scenes. 

Gypsies never give up.  They are adaptable and dependable; throw them into any environment and they will get the job done, no matter what the obstacles.  They are the champions of the motto “the show must go on.” 

2. The sweatshirt is awarded to the selected person approximately one month before play production dates. The sweatshirt must be worn in and around school during the 30 days prior to production.

3. On opening night, approximately 30 minutes before production, the director will call “On stage for the Gypsy Sweatshirt.” The entire cast and crew will gather on stage and form a circle. The Gypsy will hold the sweatshirt and circle the stage counterclockwise three times while the company members reach out and touch the robe for good luck; the Gypsy will also visit all dressing rooms to offer wishes for good luck.

4. The Gypsy’s name (and the director’s remarks honoring him/her) will be posted in the show’s bulletin board during the month leading up to the show.

5. The Gypsy’s name and year of “ownership” will be added to the sleeve after his/her time wearing the sweatshirt has passed to indicate his/her part in the legacy of our musical theatre program.

6. The sweatshirt will be returned to the production staff approximately one week after production. The Gypsy has the opportunity to come back the following year to award the sweatshirt to the next Gypsy.


Gypsy Winners

2014 -- Rachel S.

If memory serves, our Gypsy this year didn’t even tryout as an actress or a singer when she was in sixth grade.  She just wanted to be a dancer, and the growth she’s shown since then has been impressive.  Last year, she decided to be part of the whole process and snagged a role as Frau Schmidt in The Sound of Music.  This year, she brought her talents to Andie, the choreographer of Pretty Lady, the show within the show of 42nd Street


Rachel is an amazingly well rounded student.  She not only serves as play treasurer, but she also comes to the show with a rather full plate: PTA President, HTV anchor, team member, and probably many more activities I don't even know about.  In her "spare time," she helped me put together the design and order for some new South Middle theatre sweats.  That initiative was the main element that “clinched” the award for her – there are other cast members who have creative vision, but she is the one who takes the necessary actions to get things done.


It's become especially rare to see a young woman who can handle so many different tasks and handle them as well as Rachel does.  She gives everything she does her full effort, and she is always willing to help.   She is blessed with a fine intellect, of course, but she has a drive to learn and a zest for service, which will serve her well in high school, college and beyond.  It’s always a pleasure to see her out there getting things done and knowing I can count on her whenever I need help.

2014 -- Talia L.

Talia first made it onto my “radar” back when she was in sixth grade.  She was actually a crewmember that year, and she ended up with one of the most difficult jobs of all – soundboard operator.  The board “op” has to follow the whole show closely and make sure that the correct microphones are on or off at the correct points; moreover, s/he must be able to trouble shoot when there are problems such as feedback or mic failure.  She ran one of the most successful boards we’ve ever had, and if you don’t believe me, watch Beauty and the Beast again and notice how few glitches there were.

Last year, she decided to make the move to the cast, and we put her to work in the “hobo” scene under the bridge in Annie.  She had a few lines, and we noticed how well she “pushed out” her lines without the use of a microphone (yes, the board operator was not given a microphone herself), and I especially liked the expressiveness of her face.  Even though she was “just” in the ensemble, she made the most of the opportunity.

This year, during our rehearsals, she’s been one of those actors who is “always on.”  Her face is lively, and she gives her lines the respect they deserve; she never goes up on stage and does anything without going “all in.”  She’s also really good at supporting her fellow actors, another gypsy trait.  And, in the middle of the stress or tension parts of our preparation, you might look at her and see her laughing with her friends, which helps lighten the mood immediately.

Talia, thanks for being the prototype of a gypsy.  You’re joining some distinguished company.


2013 -- Mansi S.

This year’s Gypsy marks a first – the first time a seventh grader has been awarded the coveted hoodie.  We have a wonderful group of eighth graders this year, including a few three-year veterans, but they are all involved in a starring role of one kind or another so they didn’t qualify.  On the other hand, there was a certain member of the cast whose dedication and effort made her rise above the others – Mansi S.


Normally, we have two assistant directors – one for each cast.  We lost one of the ADs relatively early in the rehearsal process, and Mansi always seemed to be there to fill in the gaps without even being asked.  The AD is a thankless job – it’s a lot of administrative responsibility and not a whole lot of glory.  However, Mansi carried out all of the job functions quite efficiently and even added her own creativity; she’s one of those people who remembers almost everything we’ve done without having to look it up.


During our lead-up to the performance nights, I’ve noticed that Mansi has been trying to share her knowledge with other members of the ensemble and how she’s been trying to grow into a leadership role.  I’ve enjoyed watching her work at developing these skills and I think she’s going to be the Gypsy who grew from the experience, i.e. she’ll be able to take what she’s learned and become that much better of an actress/singer/dancer.


She’ll help you if you’re down or if you’re not exactly sure where you’re supposed to be.  Mansi, congratulations on forcing a change to the rule – seventh graders shouldn’t just be the “middle children” of our middle school, i.e. lost in between the rookie 6th graders and the veteran 8th graders! (As a middle child myself, I should have known better!)


2012 -- Niamh M.

Niamh always knows what’s going on.  That is, she’s so plugged into the happenings of all of the “subsets” that exist within the cast, and I’ll bet she can tell you what their plans are for this weekend.  Not only that, Niamh has advocates.  A bunch of her fellow cast members sought me out to nominate her and make sure that she was going to receive the award they thought she deserved.


She worked through some disappointment to become a leader of our cast.  She knew schedules, blocking, and she probably knew your lines, too.  I was always impressed at how much she grew up over the years; she moved gracefully from immature sixth grader to poised and mature eighth grader.


And please allow me one “after-the-show” observation – she wrote a cute short play that featured a number of her fellow actors quite well and, not only that, her acting in the short that I directed at theatre workshop 2012 was priceless – she really captured the spirit and bearing of a bratty type of kindergarten student that we all know.

2011 -- Emily B.

A few years ago, there was a girl in the cast who didn’t have too much to do; she was nice enough and worked very hard, but I just couldn’t find a spot for her. Then we came up to the one-acts/shorties at the end of the year. We matched her to the right part and, all of a sudden, I looked up and saw an actress. (She went on, incidentally, to star in shows at South High and is serve as president of TS -- hi, Ange P!)

This year’s gypsy is pretty much the same case; it only took me two years to come up with the right part for her. You had a moment or two when we did Guys and Dolls two years ago, and I remember a moment that Ms. Conley had you do during “Honestly Sincere” last year that made all of us laugh. Even with those moments, I don’t think I was properly prepared for how well you were going to do with your part this year. It’s not easy for people your age to embody adults, but you’ve done it beautifully.

Emily, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and working with you and watching you grow as a performer. I’m so happy you finally had something to do this year and that we were able to match your talent to a part.

The “rules” of the Gypsy sweatshirt state that it is for a student who has somehow gone above and beyond in terms of her dedication, professionalism, participation, and enthusiasm to become worthy of the recognition. You’ve been a dedicated and enthusiastic participant who’s been there whenever called, and you’ve thrown yourself into whatever we’ve asked of you with a steady grace and a smile.


2010 -- Evangeline G.

The key component of the Gypsy is that s/he cares about the show in a way that’s unselfish; the gypsy is someone who’s always trying to look out for others. Evangeline has shown that level of care since she became involved in the show back in sixth grade and it has remained with her during the last two years.

I remember hearing about her way back when I first started teaching here. Her sister was one of my first students and would often tell me about her “baby sister.” One of the joys of working at a school is that yesterday’s younger sibling can become tomorrow’s student. She joined our cast when we performed 42nd Street and quietly and conscientiously did her job. She’s never been the type to miss a rehearsal or ask, “Do we have to be here today?” As a seventh grader, she moved through Guys and Dolls with the same degree of professionalism, skill and charm.

That brings us to this year. Bye Bye Birdie is, at its heart, a fun show, and I’m glad that I always seemed to see Evangeline having fun whenever we’ve been working. The cliché says that you can tell a person’s worth from the friends they keep, and I was always happy to see Evangeline and Beatriz and Shelby hanging out because they are all nice, special people and their complement each other through their friendship.

It’s always nice to give the students a chance to perform. Dessert’s on Us was created to be a fundraiser as well as an additional opportunity to perform. I don’t know if people realize the amount of work it takes to put the show together – who gets to act/sing/improv? – but the coordinator has to be at the center of things, helping me put it all together. And there was Evangeline, calmly helping me through the worries and guiding us to a successful performance.

She’s quiet, yet hardworking, dedicated and committed. I’m always happy when someone has a chance to stretch and maybe learn something along the way. Evangeline may use this is a chance to spread her wings and take these skills and apply them to whatever she might want to do in the future.


2009 -- Ben Z.

He’s the guy with the biggest heart that there is. He’s the guy who everyone knows and everyone likes because we know how kind he is and how much he loves the show and will do whatever it takes in order for it to be successful. He’s usually lurking in the background with a huge smile on his face, hanging around with his friends, but when Conley or Schwartz or I need his attention, he focuses in and gives it his all.

I originally got to know Ben way back when his brother Max was acting in the shows and I always had a feeling that one day he’d be on the stage, too. He wants to be part of all of it – he buzzes around the crew when they’re working or he’ll try to track down Mr. D to check out the lighting booth or he’ll be back by the sound board trying to figure it out. You’ll always see him – he’s the guy with the most creative hat, or the best penciled-in mustache.

I don’t know if he does this with his theatre friends or not, but Ben is also always careful about asking how I’m doing and he’ll follow up with questions about, say, my dog or my vacation plans. He’ll look back at me while I’m talking and it actually looks like he’s interested in what I’m saying. Maybe he’ll offer a nod of support if I come up a particular plan that sounds interesting, or he’ll say, “That sounds cool,” and his approval will mean something to me because he’s so cool himself.

He’s got the second cutest poodle in the world (sorry, mine’s cuter) and I hope he will be thrilled to be the first guy to receive what I hope is the single greatest honor we can bestow on someone. I hope all of you are happy for him and all he’s done for us – I know Evan R. will be! All hail Ben, the Head Administrator of our Facebook group!

2008 -- Izzy T-L

In every cast, there has to be one person -- chosen by me -- who has the right to rank on me.  It’s an Emily C., it’s a Lindsay C. … but before you get any ideas, Evan R, don’t even think about it unless I tell you you’re that person! Anyway, I learned who this year’s “insult artist” would be back to when Izzy was just a teeny-tiny sixth grader.  We were at Theatre Workshop, I think, and we were playing “Press Conference” and I was the “victim.”   She took it upon herself to insult a particular aspect of my appearance (ask her sometime  – I’m sure she remembers) and I thought to myself, “What did that punk kid just say? How Bold.”  I knew she was kidding, but this was my first “Izzy T-L” experience.

Izzy snagged a nice supporting part in Oliver, but then faltered a little bit during tryouts last year and wasn’t cast in any of the leads/supports in Wonderful Town.  However, she did not quit; in fact, she came around quite often and would fill in for whoever was absent, run an errand or do whatever needed to be done.  She also remained an important dancer and sang every week at chorus.  She’s always there, and I mean that in the best way; I don’t know that she’s ever missed a rehearsal or even a meeting of the Theatre Workshop.  When one of the supporting players dropped out really late in the rehearsal process, I knew exactly who to turn to – Izzy.  She learned the lines as quickly as she could, slotted herself in there quickly and did just fine.

This year, she stepped right in and grabbed a nice role as one of the “kids.”  42nd Street is not just about Peggy, Dorothy and Julian; it’s about the whole corps of performers who band together to put on a show.  Izzy personifies this spirit through her attitude toward the show.  She does what she does not to draw attention to herself but because it’s the right thing to do.  Like many of the gypsies before her, she’s a “floor general” who remembers the key info we need to know and is always keeping a careful eye on everyone else – you all should listen to her when she tells you to be quiet when Mrs. Conley or Schwartz or I are trying to work! She personifies the dedication, professionalism and enthusiasm that the award requires.

This is always one of the highlights of the year for me.  I can look back and remember the good times and then I can think about the night in June when I’ll just “happen” to be at Cold Stone and I have a feeling that Izzy will be there.  I’ll ask her about when she spoke to the sixth graders this year at their cast orientation and declared that I was an “angry man” and assigned many other negative attributes to me (ask her -- I’m sure she’ll remember) and we’ll be laughing about it.  And next year, when she’s not with us, I’ll miss her, but I’m confident she’ll be successful wherever she goes from here.

2007 -- Hillary K.

She's always here, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Our 2007 Gypsy has always been one of those people who seems to be hanging around, but it's never in a misbehaving way. (OK, maybe she's a little chatty, but no one's perfect.) If one of the ADs is not around, then she can pick up "The Bible" and tell us what needs to be done. In fact, she probably doesn't even need the book; she remembers what happened just from having seen the staging, which is a secret hallmark of our Gypsies going back to the very first one.

I've also been impressed by how she crosses among and between all the different "characters" who make up the cast. From what I can tell, she's friendly with nearly everyone. I've also seen her willing to speak up whenever something needs to be taken care of or whenever she sees something wrong being done. People go to her when they need help. Just the other day, she showed up to help someone who I didn't even know was a friend of her's deliver a bit of potentially disappointing news and to make sure everything was all right and that I was OK with it ... And I was. I even called upon her the other day when there was someone who needed help memorizing lines. She got right on it and worked for 90 minutes to make sure they were learned.

I remember her unselfish support of me and/or the play from as early as 6th grade when she helped me make signs for the headshot displays that we put up in front of the building. That was only the beginning; since then, there have been numerous times when she has offered her services for whatever job needs to be done, no matter how challenging or trivial. I can think of no better display of a True Love for Theatre.

She's wanted to host the cast party for the last three years, and this year we finally get to have the party at her house; luckily for us, she's been putting her cleaning skills to use to get the basement ready for us. Finally, those of you who read the blog have been able to enjoy her words of wisdom and kindness and her reminders about getting your affairs in order, at least when it comes to the show.

She’s never had a job title, but she would do everyone’s job if called upon to do so. The Gypsy Award was created to reward "dedication, professionalism, participation and enthusiasm," so I can think of no one who is more deserving of the sweatshirt than Hillary K.

2006 -- Alexi Z.

Giving the Gypsy Award is always a special moment for me because it recognizes a quality that all of us should admire; the Gypsy is the person who helps the show in so many ways, even if it doesn’t mean that there’s something “in it” for him/her. I think it’s an especially important honor for someone in this year’s eighth grade because of my overall fondness for the current “8s” and the extent to which they’ve been involved, all 34 of them. Normally, I make everyone to wait to see who it will be, but this year I’d like the Gypsy winner to step forward so I can honor her with her right here: Alexi Z ...

You’ve been a key member of the South Theatre Co. the entire time you’ve been in our school. During the last three years, I remember you not only giving your best, but also urging on others at tryouts and just popping into my room to talk about the world, which eventually worked its way to show-related matters. You should be pleased that I never felt “put upon” by you or that you were trying to push me in any way; you were just expressing your hopes or concerns in an honest way, and you should be congratulated for that. You’re never afraid to share your opinion, and you’re never afraid of taking on someone who deserves to be taken on.

Beyond that, your actions have spoken louder than your words. You are a “floor general” in the truest sense of the word -- you keep an eye on everything and try to keep everyone around you focused and at their best. That’s all the more impressive because, while you shone as one of Reno’s Angels last year, you’ve also had to play a housekeeper twice, but you even do that with grace and skill. This year, you will be hosting our Desserts on Us; I remember at the meeting when I asked for volunteers and I heard your voice rather loudly and distinctly through the crowd announcing “that’s mine.” You’ve managed the administrative load impressively, and you’ve sat through all of the meetings with me and done whatever needed to be done without ever complaining.

I’m not surprised at your selflessness; I don’t want to take away from your moment, but I have to say that I think your willingness to pitch in comes from how you were raised. Alexi’s family, mainly her mother, has done more than anyone else for us in the last few years in terms of increasing our advertising revenue, so much so that we have a brand-new sound system in the auditorium that will forever be known as the Z---f Memorial Sound System.

Unfortunately, I did not get to have you in my classes this year except for one time during a self-select workshop. I saw that you’re always “on,” even in a class setting. Keep this can-do spirit alive and I hope you appreciate and this honor as you move ahead in life.

2005 -- Rachel Z.

My first memories of our gypsy, of course, go back to two years ago. She was a dancer/chorus member in H2S, so I knew her a bit from spending time at weekend rehearsals, but I feel like I got to know her better during Hell Week, when she always seemed to be volunteering to help out no matter what the task was, from clearing empty pizza boxes to (if memory serves) painting the set and moving around whatever furniture needed to be moved.

She asks a lot of questions, but they’re usually questions that help us realize a better way to achieve a particular effect or to arrange something. That’s a gift that the teachers who work with me on the show have, which is one of the reasons we’re so good, but it always amazes me when one of you guys can come up with those insights.

Last year, she was one of those singing Von Trapp kids, and her sweet voice helped enrich those beautiful Richard Rodgers songs. I also took particular note of her dance ability -- there’s a particular moment during one musical routine that, whenever I see the tape of the show, I always think to myself, “Geez, look at her go -- such graceful movements.” (If you’re curious when it is, ask me later and I might tell you.) Of course, she is probably best know for having to hit an ultra-high note, which she did with style and grace on show night.

This year, she’s continued her high level of assistance at many different levels; she’s at the center of putting together the Desserts on Us fundraiser. She’s come up with a number of great ideas and she’s produced the huge volume of paperwork that job requires, as well as sitting through endless meetings with me. Best of all, she’ll be writing the intro’s and in-between the scene moments, so I’ve been able to put one of her hidden talents that I, as her English teacher, have discovered -- not only is she hardworking and intelligent, but she happens to be one of my best student writers -- she’s insightful, structurally and grammatically correct, and her writing has a flow and creativity that will impress the audience on March 4th.

So it is with pride that I award the 2005 gypsy sweatshirt to a singer/actress/dancer with all the right moves, Rachel Z.

2004 -- Emily R.

This year’s gypsy winner was easy to pick. Our new gypsy is someone who’s had some lines here, some lines there, and who moved up this year to a nice supporting part. I’ve always been impressed by her stage awareness -- she sees everything, and I mean everything. During rehearsals, if you’re not sure where you belonged, just ask her. More importantly, during the show itself, if there’s a prop left there in the dark, or someone or something is otherwise out of place, she’ll cover it up and get us back to where we need to be.

It speaks volumes about her that she goes out of her way to help; just the other day, when I mentioned the Dessert cabaret, she came up to me and said, “If you need me to run it, just let me know.” Well, we met earlier today about it, so it has a pretty good chance of being successful. The gypsy is probably best know to you for her athletic prowess and grace as a dancer; I know she was angry at me for picking a show that doesn’t have as much dancing as she would have liked, but hopefully this presentation will make up for it in some way ...

Emily, I want you to know how much I appreciate you and and all the work you’ve done. Your generosity and hard-working nature can probably be traced back to her family; if our sets end up looking impressive, it’ll partly be because your family sold us the lumber at a reasonable price and even cut it to the sizes we needed. I know Emily will continue to perform but, even more than that (and I mean this as a compliment), I can also see her working behind the scenes as a choreographer and/or a director -- she knows how to motivate and instruct and create. When you’re doing your leapfrogs, you’ll have her to thank. If you were to ask me or any of her coaches, we’d say she’s the ultimate “team player,” the person who sacrifices her own interests for the greater good of the team. And everyone who she works with in the future will benefit from the insights of having worked with such a talented and creative actress, dancer, and singer.

2003 -- Marissa A.

Don't have the remarks archived, but I will add what I remember ... Tune in after 3/24/06!

Well, it's 3/19/08 and I'm finally here to add my commentary.  Marissa A. is the reason that this award was created in the first place; she was "just" a supporting player, but she was always around and always trying to help out and I said to myself, "Myself, we need a way to honor people like that."  Then I came across an article about the "real" gypsy robe and I knew what I needed to do.

Marissa first caught my attention when she worked behind a newsstand in Guys and Dolls and, even though she didn't have (m)any lines, she was always "in the moment" relating to the scene.  She was a "backgrounder" again in 7th grade in The Pajama Game.  In eighth grade, she finally "broke through" and snagged a nice big, fat, juicy supporting part as Bratt, the head of personnel department at the World Wide Wicket company.

I remember the day we presented the award.  I'm not sure if I told the kids about it ahead of time, but I gave it out on the day of the Great Neck Record cast photo and she was extremely touched and honored and even a little choked up.  Back in these days, I had the element of surprise on my side, so she had no idea she was going to receive it.  It was even more special for me because I had the pleasure of getting to know Marissa when she was in my English class that year; she was a thoughtful, creative, intelligent and conscientious student, and she brought all of those qualities to our cast.  Not only that, her mother was one of the seamstresses who helped create the dresses we still call the "Paris Originals."

There's a little bit of a sad ending to the story of our first Gypsy.  As it turned out, she and cast counterpart (hi, Jessica S.!) both ended up sick on our show dates and their voices were reduced to croaks.  Nevertheless, we heard both of them fine and they even managed to squeak through their solo snippet of song.

Now she's off at college somewhere.  Maybe Dan H. or someone like that will read this and tell her to check it out and she'll drop her old teacher/director a line to check in and say hi.  I always cherish hearing back from you guys and hearing about your lives after you leave here so, if anyone at all is even reading this any more, please remember to stay in touch!




Great Neck South Middle School
Page last updated 3/19/15