David Westphal, former Equity councilor, staff member and devotee of the chorus, passed away February 11. He was 71.
Mr. Westphal was born to Laurel M. Westphal and Cleo M. Williams September 5, 1950, in Vandalia, Illinois, growing up in nearby Farina. He received his Equity card in 1970, in the chorus of a production of Little Me during his third season performing at the Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan, Illinois. Mr. Westphal soon moved to New York, where both his career and love for the chorus grew. He performed in dozens of shows, including the national tour of Applause and productions of Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing and Cabaret with Jack Gilford. Over the course of his artistic career, he also worked as a stage manager and choreographer.
Mr. Westphal first became an Eastern chorus councilor for Actors' Equity in 1981, a role he held for 20 years. As a member-leader, his work included serving on the Election Procedures Committee, the Nominating Committee (including as chair), as vice chair of the ACCA, and as a vice chair of the Deputy Committee. He also served on the Production Contract negotiating team and volunteered for VITA, assisting his fellow members with their tax returns.
In addition to his theatre career, Mr. Westphal also worked as a massage therapist. During the AIDS crisis, he volunteered his time working on Equity members struggling with the disease.
In 2007, Mr. Westphal joined the union’s staff as a business representative focused on the needs of chorus members. During his time on staff, he shepherded the ritual of the Legacy Robe, leading the ceremony on opening nights of most Broadway musicals. He remained on Equity staff for 13 years, retiring at the onset of the pandemic.
“David was such a champion of the chorus,” said Jennifer Cody, Actors' Equity Association's second vice president and chair of the Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs (ACCA). “He came from the chorus. He was crucial to making the ACCA Awards happen each year. He guided me when I first become second vice president.
“Many people will remember him as the person behind the Legacy Robe ceremony. At every ceremony he would ask everyone making their Broadway debut to come into the center of the stage, and everyone who’s ever seen a ceremony can attest to the joy in his face at that moment. That’s who David was.”
Mr. Westphal is survived by his sisters, Mary Kay Sigrist and Nancy Harper, and his brother Ted Westphal, as well as five nieces and nephews and 12 great-nieces and nephews.