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For The First Time In Its 170 Year History, Hasty Pudding Allows Women On Its Stage

Actress Mila Kunis is kissed by actors dressed in drag during the Hasty Pudding Parade in January 2018. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Actress Mila Kunis is kissed by actors dressed in drag during the Hasty Pudding Parade in January 2018. (Charles Krupa/AP)
This article is more than 1 year old.

After more than 170 years, Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals has at last accepted women into its onstage ranks.

On Sunday, six women were selected to join the cast of the 2019 Hasty Pudding show, according to the Harvard Crimson. They are Shirley L. Chen, Laura S. Herman, Celia K. Kenney, Ashley M. LaLonde, Annabel O’Hagan and Ellen L. Shaheen. Twelve students were cast in all.

Hasty Pudding Theatricals has been mounting scripted productions at Harvard University since 1844, and has historically cast only men. Women have long held positions in other aspects of production, like tech and design. But in recent years, there has been pressure to include women in the performance troupe. In January of this year, the organization announced it would cast women in the 2019 show.

Pudding President Grace C. Ramsey confirmed the casting of the six women in an email early Monday, the Crimson reported. "We as an organization continue to be in awe of the level of talent of the students on Harvard’s campus, and we are so excited that for the first time in 175 productions, Harvard students of all genders will have the opportunity to showcase that talent on the Hasty Pudding stage," Ramsey wrote.

"I feel especially honored to be the first ever black woman in the cast," said LaLonde in a written statement to WBUR. (The Harvard undergrad is currently an understudy in the ensemble cast for the American Repertory Theater's "The Black Clown.") "We really are making history. For years, women have fought for gender equality in casting. The Hasty Pudding is by far the most professional theatrical production available to college students around the country. So it’s an invaluable experience for any Harvard student pursuing a career in the performing arts, regardless of gender."

The Hasty Pudding is “the nation’s oldest collegiate theatrical organization,” according to its website. The group is well known and regarded for its spectacular original productions, which combine musical numbers and comedy. Traditionally, men have portrayed both male and female roles, and elaborate drag costumes have become a hallmark of Hasty Pudding shows.

The organization attracts national attention every year when it anoints a Woman and Man of the Year, typically Hollywood actors. Past winners include Lucille Ball, Amy Poehler, Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. Last year, Woman of the Year winner Mila Kunis reportedly urged the Hasty Pudding Institute’s graduate board to cast women in its productions. At a press conference, she told reporters she would not have attended the 2018 Woman of the Year celebrations if the board had not agreed to allow co-ed casts going forward.

Women began auditioning for Pudding productions in 2015. In 2016, the Crimson reported that over 80 Hasty Pudding Theatricals alumni had signed a petition urging the organization to allow women to join its casts.

This article was originally published on September 17, 2018.

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Amelia Mason Twitter Arts And Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for The ARTery, WBUR's arts and culture team. She covers everything from fine art to television to the inner workings of the Boston music scene.

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