Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club Considers Adding 1st Female Performers

Sep 14, 2015
Originally published on October 2, 2015 6:59 pm
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's one of the nation's oldest old-boy networks with alumni like John Adams, J.P. Morgan, FDR, JFK, Jack Lemmon and, more recently, B.J. Novak from NBC's "The Office." All those men were members of Hasty Pudding, a student club and musical theater club at Harvard. Craig Lemoult of member station WGBH reports on a challenge this weekend to the exclusive club by campus women.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: The cast of The Hasty Pudding theatrical's pun-filled musical review has always been all men, but that doesn't mean there are no female characters on stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Character) Greetings. I am mail-order bride from Soviet Republic of Georgia. You are to be my husband.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LEMOULT: Harvard men in outrageous drag costumes prance across the Hasty Pudding stage, sometimes in a stocking-clad, high-kicking chorus line.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AMY POEHLER: It's unsettling that there'll be no women on stage tonight (laughter).

(APPLAUSE)

LEMOULT: Last year, the Pudding honored "Saturday Night Live" alum and "Parks And Recreation" star Amy Poehler as its woman of the year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POEHLER: You know it's time for a change when the Augusta National Golf Club has lapped you in terms of being progressive.

(APPLAUSE)

LEMOULT: Women do write for the show and work backstage, but Poehler's comment got Harvard undergrad Olivia Miller's attention.

OLIVIA MILLER: And that kind of clicked for us. We were thinking, well, yeah, there aren't women on stage, and, like, what is the reasoning behind this?

LEMOULT: So they sent an email to a group of female friends from the theatre community on campus, and on Saturday, about 20 of them auditioned for The Hasty Pudding.

LIZ KANTOR: It was definitely one of the best auditions I've ever given.

LEMOULT: Sophomore Liz Kantor was smiling as she emerged from the audition. They were asked to read two scripts and sing a song. In keeping with the irreverent tone of Hasty Pudding, Kantor chose a song called "Joey Is A Punk Rocker."

KANTOR: (Singing) And in that instant, I saw, I knew that his nipples were pierced but his heart was true. And he's in love...

LEMOULT: Senior Tess Davison says they're not against The Hasty Pudding. They love the group.

TESS DAVISON: And we're not trying to force them to do anything, and we're not trying to take legal action. We just really wanted to get them all thinking about the fact that this is 2015, and it's just, really, time.

LEMOULT: She says men in drag are funny, but women dressed as men are funny too.

DAVISON: We have men playing men in the show, which is not drag, so I think it could become an even more draggy production (laughter).

LEMOULT: Several of the women who auditioned say their undergrad friends in the all-male cast support a change but that it's not up to them. The Pudding is independent of the university, and a board made up of alums calls the shots. No one from Hasty Pudding would speak on tape. But in a statement before the additions, a spokesperson said having an all-male cast is an artistic decision and a trademark. Saturday night, after their auditions, the women received an email from Hasty Pudding. The group is sticking with an all-male cast.

MILLER: Well, of course we're very disappointed about the outcome.

LEMOULT: But Miller says a conversation has started.

MILLER: The conversation will continue, and I think it's an important conversation to have, both about inclusivity and creativity in The Hasty Pudding and perhaps beyond this one institution to other groups on campus or other groups on other campuses.

LEMOULT: Several of the women who auditioned will still be on the Harvard campus next year and say they plan to sign up once again to audition for The Hasty Pudding show. For NPR News, I'm Craig Lemoult in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.