Pudding Gives $11,000 to City Schools

PUDDING THEIR MONEY TO GOOD USE
Michael W. Nitsch

BO MENG ’06, left, and JOHN P. BLICKSTEAD ’06, sport costumes as they join fellow Hasty Pudding members in donating $11,000 to the Cambridge Public Schools yesterday.

Before an audience of 200 schoolchildren and actors gaudily dressed as a cloud and a dog, the Harvard College Hasty Pudding Theatricals (HPT) presented a check for $11,000 to the Cambridge Public Schools in a ceremony at the John M. Tobin School in Cambridge yesterday.

The ceremony marked the first time a student group from a local college had made such a contribution to the Boston area public schools, according to officials attending the event—who said the size of the gift was wholly unexpected.

“I thought $500, $1000, that would be nice, but when they came back in April and said $11,000, I was speechless, flabbergasted,” Director of Drama and Dance for Cambridge Public Schools Judith Contrucci said. “It caught me so off guard.”

The monies, known as the Hasty Pudding Theatricals Fund for Cultural Enrichment, were collected last spring under Shawn H. Snyder ’03 and will go towards providing students with more opportunities to take part in cultural activities in the Boston area.

“Arts aren’t optional,” Hasty Pudding Theatricals cast producer Nicholas H. Ma ’05 said. “They are an essential part of learning.”

This was the first time that the Hasty Pudding Theatricals has made a donation to the city’s public schools, although they have had a long history of involvement in charity programs, according to Theatricals press manager Romina Garber ’06, also a Crimson editor. In the past, HPT has donated money to the Phillips Brooks House Association and Boston Children’s Hospital through a designated “Charity Night” during their annual production.

“This was something that we did throughout the run [of the show] that we thought was incredibly important to provide the kind of opportunities that we have at Harvard and we had at our respective schools to our neighbors here at Cambridge Public Schools,” Ma said. “After speaking with [Contrucci] it seemed very clear that this would provide hundreds of children with opportunities to see shows in the Boston area and see artistic productions and such.”

Yesterday’s event, which took place in an auditorium packed with students in grades five through eight, included remarks by local politicians and school officials—including Mayor Michael. A. Sullivan, Deputy Superintendent Carolyn Turk and Tobin School Principal Don Watson. Watson noted that the Tobin school in particular has maintained strong connections with Harvard, participating in City Step, HARMONY, Phillips Brooks House Association programs and other tutoring initiatives.

The presentation also featured speakers from the Pudding Theatricals, who, in typical style, appeared outrageously dressed—entertaining the youthful audience.

Cast members John P. Blickstead ’06 and Bo Meng ’06—who ascended to the stage dressed as a muscular dog and a cloud—spoke to the students about the importance of appreciating the arts and getting involved at a young age.

“We want you to grow up loving the arts,” they said.

The two also shared their first experiences with the arts, with Blickstead recounting his childhood impressions of Phantom of the Opera.

“It was awesome. The smoke and mirrors and loud music and a chandelier falling from the ceiling, it was just incredible,” he said.

The duo also invited Contrucci onto the stage to speak, hugging her as she stepped to the podium.

“I’ve never been hugged by a cloud before, but it felt good,” Contrucci said.

Students said they were excited about both the presentation and about the impact of the fund.