Pudding Caught Red-Handed with Plans for New Show

Last year, the Hasty Pudding Theatricals explored the world of ancient Greece with its 161st show, “Acropolis Now,” a comical look at the first Olympics. For its 162nd production, HPT is transporting audiences back to another Greece—“Grease” of the 1950s—with its upcoming show, “Commie Dearest.”

Written by Alexandra A. Petri ’10 and Megan L. Amram ’10—the team that also penned “Acropolis Now”—“Commie Dearest” features the Cold War, Communism, climate change, racism, and even potatoes. “It’s about Communists and ‘Grease’ and aliens,” Amram says. “A time when men were men, women were men in drag, and illegal aliens were from space.”

Opening at the New College Theatre on February 5, 2010, “Commie Dearest” includes such characters as 50s housewife and witch Sadie Magicword, Cuban diner owner Desi Speakenglish, half-fish Marlin Monroe, and gay ballplayer Doug Out—all acted by men, as per HPT tradition. The villains of the show, Communist sympathizer Pink Lady Bobbie Sox and nefarious Communist potato Spud Nick, devise a plan to freeze the world.

The co-writers are working tirelessly to ensure that “Commie Dearest” is a strong follow up effort. “It’s like if we were producing our second child. It’s different and a new one, but we’re going to love it as much as our first child,” Petri says. “We don’t want to rest on our laurels.”

“What’s different is there are no jokes this year,” Amram says. “We ran out of jokes. It’s actually a tender family drama. It’s like ‘Roots.’”

“We’re both gayer now,” Petri adds.

According to Amram and Petri, it is rare that the same writing team has the opportunity to create the show two years in a row, a phenomenon made even more meaningful because last year’s production was the first to be written entirely by women. “The Pudding has been so receptive of this script written by two women,” Amram says. “To think a hundred years ago, we would have been in Radcliffe Yard, needle-pointing a script.”

Despite their work last year, Amram and Petri still had to complete the script comp required of all potential HPT writers in order to narrow the field of applicants to the final individuals chosen. Their prior experience undoubtedly helped the duo secure their positions again, but Amram credits another unlikely resource that might have been of assistance. “We thought of the name of the show early on,” she says. “The favorite movie of all time of Cliff Murray [Clifford N. Murray ’10], the president of the Pudding, is ‘Mommie Dearest.’ We thought if we used it we would automatically finish the script comp. And we did.”

Once Amram and Petri were chosen to write the script, they sat down with Tony Parise, who has been the Pudding’s professional director since 1996, to identify those characters who would survive to be in the production. They then held a marathon meeting early in the fall to conceive the entire plot and structure. Now the two are working on their fourth draft.

“Over J-term, writing will really kick into high gear,” Amram says. “That’s when rehearsals start. It’s a totally delirious time, and we’re changing it up until, like, the day it opens. The plot won’t be decided until two days before opening night.”

“We’re not kidding,” she says. “We’re still editing 161.”

“They tell us this is how they make real Broadway shows,” Petri continues.

Not all material survives the many drafts. “Truman Kaput was a ghost writer—like, an actual ‘ghost’ writer—who did not make it into the show,” Petri says. “We had to ritualistically murder him. He would probably be my favorite child I didn’t actually have.”

Another sacrifice in the script purge was a song performed by Communist potato Spud Nick. “I wanted the potato to sing a beautiful ballad called ‘The Vegetable Medley,’” Amram says. “It might still. But it probably won’t.”

Among those jokes that have found their way into the script, the writers’ current favorite involves General Dwight Supremacy, who hangs signs reading “Dwights Only” on everything. “Dwight Supremacy is how we skirt around the racism issue,” Amram says. “He wants segregation between Dwights and everyone else.”

“People named Dwight are better than other people,” Petri adds.

The writing process has been smooth for roommates Amram and Petri, who first collaborated on “Ask Me Anything,” the 2010 Freshman Musical for which Petri wrote the libretto and Amram provided lyrics. This same division of roles has continued for “Acropolis Now” and “Commie Dearest.” However, the two consider all elements of the script together. “I’ve talked to Alex more than I’ve talked to some of my close genetic family members,” Amram says. “We got it last year, and we get it this year. We both really care a lot about what happens, and we haven’t had our big falling out yet. It’s going to happen circa 2024.”

“We’re going to be at the opening of ‘Product Placement: The Musical,’ and I’ll storm on stage and throw something, and that something will be Mamram,” Petri says.

If comedy writing doesn’t work out for the duo, there are always other avenues to pursue. “I’m actually a computer science concentrator,” Petri says. “They told me to write scripts, and I got confused.”

—Staff writer Ali R. Leskowitz can be reached at