On Saturday and Sunday, Harvard men will audition for the cast of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, a theater troupe famous for its all-male, burlesque, cross-dressing performances—just as Harvard men have done almost annually since 1844. This year, however, at least 17 female students plan to take the stage alongside them.
These women have signed up for this year’s auditions to protest the unfairness of an all-male cast: Although women are involved in the production, technical work, band, and other aspects of the Pudding’s productions, cast roles are occupied exclusively by men, regardless of the gender of the part. In light of the protest, HPT President Robert T. Fitzpatrick ’16 wrote in an email to The Crimson that the question of including women in the performances had been brought up last spring and is a “topic of serious conversation.”
The issue at hand demands more than just a conversation. After 171 years of all-male performances, it is time for the HPT to open its cast roles to everyone with the talent to fill them—regardless of gender.
There's value in certain single-sex artistic forms, such as barbershop quartets and other acapella groups. But in most cases, there's also a female alternative to the performances or organizations: At Harvard, for example, boys can sing for the Harvard Krokodiloes or Din and Tonics, and girls may join the Radcliffe pitches. There is no female counterpart to the Hasty Pudding cast, and given the unparalleled opportunities being a cast member can offer to an undergraduate interested in theater, that's a big problem.
The Pudding is the third oldest theatrical group in the world, known for its prestige, professionalism, and talent from Cambridge to New York City to Bermuda and beyond. It provides its members a rare chance to make connections at an international level, and gain knowledge and experience in ways that are unattainable in most other groups—ways that could help launch the professional careers of aspiring performers. To exclude women from the Pudding’s casts is to deny them this same opportunity.
In a better world, students today could found an all-female equivalent to the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, providing women the same resources, opportunities, and experiences that the male group provides men. In an ideal world, such an equivalent would already exist. In the real world, though, there is no female Pudding and neither is there a viable way to create one. The Pudding has a long and established history, deep connections with its professional partners, and a quality alumni support apparatus—all near impossible to replicate.
This history and these connections shouldn’t be an excuse for the Pudding to cry tradition and remain all-male. Instead, they should be a reason for the organization to take a chance and make a change: Over years of creative and comedic productions, the Pudding has built up a legitimacy few other college organizations can claim. That legitimacy won’t disappear with a change alumni and some current members are already clamoring for. It’s time for the Pudding to stop dragging its feet and open its doors.
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