UPDATED: September 12, 2015, at 10:19 p.m.
Following through on their plans to protest the all-male cast of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, more than a dozen women flooded Farkas Hall on Saturday and auditioned to act with the campus drag troupe.
The group, however, will “be maintaining an all-male cast” for its 168th production this year, according to an email protesters received from Theatricals executive officers Saturday evening.
Over Labor Day weekend, a group of undergraduate women filled Pudding audition slots en masse in public protest of the makeup of the troupe’s cast, which has been composed of all men since its first performance in 1844.
Women are involved in the Theatricals—famous for its burlesque shows and tradition of “roasting” celebrities—through its business staff, tech crew, band, and creative writing and music teams. But to a group undergraduate women who organized this weekend’s stunt, that is not enough.
“It’s just really outdated and unfair that this cast for the last almost 200 years hasn’t had women,” Tess V. Davison ’16 said on Saturday, after her own audition. “We just decided, let’s shake it up a little bit and get a huge group of women to audition, and here we are.”
Davison, who is active in theater on campus, organized the protest alongside Olivia R. Miller ’16.
Although their auditions for the Pudding were in fact a protest of the organization itself, several women who participated said they did not sense animosity from Theatricals members. Many of the protesters are friends with members of the group.
“There was a really great energy, both outside of the room and inside of the room, and it was just a very supportive environment, both from the girls auditioning and the boys auditioning there and all of our friends from the Hasty Pudding in the room,” Miller said.
Several members of the group declined to comment Saturday afternoon, and reporters, gathered outside the audition venue, were barred from Farkas Hall.
Theatricals president Robert T. Fitzpatrick ’16 could not be reached for comment early Saturday evening. Last week, however, he released a statement saying that the Pudding is considering adding women to its cast and that the group appreciated “those outside of our company” engaging with the topic.
In the email protesters received Saturday evening, Theatricals officers wrote that the stunt was "very productive for the conversation that we’ve been having and will continue to have, and we really appreciate your taking the time to do so."
The women who auditioned Saturday took to the stage with varying levels of acting and singing experience, but were united in their goal of calling for reform.
In an impromptu display for reporters following her audition, Elizabeth P. Terry-Kantor ’18 sang “Joey Is a Punk Rocker,” an excerpt of which she performed for a panel of judges, including several Theatricals officers.
Nicole C. Hirschhorn ’16, a member of the campus improv comedy troupe the Immediate Gratification Players, simply sang “Happy Birthday” and said she is not a “born performer.” Still, she said, it was “powerful” to hear other female voices audition from the hallway.
“I just can’t help thinking that there’s so much talent here and I hope that all the voices get heard,” Hirschhorn said.
The women’s protest has stirred discussion on campus about gendered organizations, and it has also attracted extensive attention on social media and from outside media outlets.
Several women interviewed said they see their biggest obstacle not as the Theatricals’ current undergraduate members, but rather the influence of its graduate board. The Theatricals is part of the umbrella organization the Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770—which also includes the Hasty Pudding social club and the all-male Krokodiloes, an a capella group—and boasts many famous alumni who are still involved with the group.
Terry-Kantor, one of the women who auditioned, observed that there is a “level of separation” between the protesters and the graduate board. Undergraduates will have to communicate their message to alumni, she said.
Two days ago, the Theatricals posted a statement about the protest to its website, writing that the tradition of having an all-male cast is an “artistic decision.”
“Presenting men in women's roles is the Hasty Pudding's artistic trademark, the artistic merit of which comes from its challenge to traditional perceptions and expectations of masculinity,” the statement reads. “That brand of satire is what makes the Pudding unique and has been a significant draw for our audiences and patrons.”
—Staff writer R. Blake Paterson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlakePat95.