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Students Praise Pudding’s Mixed-Gender Cast as 'Move in the Right Direction'

When Ashley M. LaLonde ’20 heard that she was cast in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ 171st production, she was ecstatic.

"I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals for this historic moment in time,” she wrote in an email. “I can’t wait to challenge myself in new ways through this hilariously entertaining, gender-bending show.”

LaLonde is one of six women who found out Sunday that they had been selected to join the elite theater group’s first-ever mixed-gender cast. As news of the historic shift spread across campus over the next few days, students applauded the Pudding’s move and said they are excited to see the female cast members perform.

Annabel O'Hagan '19 lifts her arm in celebration after being selected as one of the first six female cast members in the history of Hasty Pudding Theatricals.

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“I think it’s a move in the right direction for gender equality on campus, and on all campuses,” Pierse M. Gray Coen ’22 said.

Of more than a dozen students interviewed by The Crimson, eleven said they approve of the Pudding’s choice. Some, however, said they wish the move to admit women had come sooner.

“It’s the 21st century, so it’s pretty late,” Yejin Kim ’22 said. “I don’t know why they didn’t do it sooner.”

The Pudding announced in Jan. 2018 that, for the first time in its nearly 200-year history, it planned to admit women as cast members, drawing national media coverage and prompting female students to vow to audition. The Pudding has kept an all-male cast of performers since its founding in 1844, though women hold positions on the group’s business, tech, and design boards, as well as the HPT band.

Controversy over the Pudding’s all-male cast has mounted in the past few years. Harvard women have tried to join the cast at least three times in the last five years — and each time have not received callbacks. Roughly three years ago, more than 86 alumni signed a petition calling on the group to admit women to its cast.

The Pudding’s announcement that it planned to admit women to the cast came mid-way through a celebration of actress Mila Kunis as the group’s 2018 Woman of the Year. The group bestows this honor on a different celebrity each year.

Kunis called at least one member of the Hasty Pudding Institute’s graduate board to discuss admitting women to the cast hours before the Pudding made its announcement. During a press conference held after the announcement, she said she would not have attended the Woman of the Year celebration if the Pudding had not decided to admit women to the cast.

“I would not be here otherwise,” she said at the time.

Former Pudding President Andrew L. Farkas ’82 wrote in a letter around the same time that the group had decided to go co-ed “some time ago” and had kept the decision mum until the Woman of the Year celebrations.

Women who tried out for the theatrical troupe this fall and failed to earn spots on the cast said they are thrilled by the precedent-breaking switch, too, even if their personal dreams of performing on the Pudding's stage did not pan out.

“Decisions are very hard to make, and overall I'm personally so excited that females have this opportunity,” said Chloe A. Saracco ’21, who auditioned and did not get cast. “Ultimately what I kept thinking was how fortunate I was to get to be part of this historical moment.”

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at caroline.engelmayer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.

—Staff writer Cassandra Luca can be reached at cassandra.luca@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cassandraluca_.

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