Hasty Pudding Theatricals

The Hasty Pudding Theatricals, known informally simply as The Pudding, is a theatrical student society at Harvard University, known for its burlesque crossdressing musicals. The Hasty Pudding is the oldest theatrical organization in the United States, and the third oldest in the world, behind only the Comédie-Française and the Oberammergau Passion Players.[1] The Hasty Pudding Theatricals was described by John Wheelwright in 1897 as a "kindly association of men of all ages in a gay evening of simple enjoyment".[2] It is a comedy show.


Formed in 1795 as an artistic-minded fraternity, the Hasty Pudding was formed to "cultivate the social affections and cherish the feelings of friendship & patriotism [...]". Soon after, Pudding members began hosting mock trials of such phenomena as timely Harvard presidents and the study of mathematics. On December 13, 1844, the Pudding put up its first full performance, of a well-known tragic burlesque entitled Bombastes Furioso. After a period of producing popular comedies written by established playwrights, students at Harvard who were members of the Pudding began to write their own shows, starting with a production of Dido and Aeneas written by Owen Wister in 1882.[3] It has performed a production every year since, except two years during World War I and two years during World War II.

Previous members of Hasty Pudding have included John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Randolph Hearst, lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, Oscar winner Jack Lemmon, humorist Andy Borowitz, artist Henry Ives Cobb, Jr., actress Rashida Jones, and former Massachusetts governor William Weld.[4] Although women were a part of the company in the role of costumers for many years prior to this, In 1948, Felisa Vanoff (1925–2014) became the first female choreographer of the company.[5][6] In 1978, Diane Nabatoff became the first female Producer of the show. In 2009, Megan Amram and Alexandra Petri became the first all-female team to write the show.

Although the cast of the show had traditionally been all-male, on January 25, 2018, then-President Amira Weeks announced that the cast would officially go co-ed beginning with the company's 171st production.[7] However, the technical, band, creative, and business boards had also historically been co-ed. The 171st Hasty Pudding Show, entitled France France France Revolution, marked the first ever show with women in the cast. Under the healm of then-President Grace Ramsey and Cast Vice President David Lynch, the cast was evenly divided, with six men and six women; furthermore, sticking to Hasty Pudding tradition, the gender of the actor was not necessarily taken into account whilst casting the show (in fact, 8 of the performers were in drag, and 4 were not). The show was well reviewed and, since, the cast has been constructed without taking gender into account[8].

Each spring, the Pudding's Theatricals holds a 5-week run in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then tours to New York City and Bermuda.[9]

The Pudding is, maybe paradoxically, both a museum for antique theatrical practices and a magnet or training ground for innovative new talents. On the one hand its deliberately retro theatrical trappings (a once all-male cast; all-live pit orchestra with no computers or synthesizers; silly plots full of crude jokes, low-tech production values, collegiate humor and anachronistic puns) seem to preserve a museum-piece approach to musical theater.[3]

Yet for decades the Pudding has been incubating new talents at a steadily increasing rate. Pudding graduates are leaders in the fields of writing, directing, and performing in theater, television, movies and the other arts. At least three winners of the prestigious annual Ed Kleban Award for achievement in lyric writing have each been Pudding graduates. Pudding librettist Mark O'Donnell won a Tony Award in 2003 for co-authoring the book for Hairspray. He also co-authored the book for the Broadway musical Cry-Baby; its lyrics were penned by fellow Pudding alum David Javerbaum, who has since won 13 Emmy Awards, including 11 as head writer for The Daily Show—which also featured comedian Mo Rocca, a former Pudding librettist and President. Pudding actor Jerry Colker won the Drama Desk Award for authoring the book for the Off-Broadway musical Three Guys Naked From the Waist Down. Actress Rashida Jones (seen in Parks and Recreation, The Office, Boston Public, and the film I Love You, Man) co-composed the score of the show during her senior year. Paris Barclay wrote two Pudding shows and is now an Emmy-winning director and producer for dozens of film and television projects including NYPD Blue, Sons of Anarchy and Glee, and in 2013 was elected President of the Directors Guild of America. Pudding actor and composer Laurence O'Keefe wrote the music and lyrics for the Off-Broadway shows Bat Boy: The Musical and Heathers: The Musical. O'Keefe co-wrote the score to the Broadway musical Legally Blonde with his wife, Pudding librettist Nell Benjamin, who herself wrote the award-winning play The Explorers Club and is currently collaborating with Tina Fey on the musical adaptation of the film Mean Girls. Pudding bookwriter Mark O'Keefe co-wrote and co-produced the movies Bruce Almighty and Click. Pudding librettist Megan Amram became famous shortly after graduating for her comic Twitter feed and now writes for television shows like Parks and Recreation and Silicon Valley, and her co-writer Alexandra Petri now writes a regular column for the Washington Post, a newspaper. BJ Averell, a Pudding actor alumnus, was a Grand Prize winner of The Amazing Race and is also an accomplished sea captain. John Berman, a Pudding actor and President, is now a news anchor for CNN.

Origins of name

The Hasty Pudding name comes from a Colonial era (originally British) dish called hasty pudding, a kind of porridge made from cornmeal with molasses, honey or other ingredients, a New World cousin to the Italian polenta; called "hasty" because it is cheap and easy to make. It is not clear whether the dish was originally a staple or a dessert, but it is now served for dessert at the banquets thrown by the Pudding, such as opening night celebrations and the annual 'roasts' for their Man/Woman of the Year (see below).

Honorary awards

The society is notable for their annual selection of famous entertainers as Woman of the Year (since 1951) and Man of the Year (since 1967). These awards are usually treated with great seriousness by the honorees, who, since the unanticipated personal appearance of Jane Fonda to accept her award in 1961, always attend the awards ceremony, and are treated to a celebratory "roast," and a parade.


Over the course of its rich history, the Hasty Pudding Theatricals has adopted many significant symbols. The Hasty Pudding Theatricals has two official logos. The first is a sphinx holding a pudding pot. The second is a pudding pot depicted hanging over a fire. The Hasty Pudding Theatricals main color is a deep blue, though: crimson is also used due to its ties with Harvard University; green due to its connection with the Harvard Krokodiloes, an all-male A cappella group on campus; and yellow due to its connection with the Hasty Pudding Club, a social organization on campus. The shade of yellow used by the club is an ode to the color of traditional hasty pudding. The Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Hasty Pudding Club, and Harvard Krokodiloes are all organizations of the Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770 and share the same meeting space and social events on Harvard's campus.


Concordia Discors is the official motto of the Hasty Pudding, literally meaning: Discordant Harmony, or organized chaos, in English.


  1. "Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770 | Hasty Pudding Theatricals". hastypudding.org. Retrieved 2018-06-17.
  2. "An Illustrated History of the Hasty Pudding Club Theatricals". Hasty Pudding Club. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
  3. "History". Hasty Pudding Theatricals. Retrieved February 6, 2010.
  4. "History". Alumni. Retrieved February 6, 2010.
  5. Dagan, Carmel (10 June 2014). "Felisa Vanoff, Dancer, Patron of the Arts, Dies at 89". Variety. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  6. Brown, Emma S. (25 June 2014). "Obituary: Felisa Vanoff / Groundbreaking dancer and choreographer, June 11, 1924 – May 29, 2014". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  7. Bidgood, Jess (25 January 2018). "After 174 Years, Hasty Pudding Theatricals at Harvard Will Cast Women". New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  8. Saglio, Justin (20 February 2019). "Coed Hasty Pudding makes its debut". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  9. "Past Show Titles". Hasty Pudding Theatricals. Retrieved February 6, 2010.

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