Thought Box

Harvard’s Theatre Troupe opens doors for Women for the first time in 200 Years

Harvard’s Theatre Troupe opens doors for Women for the first time in 200 Years

by Yash Saboo September 26 2018, 5:11 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 21 secs

Time and again, the staging of all-male theatre productions have uncorked an explosion of frustration from women actors, writers and directors. The reason? There is a sense of basic injustice. Actor Janet Suzman talked of a "really frustrating" career where there "aren't bloody well enough parts for women"; deeper concerns were also expressed.

This failure to represent women, argued the actor, writer, and director Stella Duffy, was deeply entwined with society's wider failure to put women's voices on an equal footing with men's. A sense of responsibility to the world was, she said, being ducked – particularly by our larger national stages. In an impassioned blog post, she wrote: "When we do not see ourselves on stage we are reminded, yet again, that the people running our world (count the women in the front benches if you are at all unsure) do not notice when we are not there. That they think men (and yes, white, middle-class, middle-aged, able-bodied men at that) are all we need to see."

Well, times are changing.

Men perform in drag during the Hasty Pudding Theatricals 1953 production. (Bettmann Archive)

In a historical move, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, the legendary Harvard troupe that has been male-only for nearly 200 years, announced its first co-ed cast. After its auditions this weekend, the 12-member group best known for its Man and Woman of the Year award shows and parades will feature six men and six women, the Harvard Crimson reported.

“We as an organization continue to be in awe of the level of talent of the students on Harvard’s campus, and we are so excited that for the first time in 175 productions, Harvard students of all genders will have the opportunity to showcase that talent on the Hasty Pudding stage,” says Grace C. Ramsey, the group’s president, in a statement.

Harvard seniors Olivia Miller and Tess Davison who auditioned for stage roles. (Harvard Crimson)

The group announced their intention to go co-ed in January at a ceremony honouring actress Mila Kunis, a decision that came amid increasing pressure to disrupt the boys’ club and followed efforts to end other gender-exclusionary groups on campus, including all-male and all-female final clubs. Kunis said she knew about the announcement of plans to go co-ed ahead of time. “I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” she said, adding that she did not pressure the group.

Prior to this, women had played roles behind the scenes at Hasty Pudding, but they had not been given space on the stage. That wasn’t for lack of trying. Women tried in each of the last three years to audition but had never been called back, the Crimson reported. Six women have been chosen to perform in the 2019 show, accounting for half the cast.

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