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Facts You Should Know About The Hasty Pudding Theatricals

Every January, you might be lucky enough to catch one of your favorite female celebrities cruising down Mass Ave. She’ll be cloaked in feathers and sequins and surrounded by a fabulous posse of men in drag, while starring in a jubilant parade in her honor. Before you know it, she is whisked into the Hasty Pudding Club for a hidden celebration that dates back to 1951.

This year, Octavia Spencer and Ryan Reynolds have been crowned the Woman and Man of the Year.

On Thursday, January 26th Octavia Spencer will enjoy her moment in the Cambridge spotlight. The time-honored parade will begin around 2:45p in Harvard Square from Mass Ave to Holyoke Street. Although Ryan Reynolds will not be paraded through the square, you can catch his press conference live on the Hasty Pudding's Facebook page for free at 8:40p on February 3rd. 

The Hasty Pudding’s Man and Woman of the Year celebration has become Cambridge’s most beloved but mysterious annual event of the year. Curious? Here are some facts you should know:

First off: what is the Hasty Pudding Theatricals?

The Hasty Pudding Theatricals (or ‘The Pudding’ for short) is a student-run theatrical society at Harvard University. The Pudding is known for their burlesque, cross-dressing musical performances. The club was founded on September 1, 1795 with the mission of bringing undergraduate students together. In the early days, the Hasty Pudding existed as an artistic fraternity where members hosted mock trials discussing current events. Those performances ultimately evolved into student-written shows that were and still are presented to the Cambridge community and beyond.

What makes them special?

The Hasty Pudding Theatricals happen to be the third oldest theater organization in the entire WORLD.  They stemmed from the Hasty Pudding Club, which exists as the oldest social club in the United States. The Hasty Pudding Club is also the only co-ed social club on the Harvard University campus, and accepts members from all four classes.

WHAT IS 'HASTY PUDDING' ANYWAYS?

Hasty pudding is a porridge made of cornmeal and molasses, similar to polenta, and is inexpensive and quick to make. Hasty pudding might not be a staple in today’s diet, but back in the 1700s it was a traditional dish that New Englanders loved to eat.

Why did the founders decide to name their club ‘Hasty Pudding’?

When the club was originally founded, each meeting began with the arrival of two undergrads who were required drag an enormous cast-iron pudding pot across Harvard Yard to every meeting. Why you ask? The club members lamented the lack of appealing food served at the Harvard dining halls and they decided that they needed to make a stand and provide a pot of pudding for every meeting as a much-needed treat.

The pudding pot has since become a symbol – each Man and Woman of the Year honoree is awarded with a small golden pot at the end of his or her celebratory roast.

The Woman of the Year Award started 16 years before the first Man of the Year award was given.

The Woman of the Year Award dates back to 1951, while the first Man of the Year award was given in 1967.

How does the club select who will take the honor of Man and Woman of the Year?

Each honoree is selected based on who the club believes has made an impact on the entertainment industry in a significant way.

Notable Woman of the Year Honorees include:

Gertrude Lawrence was the club’s pick for the first Woman of the Year award.

Elizabeth Taylor (1977)
Meryl Streep (1980)
Cher (1985)
Lucille Ball (1988)
Sarah Jessica Parker (2002)
Halle Berry (2006)
Anne Hathaway (2010)
Amy Pohler (2015)
Kerry Washington (2016)
Octavia Spencer (2017)

For a complete list of past honorees, click here.

Notable Man of the Year Honorees include:

Bob Hope was the club’s pick for the first Man of the Year award.

Johnny Carson (1977)
Robin Williams (1989)
Clint Eastwood (1991)
Tom Hanks (1995)
Anthony Hopkins (2001)
James Franco (2009)
Justin Timberlake (2010)
Chris Pratt (2015)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (2016)
Ryan Reynolds (2017)

For a complete list of past honorees, click here.

The club has an equally impressive list of notable club members and alumni.

The Hasty Pudding Theatricals has become a hive for producing professional shows and iconic writers, directors, actors, and leaders including Theodore Roosevelt, JP Morgan, Charlie Baker, JFK, John Adams, BJ Novak and Rashida Jones.

What happens during the Woman of the Year ceremony?

The Woman of the Year ceremony begins with a festive parade through the streets of Cambridge followed by a celebratory roast and the traditional presentation of the pudding pot at the Hasty Pudding’s clubhouse. The revelry finishes with a press conference, and most importantly a viewing of the club’s newest performance.

What happens during the Man of the Year ceremony?

A traditional Man of the Year ceremony includes a tour of Harvard Yard and a roast by members of the Hasty Pudding Theatrical. It is followed by the awarding of the pudding pot. The evening finishes with the opening-night performance of the club’s newest performance.

How can I see a Hasty Pudding Theatrical’s Performance?

Yes, you can see the Hasty Pudding Theatricals in action! This year, catch the 169th performance – Casino Royal. The show will perform from February 4 through March 6.  Click here to learn more. 


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