Harvard’s famed Hasty Pudding Theatricals student theater troupe will allow women to be cast in productions for the first time since it began staging student-written theater 174 years ago.
The famously irreverent troupe, which claims to be the oldest theater troupe in the United States and the third-oldest in the world, made the announcement Thursday during its annual Woman of the Year celebration, which honored the actress Mila Kunis.
While women have been allowed to participate in the group behind the scenes, only men have performed on stage until now. The announcement, made by Hasty Pudding Theatricals President Amira T. Weeks, was met with loud applause and cheers from the crowd gathered.
“With no further fanfare, the graduate board of the Hasty Pudding Institute has determined that, commencing with the 2019 Hasty Pudding Show, that Hasty Pudding welcomes women to audition for roles in the show,” Weeks read in a letter from the graduate board.
The Hasty Pudding Institute was founded in 1795 as a social club and boasts five US Presidents among its members, according to the group’s website.
The Theatricals began performing in 1844, often lampooning politics and current affairs through burlesque-influenced skits. With men performing all the roles, the annual performances became known for their use of drag. Each show also ends with an all-male kick line, according to the group’s site.
Hasty Pudding had come under fire for excluding women on stage. A recent Boston Globe column encouraged Kunis to reconsider accepting the Woman of the Year award since the group did not allow women to perform.
“How they can continue to do so, especially now, when women in Hollywood and their allies are on a crusade against sexism and harassment, is unfathomable,” columnist Yvonne Abraham wrote.
In a news conference during Thursday’s Woman of the Year festivities, Kunis said she “wouldn’t be here” if the change had not been made.
“It wasn’t a stipulation, it was just something that to me was very important,” she said. “To clarify, this is something this program has always wanted to do. It has nothing to do with me or today. It is simply something that was going to happen inevitably.”