Hasty Pudding adds to the mix
An historic theatrical group from Boston's Harvard University is to return to the Bermuda stage tomorrow — with women in the cast for the first time.
Hasty Pudding Theatricals will showcase their new show, France France Revolution, which has broken a tradition of men playing both male and female characters that dates back to the 19th century.
Shirley Chen, one of the first female Hasty Pudding cast members, said: “For me, working in a new medium of theatre, while simultaneously combating those sceptics who discouraged women on cast and the broad stereotype against women in comedy, has been challenging for sure.
“I've never had to work harder on anything in my entire life, but in just two short months I've grown more as an actor, artist and person than I ever have.
“And every night, I get to go onstage, dress like a ridiculously flamboyant British swordsman with an even more ridiculous pencil moustache, and goof around with twelve of my closest, most talented friends.”
Ms Chen added: “It's a bit strange to think that I'm inhabiting a space that was never intended to be mine, but it feels pretty damn good.”
Hasty Pudding, the third-oldest theatre organisation in the world, opened its first show in 1844.
The company's annual musical production has evolved over the years into a “pun-filled musical extravaganza”.
The company has brought its shows to Bermuda every year since 1965. Max Weiss, one of the writers of France France Revolution, said the idea of mixed-sex casts had been debated in the company for years.
Mr Weiss said: “We progressively made co-ed every other part of the company, the business staff, the tech crew, the band, the creative team.
“In the past, because cross-dressing is such an important part of our show to our audiences, the company was apprehensive to bring on all genders.
Mr Weiss added: “By not casting women, we were not only missing out on a pool of extraordinarily talented and hilarious performers at Harvard, but we were also missing out on the opportunity to add in more cross-dressing with males playing female roles and females playing male roles.
“We are now able to cast any role in the show with the best person at Harvard for the part.”
Mr Weiss admitted some traditionalists were worried about the change before they saw the show.
But he said: “After watching the ensemble of remarkable performers, especially those that had been excluded from the casting process in prior years, the positive impact of the change was undeniable.
Following opening night, we did not receive any negative feedback other than, ‘Why didn't we do this earlier?'.”
France France Revolution, the 171st Hasty Pudding production, is set in the midst of the French Revolution with butcher Phil Aymignon leading a revolt against Queen Reina Terror after her right hand, Neville Letchaguardown, seizes southern bovine Belle Rounderneck. Mr Weiss added that he and the rest of the company were looking forward to a return to the island for their 56th performance.
He said: “Not only is the City of Hamilton so welcoming and accommodating while we are visiting, but the audiences are by far the most enthusiastic we encounter over our 40-show run.
“The company cannot wait to get to the pink sandy beaches of Bermuda, mingle with all of the local friends we have made in past years and put on the best show yet.”
• HPT 171: France France Revolution will be performed at the Earl Cameron Theatre in City Hall from March 20 to 22.
Tickets are available now at bdatix.bm
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