Declaring “the world is in a very different place” than it was when the group was formed more than two centuries ago, Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals announced Thursday that it will begin casting women in its shows next year.
The change, revealed during the troupe’s celebration of actress Mila Kunis as its Woman of the Year, comes after a growing number of students and alumni had called on the Hasty Pudding Theatricals to stop its practice of casting only men in productions.
Kunis was pleased with the switch and said she would not have attended Thursday’s ceremony otherwise.
The change was announced on stage by Hasty Pudding president Amira Weeks, reading a letter from Andrew Farkas, a Harvard alumnus who is the graduate chairman of the Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770. Farkas wrote that women will “be given equal opportunity based on the quality of their individual talents” to audition and perform in shows. The crowd at Farkas Hall stood and cheered loudly.
While it’s true that no women have appeared in a Hasty Pudding production since the group was created in 1795, Farkas noted in his letter that the troupe was the first social institution at Harvard to admit women and has many female members today. Kunis reiterated that point at a press conference afterward.
“Most of Hasty Pudding is women,” she said. “They’re just simply not on stage.”
Kunis, best known for her role on “That ’70s Show” and in the movie “Black Swan,” responded with some irritation to a recent Boston Globe column that suggested she should think twice about accepting an honor from a group whose theatrical productions are exclusively male.
“If you’re going to ask someone not to show up, it’s a pretty weak stance to take,” the actress said. “Backing down is not a stance.”
And Kunis has shown a willingness to take a stand. In 2016, a year before the sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement that followed, the 34-year-old actress wrote about sexism and inequality is Hollywood.
Thursday’s Hasty Pudding ceremony began, as always, with a parade down Mass. Ave. It wasn’t like the polar vortex of two years ago, when Dame Helen Mirren donned a furry white hat and long black gloves to brave the cold, but it was plenty bitter as Kunis rode in the back of a black Bentley convertible.
Thankfully, the parade traveled only a few blocks, and the honoree was bundled up, wedged snugly between a couple members of the cross-dressing troupe. Kunis looked completely unbothered by the chill, laughing at her lipsticked hosts as she waved to the crowd gathered in Harvard Square to gawk at the spectacle.
Trailing the parade were a few protesters with clever signs criticizing the Pudding’s all-male shows.
“Patriarchy is a drag,” read one.
Thursday morning, the Globe was notified by the event’s organizers that the newspaper’s photographer would not be given a credential to cover the parade or the roast and press conference.
It wasn’t clear who made the decision or why — “circumstances outside of our own control” was the cryptic explanation — but there was speculation it had to do with the column by the Globe’s Yvonne Abraham encouraging Kunis to turn down the honor.
But someone apparently had a change of heart because the Globe was later given a credential — two, in fact — to attend. Kunis was actually applauded in the pages of Thursday’s Globe, in the form of a full-page ad signed by her two children, Wyatt and Dimitri. (Kunis is married to her former “That ’70s Show” costar Ashton Kutcher.)
“Congratulations on Hasty Pudding! We love you!” the ad read.
The ad was placed — and paid for — by Michael van Reekum, a friend and associate of Kunis and Kutcher. (According to IMDb, van Reekum was Kunis’s assistant on the 2016 movie “Bad Moms.”)
At the roast following the parade, Kunis was a good sport as the Pudding pranksters poked fun at some of her filmography, particularly the 1996 Christmas comedy “Santa With Muscles,” a movie considered by many critics to be one of the worst of all time, costarring former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. (Next up for Kunis, by the way, is “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” which comes out in August and costars Kate McKinnon.)
Before the ceremony, Kunis had lunch with a few friends and Harvard students at Parsnip, where the savory — and sweet — bites fixed by executive chef James Salomone seemed to more than satisfy. We’re told Kunis ordered the winter chicory salad, farm-roasted chicken, and a brownie sundae paired with Chardonnay.