Stirring the Pudding

Bid farewell to the genteel shabbiness of the Hasty Pudding building on Holyoke Street. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has agreed to acquire the structure and will spend $10 million or so to rehabilitate it for undergraduate uses, primarily theatrical ones.

In 1986, feeling a financial pinch, the Institute of 1770—an umbrella organization that governs the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, the Hasty Pudding social club, and two student singing groups, the Pitches and the Krokodiloes—sold the land that the Pudding building sits on to Harvard. Since then, the institute was meant to be paying market-rate rent to FAS and has, in turn, rented space to the restaurant Up Stairs at the Pudding. But the institute hasn't kept up with the rent and lacks the money to maintain the building. The graduate board of the institute has therefore agreed to transfer ownership of the building to FAS, which will forgive the institute its debt in return.

Last spring structural engineers probed the 124-year-old structure to assess just how profoundly the Pudding has gone to pot. The building needs extensive structural, electrical, and plumbing work; the big question was whether it is safe for undergraduate use in the coming year. David P. Illingworth '71, associate dean of the College, now reports that the building can remain open in the coming academic year for use by the student groups that have been using it. Planners will spend the time mapping its thorough renovation, and the building will close for construction in the 2001-2002 academic year.

When it reopens, the Theatricals, the Pitches, and the Kroks will continue to have a home in it. The social club might as well if it revised its membership-selection process to conform with College rules for recognized student groups. What other uses the building may be put to is unknown at this time, says Illingworth, but they will be undergraduate uses exclusively.

Whether the Pudding Theatricals' long tradition of all-male casts will persist may be in doubt, but not, according to dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68, because of this new arrangement. Although the Pudding has thus far been judged technically to conform to College rules--it does invite women undergraduates to participate in all aspects of productions apart from treading the boards --Illingworth says he would be willing to talk about women appearing on stage in future. President Neil L. Rudenstine is reported to favor such innovation.

Acquisition of the Pudding building delights Illingworth and other administrators, who have been fretting over the potential loss of access to Agassiz Theatre in Radcliffe Yard in 2004. The Radcliffe Institute has expressed interest in using that theater for its own purposes. Even if access to Agassiz isn't lost, says Illingworth, the Pudding will be valuable performance space to have. (One thing it lacks that Agassiz has is a shop for building sets.)

The future of the elegant but jolly restaurant operating at the top of the building was unclear at press time. Its lease expires at the end of August. Harvard Planning and Real Estate is helping restaurant management find a suitable new location in Cambridge. Anxious gourmands await the next act.

 

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