Female students audition for Hasty Pudding Theatricals. And cheer each other's artistry and courage.
By Anita Lo '16
“Who’s in there?”
“Of course everyone.”
“Do you just hand the music to them?”
“Yeah, you just give Hugh the music and go.”
On September 12, more than a dozen female students auditioned for the Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ all-male cast for the 2016 season. In the past, women have been part of the Hasty Pudding as musicians, writers and producers, but never on stage or in the show. Their “protest” auditions this year made local and national news. And yet, in many ways, it was like any other audition.
Granted, I had never been to auditions for a theater show before, and the first thing I noticed, stepping over people’s legs to find a free spot, was the glut of water bottles. I had my own generic tumbler, but between knees, under legs, in hands and strapped into backpack pouches were DAPA Camelbaks, Nalgenes, Rubbermaid Refill-Reuse, stainless steel canteens and two empty Poland Spring bottles. Hydration remained a priority even for an audition of historic significance.
“Would you do it? If you got it?”
“I mean, I don’t know. I guess I’d have to get it first.”
The hallway outside the audition room buzzed with candidates singing under their breaths and whispering to each other. The floor was papered with sheet music: My Unfortunate Erection (Chip’s Lament), I’ll Make a Man Out of You, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. As the final chords of each performer’s song slipped through the door, the hall-side auditioners exchanged smiles and cheered quietly for a potential future cast-mate; each performer exited the audition room, generally laughing from exhilaration that she’d done it, and then filled everyone in.
“How was it?”
“I was so nervous; I was shaking.”
“You sounded so good.”
“I didn’t know you could sing!”
Each time the door opened, all heads turned and another name was called: Brooke? Veronica? Megan? And each time the door closed after the next audition candidate, the women waiting outside exchanged disbelieving grins.
“I was really nervous, but ended up enjoying the experience,” a candidate told me on her way out.
Would she accept if she were cast? “I would love to. But we’ll see.”
“I will say that the atmosphere inside was really receptive and positive,” another student added. “I don’t do many auditions, but they were welcoming and supportive and made it a very professional audition space.”
The Hasty Pudding Audition Sheet, copies stacked on a chair at the entrance of the hallway, don’t ask for much information. Other than previous experience, the form asks: “Can you do a British accent? A Swedish accent? Any other accents?” and “Anything special you can do? (E.g. stage combat, back flips, Scottish jigs, brilliant imitation of Pat Benatar…)” Most had their sheets in hand, all fields neatly filled out, but it’s not clear that they cared much about the form itself. They were much more interested in each other’s auditions (“Yeah! She was going to sing Annie Get Your Gun, I think.”)
Rather than a protest, an examination or even an audition, the continuous entry-and-exit parade from the audition room felt more like a celebration. Every new hallway entrant was welcomed as if to a party; I even heard the strains of Happy Birthday through the door, though I couldn’t tell whose name is inserted in the line “Happy Birthday to…” (Turns out, one student used it as her audition song.)
That night, the auditioners received emails from the Hasty Pudding informing them that they wouldn’t be called back for a second round; the all-male cast would remain all-male for at least another year. Despite this, I imagine that it wasn’t all too disastrous a call for the girls who auditioned. That afternoon, most girls left alone and as if they had come out of an otherwise normal audition, checking their phones and fitting black binders of sheet music into their bags. Most smiled; some were in a rush; some took their time down the stairs. Invariably, they took long draws from their water bottles before heading out into the rest of the day.