Theatre at the Pudding

The subject of this studio is the design of a new student theatre for Harvard Undergraduates on the site of the existing Hasty Pudding Club on Holyoke Street in Cambridge. The University has recently acquired the former privately owned building from the oldest society at Harvard. The Club was unable to maintain the building, and it has fallen into serious disrepair. In acquiring the building, Harvard intends to transform the site into a fully modern small theatre of approximately 300 seats for use by undergraduates together with rehearsal and full theatre support spaces. While the Hasty Pudding Theatricals will continue to present its annual musical production in the new theatre, the stage will be used by all student dramatic groups and individuals for six or more productions per term. Several large spaces will be required for rehearsal, black box theatre, and social gatherings. The Club, the Building, and the Site:The Hasty Pudding Club was founded in 1795 \”to cherish the feelings of friendship and patriotism\” in the post-Revolutionary period. The name derives from the provision in the original constitution for two members to provide a simple supper of hasty pudding (a cornmeal and molasses mush) for every meeting. From is inception, dramatic performances formed the principal entertainment and activities of the Club. From patriotic songs, orations, and poems to original musical productions, the theatrical experience has been part of the Hasty Pudding. According to a report of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the Hasty Pudding is believed to be the oldest continuous theatrical organization in the U.S., including such famous theatrical graduates as Oliver Wendell Holms (1860), William Randolph Hearst (1885), Robert Benchley (1911, 1912), Henry Cabot Lodge III (1923), Archibald Cox (1932, 1933), Alan Jay Lerner (1938, 1939), Jack Lemmon (1945, 1947), and Eric Segal (1958). In 1882, the theatrical production of Dido and Aeneas, a burlesque adaptation of Virgil\’s classic text, which played in New York and Philadelphia as well as Cambridge, brought national attention and financial success to the Club. The proceeds allowed the Pudding to construct the current clubhouse, designed by Peabody and Stearns in 1887, which contained a ballroom with raised stage and two grand rooms for social gatherings. The building was enlarged to add a floor above the main space around 1910 for Club dining and more recently housed restaurant open to the public. The site on a narrow side street in Harvard Square is very limited in dimension but has significant visibility for the public as well as the University. It is bounded by one- to 4-story buildings at its sides and back, and the ten-story Holyoke Center immediately across the street. Access is extremely limited, from the front on Holyoke Street, and at the back through a narrow alley from Mt. Auburn Street. Due to these limitations, sets and current production equipment are currently delivered to the stage through the front door of the building. Studio Organization:The first four weeks of the semester will be devoted to three simultaneous investigations. Students will examine the activity of making theatre, which embraces the skills of writing, designing, directing, acting, producing, and publicizing. Students will also closely study the conditions of the existing site in its urban setting examining its dimensional, historical, and physical constraints. The investigation period will continue with case studies of theatres of similar size, purpose, or urban condition. In support of these investigations, we will attend a theatrical performance in the present building, tour the Loeb theatre, home of the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard, and visit several theatres in New York. The balance of the semester will be devoted to the development of a design proposal, which demonstrates