Tag Archives: Harvard

Just Another Scandalous day in Harvard Square

 

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Kerry Washington took time out of her busy schedule playing the best-dressed, Châteauneuf-du-Pape-sipping, popcorn-munching D.C. fixer on television—Olivia Pope in Scandal, of course—to play with some Harvard undergrads in the midst of a frigid New England winter.

The Hasty Pudding Theatricals (HPT) comedy troupe chose Washington as their 2016 Woman of the Year. The oldest theater company in the nation, HPT is operated by Harvard students and associated with notable alumni including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jack Lemmon, and Rashida Jones (not to mention several U.S. presidents).

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The 66th woman honored with the prestigious Pudding Pot award, Washington now shares the privilege with an illustrious group of women including Katherine Hepburn (1958), Meryl Streep (1980), Whoopi Goldberg (1993), and Helen Mirren (2014).

With that in mind, earning the unconventional award is no small feat, as Washington proved on stage January 28.

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(Mike Lawrie photo)

Following the annual parade––sequined, wigged, fabulous cross-dressing HPT cast members escorting the Woman of the Year down Massachusetts Avenue in a Bentley––was the traditional, sometimes humorous roast of Washington on stage at Farkas Hall.

It started with an innocuous introduction, peppered with a few playful jabs from the roast hosts, HPT President Bobby Fitzpatrick (’16) and HPT168 Producer Kennedy Edmonds (’17):

  • Washington made the Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential people of 2014 list…along with North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un. (Well played, HPT.)
  • She turned down admission to Yale, which her roasters claimed was her only redeeming quality. (I beg to differ.)
  • Instead, she attended George Washington University, prompting the punchline, “Sounds like nepotism.” (HAH!)

 

The Pudding Pot dedication was interrupted by an audience “heckler”–a cast member dressed as Monica Lewinsky, in what else but a blue dress and black beret. (HPT relies heavily on stereotypes and caricatures, and this proved no exception.)

Lewinsky claimed that Washington was “playing seductive all wrong” (referring to the latter’s onscreen illicit romance with fictional U.S. President Fitzgerald Grant), and challenged the guest of honor to earn her award.

Lewinsky’s parting words: “As I always say, ‘Watch out for Hillary!'”

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Thus commenced Washington’s Herculean tasks:

Since her character Olivia Pope plays a D.C. political fixer, the HPT cast claimed that she first must “break shit” as she participated in a game show called “Smash That Thing!”.

Her first target was a piñata, which she teased represented “the jokes that hurt me deeply.”

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The second was a bouquet of balloons with her face, which the cast instructed her to pop. Without missing a beat, Washington joked, “That’s, like, against my Neutrogena contract.”

Then, the “Smash That Thing” host told her she must destroy a 12-inch Lenovo laptop. Washington balked. “Only at Harvard…” she said, followed by, “This is crazy! Somebody needs this!”

She agreed to take a hammer to the laptop if HPT donated a functioning one to someone in need. They acquiesced, at least in the moment. (I’ve yet to follow up on that agreement.)

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Before obliterating the screen, Washington yelled, “Take that, Monica!”

When the host informed her that there was yet one more smash task, Washington replied, “Is there a Bentley?”

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(Keith Bedford photo)

The remaining endeavors included egg cracking (on the host’s bouffant hairdo), a pseudo-Neutrogena ad involving a Harvard “pimple boy,” a popcorn-eating contest with “Fat Elephant,” an altercation with Donald Trump‘s Harvard doppelgänger, and serenading a personified “bitch baby” (another Scandal reference) to sleep.

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(Elise Amendola photo)

In the star-studded performance rife with nods to pop culture and current events, the highlights were Washington’s impromptu musical numbers. She and an HPT Ray Charles sang a lullaby duet  (Washington played Charles’ wife in the 2004 film Ray), and she belted out a captivating rendition of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to do With It.”

 

Needless to say, Washington handily earned her 2016 Woman of the Year Pudding Pot. She claimed, “This is the best worst day ever,” and said the HPT cast got her to do things that she had been avoiding for years.

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Washington graciously accepted the honor with some parting words:

“I’m joining the ranks of esteemed women who have made asses of themselves.”

Toying with her roasters, she called out HPT for their exclusion of women, saying that they “make really ugly drag queens.” Washington’s dig prompted the fake Lewinsky to flash a blue-pantied crotch in an unscripted response.

In response, Washington praised the real Lewinsky for her anti-bullying activism. Then, she asked the cast and the audience to stand and make pledge:

“Repeat after me: I, state your name, followed by the appropriate Roman numeral,” she started, underscoring the WASPy privilege associated with Harvard.

After implying that the members might try acting for a few years, then give up to run their dad’s hedge fund, Washington struck a more serious note and reminded everyone that equal pay, diversity, and making room for others at the table are essential responsibilities, particularly among the Ivy League elite.

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“Please don’t stop stepping into other people’s shoes,” she said. “They don’t have to be pumps.”

Almost as an afterthought, Washington casually reminded everyone to tune into the February 11 midseason premiere of Scandal.

You can watch HPT’s 168th performance, That 1770s Show, at Farkas Hall through March 6. The cast takes the show on the road to NYC’s Kaye Playhouse Theater March 11-12, and then to Bermuda’s Hamilton City Hall March 16-18.

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Harvard Celebrates 40 Years of Jazz


Cecil McBee on bass, Brian Lynch on trumpet and Benny Golson on tenor saxophone were among the Harvard All-Stars who performed at Sanders Hall as Harvard celebrated 40 years of jazz.                          (Eric Antoniou photo)

Jazz at Harvard has come a long way, baby.

Before 1971, the African American-dominated musical genre was unheard of at the Ivy League institution. Since then Tom Everett has founded and nurtured a successful program for Harvard students interested in jazz performance.

On Saturday night the weekend celebration of Jazz at Harvard’s fortieth year culminated with a sold out performance at Sanders Hall. Harvard’s two student jazz bands, along with a notable alumnus and the Harvard All-Stars, comprised of jazz masters and former guest musicians, played for more than two hours to an enthusiastic crowd.

The undergraduate Sunday Jazz Band, directed by Mark Olson, opened the show with an energetic performance of Neal Hefti’s “Flight of the Foo Birds.”  That musical introduction triggered wild applause and approving whistles from the audience, which set the scene for the following pieces.

With Olson still at the helm, the band followed with “Peedlum,” by Hank Jones, to whom the song was also dedicated.

Olson and Ingrid Monson then introduced Everett, who took the reins for the second set, directing the Monday Jazz Band in renditions of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” and Charles Mingus’ “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife are Some Jive Ass Slippers.” Ever the gentleman, Everett truncated the latter title in his introduction to appease a civilized Harvard audience.

The third song, Benny Carter’s “Myra,” added a lyrical dimension with jazz vocalist Samara Oster. The waifish undergraduate’s delicate appearance contrasted the depth and strength of her voice, infused with scatting and smiles. Oster and tenor saxophonist Alex Rezzo wrapped up the piece with a playful back and forth, as though enjoying a musical tennis match.

Before introducing tenor saxophonist Don Braden, the soft-spoken Everett articulated the essence of the evening. “Harvard is not the jazz center of the world, but the significance of jazz is gaining recognition […] that is what we are celebrating tonight,” he said.

Braden, a 1985 Harvard graduate and former pupil of Everett’s, joined the band with his sax to perform one of his own compositions, “Landing Zone.” The song prompted wild applause and standing ovations, both on and off stage.

He then played Illinois Jacquet’s well-known solo performance in “Flying Home.”

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Golson was included in a video montage that featured former Jazz at Harvard Artists in Residence. (Eric Antoniou photo)

A video montage kicked off the second hour of the celebration, featuring past Jazz at Harvard Artists in Residence, including Carla Bley, Jim Hall, Hank Jones, Benny Golson, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Slyde and others. Footage of Jacquet invoked another standing ovation among performers and patrons.

Brian Lynch and Eddie Palmieri then joined the students on stage and they all performed Palmieri’s “Elena, Elena.” Lynch strutted to the microphone like a cool cat in a dark suit, porkpie hat and sunglasses. He silently commanded the stage with his trumpet playing and very presence.

Palmieri was more understated, yet equally talented, at the piano. He was the straight man to Lynch’s more comic and animated onstage persona.

The remaining Harvard All-Stars, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Roy Haynes, joined Lynch and Palmieri for the finale.

Golson manned the mic and honored Everett with his smooth voice. “Forty years ago, Tom Everett had the audacity to suggest Harvard start a jazz program and someone had the audacity to hire him.”

The crowd chuckles.

“Was it easy?” Golson continues. “Of course it was!”

The crowd roars.

“What can I say about Tom Everett?  He is an icon in his own right.”

Everett bashfully nods his head and waves from the stage.

The ensemble then reminded the audience what was being celebrated as they performed Golson’s “Whisper Not,” Charlie Parker’s “Steeple Chase” and “Blues for Moody” in memory of the late jazz musician James Moody.

The spontaneity and experienced improvisation of the old timers complimented the organization and air tight preparation of the student bands. With the All-Star band leading the way, the Ivy League venue morphed into a smoky jazz bar for a set, without the smoke.

One of the highlights was Roy Haynes’ vibrant drum solo, which he played in a funky suit and orange Uggs. Golson gently joked afterward of the 86-year- old drummer’s youthful performance. “[Haynes] has been lying to me for years. He’s really 20 years old!” Golson said.

This article was originally published in the Bay State Banner on April 14, 2011.

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Hasty Pudding Still Punny After All These Years

Stage right: a chimpanzee dressed like Gilligan in bluejeans and a sailor cap perches at a typewriter. He pokes at the keys and reads his words aloud.

“To be or not to be… Nah, too existentialist.”

He tries again: “Beware the Ides of March… Hmm, too topical.”

Scratching his head with a hirsute hand, the primate––aptly named Jim Pansy, played by Harvard sophomore Sam Clark––decides on a more original opening line. His words revert to monkey screeches as the typing resumes, the stage lights up and the curtains open.

So begins Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals (H.P.T.) 2013 performance, “There’s Something About Maui.”

The Hasty Pudding Club, whose former alumni members include William Randolph Hearst, J.P. Morgan and John F. Kennedy, celebrates its 165th anniversary this year. The festivities include the usual theatrics expected of the troupe: bombastic burlesque, pun-laden dialogue, and a chorus line finale comprised of ivy league boys with stocking-clad kicks rivaling those of the Rocketts.

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This year’s student-written, directed, and acted performance takes place at a local watering hole called Sand Bar on the island of Little Maui in 1942. The motley cast of characters includes:

  • Princess Lei, a voluptuous and lovestruck hula girl
  • Helen Killer, a blind spy with a license to kill
  • Amelia Airhead, a ditzy pilot with her head in the clouds.

The cast and orchestra perform original songs entitled “Lethal Webbin’ ” and “A Soldier to Cry On,” among others, for a crowd of nearly 250, filling the Hasty Pudding Theater on Holyoke Street in Harvard Square.

The now co-ed club has a female president, writers and choreographers contributing to the production. However, keeping with tradition, the dramatis personæ remain all male, requiring some of the members to cross-dress for their roles. After the curtains close, the cast returns to the stage and earns its standing ovation with an explosive can-can in stilettos and sequins. A patron leans over and whispers, “these are our future congressmen and world leaders.”

Though rooted in history, H.P.T. reinvents itself every year with contemporary references to pop culture, politics and current events. It reprises its perennial plug for the Harvard Coop, as well as light-hearted digs at Radcliffe counterparts and rival Elis. The spectrum of entertainment attracts a variety of patrons.

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Longtime Boston resident and business owner Chris Lutes has attended the H.P.T. performances for the past four years. In 2009, his Cambridge-based restaurant group, Tigers and Bears, started sponsoring the club, which piqued his interest in the shows.

“It’s a great escape,” says Lutes, 51. “I forget that those are 20-something boys up there on stage.”

His daughter, Lilah, who turned 17 on Valentine’s Day, attends the show with him every year as part of a birthday tradition. This year, before the performance, she discovered a local treat honoring of the club: Hasty Pudding ice cream featured as J.P. Licks’ flavor of the month.

“It tastes more like frozen banana pudding than ice cream,” she says.

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H.P.T. neophyte Nora Wasson, 84, attended her first performance this year. She drove from her home in Warwick, R.I., to attend the show.  Wasson enjoyed the witty lyrics and clever puns, of which she heard and understood only some. “I wish that I was sitting closer to the stage,” she says. “I heard laughter and felt that I missed a lot of the jokes.”

The show’s combination of bright costumes, uplifting music and dance moves appeal to Wasson the most, which entice her to return next year. “I can’t believe that men are so loose in the hips as to do the hula.”

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Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Roasts Marion Cotillard

Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals turns 165 this year! The troupe is celebrating with this year’s performance, “There’s Something About Maui,” and its annual roast of two Hollywood darlings.

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The 2013 Woman of the Year honor was bestowed upon Marion Cotillard, marked by a January 31 parade and roast in Harvard Square. The 37-year-old French actress, best known best for her Academy Award-winning portrayal of Parisienne chanteuse Edith Piaf in the 2007 biopic “La Vie en Rose,” also appears in “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Rust and Bone” (“De rouisse et d’os”), among others.

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Honored on stage by Hasty Pudding Theatricals President Renée Rober and Vice-President Ben Moss, Cotillard subjected herself to a series of puns and knocks to her career. She follows in the footsteps of Anne Hathaway, Julianne Moore, and Claire Danes, among a litany of other A-listers, as HPT’s guest of honor.

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Before earning her illustrious Pudding Pot award, Cotillard had to pass tests in a dream within a dream within a dream (a reference to the plot of “Inception”). They included teaching Gwyneth Paltrow how to act (and execute death scenes), sketch better than Pablo Picasso and Salvadore Dali, and sing better than the HPT reincarnation of Edith Piaf.

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The lovely Mme. Cotillard passed her tests and entertained a packed theater in the process.

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The 2013 Man of Year, announced on February 4, is Kiefer Sutherland, whose roast is slated for Friday, February 8, at 8pm.

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