Hasty Pudding Transformed

Edited by Paul Fournier | September 28, 2010

Historic Hasty Pudding Theater in Cambridge, Mass., is being transformed into Harvard University's New College Theater.

Shawmut Design & Construction of Boston is renovating and expanding the Georgian Revival building near Harvard Square that has housed the famous Hasty Pudding Theatricals productions since 1888. The work replaces the theater's stage and about two-thirds of the existing building.

Harvard University officials required that the existing façade of the building remain and that the addition take place at the back of the building. Since the theater is surrounded by other buildings and there is no street access to the new construction area, a conventional crane would not have been practical for hoisting construction materials. A self-erecting crane, however, could work on the tight urban job site.

The job's steel erector, Daniel Koury Construction Inc. of Warwick, R.I., hired a self-erecting Potain HDT 80 from Boston-based Marr Equipment, which acquired the crane from Potain distributor, Shawmut Equipment Inc. of Manchester, Conn. Kevin O'Connell, Shawmut's self-erecting crane product manager, pointed out that the crane was slightly reconfigured for the job.

"With full jib the HDT 80 has 148 feet of reach and can pick just under 1.5 tons," he said. "But in this application, we removed the last section of the jib, reducing its length to 102 feet, which increased the capacity to 2.7 tons."

This better enabled the team to lift steel beams into place for the above-ground portion of the project, although this had previously posed a problem. The original intention was to place a larger crane in the street, and then lift, and swing steel beams over the existing building to the construction site in the back. However, this was not acceptable to the city of Cambridge because it would require shutting down the narrow one-way street in front of the theater. Eventually, contractors maneuvered the self-erecting crane through a narrow alley so it could be set up in the courtyard behind the existing building.

The crane had a small enough footprint and the height and reach required for the job. From its position in the courtyard, it was able to set steel for the addition and swing over the existing theater to unload trucks in the street.

During construction, Hasty Pudding Theatricals has moved its productions to another location. When the project is completed in spring 2007, Theatricals will return to a brand new 270-seat theater, rehearsal room, dressing rooms, orchestra pit, and prop shop.

Hasty Pudding Theatricals, a student theatrical society at Harvard University, was formed as a fraternity in 1795 and is known for its burlesque musicals. The "Pudding" has performed a production every year since 1844, with the exception of four years during wartime. Each production is entirely student-written, and although the cast is all-male with female roles played by males in drag, women participate in the productions as writers, composers, orchestra, and members of the business staff and tech crew.

The name comes from Colonial Era Hasty Pudding, an inexpensive, easily made porridge of cornmeal, molasses, honey, or other ingredients. It is now served for dessert at Pudding banquets thrown for opening night celebrations and the annual "roasts" for their Man/Woman Of The Year awards.

The society is notable for their annual selection of famous actors as Woman of the Year (since 1951) and Man of the Year (since 1967). These celebrities have always attended the awards ceremony, despite the tradition that some of the performance be done in drag. In 2006, actor Richard Gere and actress Halle Berry were named Man and Woman Of The Year.