Sunday, July 21, 2024

Viola Davis.

The last Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year was Elizabeth Banks, and getting the award Jan. 31, 2020 – ahead of the pandemic – Banks flew in for an hourlong parade through the streets of Cambridge (co-sponsored by SoulCycle!), half-hour roast and Pudding Pot presentation at Farkas Hall, followed by a Q&A and Hasty Pudding Theatrical. (It was “Mean Ghouls,” just the second ever cast with men and women.) Similarly grand celebrations were held for past winners of the award, which dates back to 1951, from Katharine Hepburn and Scarlett Johansson to Kerry Washington and Halle Berry.

This year, the news landing from the oldest theatrical organization in the United States during a glum surprise snowfall is that its woman of the year is Viola Davis, and the 9 p.m. Thursday festivities will look very different:

“In a historic and monumental year, the Woman of the Year Award will be presented remotely in a Zoom webinar [that] will begin with a short celebratory roast for Ms. Davis, followed by a moderated Q&A with pre-selected questions from the HPT community. The event will conclude with an acceptance speech by Ms. Davis, where she will officially receive her Pudding Pot. The entire event will last approximately 30 minutes.”

Davis, 55, a television and film actor since 1996 in everything from “Widows” to “How to Get Away With Murder,” is nominated this year for a Best Actress Oscar for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (she won a Supporting Actress Oscar for “Fences” in 2017).

Natalie Needle, event coordinator and producer for the Hasty Pudding award, nodded in a statement to the dramatic diminishment imposed by the coronavirus: “We’re very excited to honor Viola Davis as our 71st Woman of the Year because of her immense impact in Hollywood,” Needle said, “especially in such a historic and difficult year for the arts.”