Peter Ibbetson, based on the 1891 George du Maurier novel, was the first play ever staged in Main Hall, by Wagner’s Dramatic Society, on May 16 and 17, 1930.
Main Hall was built in 1929–30. For the past 50 years, it has been home to Wagner’s top-ranked collegiate theater program. Even before the founding of the academic theater program, however, Wagnerians have used its 1,200 square-foot stage to perform dramatic works.
The 1930 Kallista yearbook said that “the production of the Dramatic Society will be presented in the auditorium of the new Administration Building [the original name of Main Hall]. This will be the first play to be performed on this stage. Thus, only one of the highest merit will be chosen. Accordingly, it is very difficult to make a choice.” Four options were listed.
The May 1930 issue of the Wagner College Bulletin, a monthly newsletter, announced that “the College Dramatic Society is very busy preparing and rehearsing their annual play. This play is to be given on two nights, Friday, May 16th and Saturday, May 17th. It is expected that this play will initiate the new stage in the recently completed Administration Building.” But the article did not mention the name of the play.
Only in the 1931 Kallista is the mystery solved, on the page for the Dramatic Society. “Under the professional direction of Miss [Emilia Joan] Schneider and with the co-operation of the students, it successfully presented ‘Peter Ibbetson,’ by [George] DuMaurier, on May 16th and 17th as the 1930 Varsity Play.”
This story of two young lovers who were separated, but were able to reunite in their dreams, was quite popular in its day, and many famous actors of the early 20th century appeared in its various versions. John N. Raphael wrote the play based on DuMaurier’s novel. The 1917 Broadway production included John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore. The 1935 film version starred Gary Cooper and Ann Harding.