The Periwig Club Collection documents the history of theatrical production at The Lawrenceville School. Included in this collection is a nearly complete run of playbills from Club productions, numerous annotated scripts, production notes, set and costume design notes, numerous posters, newspaper clippings of reviews, and documents pertaining to club administration. Though the entire history of the club is documented in some form within the collection, the bulk of the detailed information on specific productions dates from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Single photocopies and digital photographs may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Archivist. Researchers are responsible for determining any other copyright questions.
The Periwig Club is both the oldest and largest student club at The Lawrenceville School. The Periwig Club was founded in 1892 and is named after early club member Lewis Perry '94. The stated purpose of the club is, "to provide a framework for dramatic activity at Lawrenceville School and to encourage it." Club membership is made up entirely of members of the student body.
Early Periwig productions, the first of which being As You Like It (Up To Date), were performed in the old Gym, though Memorial Hall was later used as well. Many early productions seem to have been either one-acts or select scenes from longer works, though the lack of female actors seems to have tipped the scales heavily in favor of comedy. In 1907, the first attempt was made to costume the boys in such a way that they could play female roles.
In 1915, the club presented Arthur Law’s The New Boy in Lakewood, New Jersey, at the Laurel House, making it the first time Lawrenceville actors performed off campus. In 1931, Periwig chose to perform Meet the Wife, which was written by French Master Lynn Starling and debuted at Lawrenceville. The play would go on to Broadway and Mr. Starling to Hollywood, where he became a screenwriter for Fox Studios. In 1937, for the first time, girls were recruited from Mrs. Fine’s School in Princeton to play female roles. Starting in 1939, Periwig started a spring musical written by faculty and students and presented at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. The first Broadway musical the club performed was Guys and Dolls in 1962, presented in Memorial Hall. When the old Gym burned down, the club was forced to use Memorial Hall exclusively until 1963, when The Allan P. Kirby Arts Center, Periwig’s current home, was completed. The first production presented on this new stage was The Teahouse of the August Moon, in March of 1963.
Among the notables to have trod the boards in Periwig productions are the poet James Merrill ’43, who tackled Cinna in a 1943 production of Julius Caesar. Also in that cast was Fred Buechner ’43, the noted writer and theologian. Hugh Cregg ’67 was a Periwig member, long before gaining fame as the front man for the rock band Huey Lewis and the News.
The club continues to stage both a Fall and Spring show every year.
The Periwig Club Collection are arranged into six series: Series 1: Club Business, 1948-1992; Series 2: Directors Books, 1978-1988; Series 3: Posters, circa 1950-2014; Series 4: Programs, 1885-2012; Series 5: Scripts, undated; Series 6: Shows, 1932-2007.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The bulk of the material was transferred from the Periwig Club to the Archives. Recent playbills were given to the Archives by alumni and staff.
Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with The Lawrenceville School Stephan Archives guidelines.
Information in the historical note was gathered from Five Miles Away: The Story of The Lawrenceville School by Samuel R. Slaymaker, II and The Lawrenceville Lexicon: A Compendium of All Things Lawrenceville, Merrell Noden, editor.
The Periwig Club Collection was processed by Casey Babcock in February of 2012.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Periwig Club Collection, Box and Folder Number; The Lawrenceville School Stephan Archives. http://archivesspace.lawrenceville.org/repositories/2/resources/51 Accessed November 23, 2017.
The Stephan Archives The Bunn Library The Lawrenceville School