When Stevens Institute of Technology opened its doors in 1870, it consisted of 21 students and just one academic building, Edwin A. Stevens Hall, which still stands as the cornerstone of the university and houses the Grace E. and Kenneth W. DeBaun Auditorium. Designed by Civil War architect Richard Upjohn (famous for the design of Trinity Church in New York City in 1846), the 80,000-square-foot, five-story Edwin A. Stevens Hall is a high Victorian Gothic-style masonry building.
Widely acclaimed for its intimacy, its acoustical clarity and its architectural beauty, DeBaun Auditorium was not converted into a theater until 1903. Prior to that, it served as a laboratory, a classroom and even a gym. Since its conversion, this majestic space has hosted national meetings (including the founding of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and numerous civic and community events.
In 1910, the Stevens Dramatic Society was born, using the theater for at least one production per semester. The society achieved regional notoriety for its pioneering advances in all aspects of theater arts, and subsequently the theater flourished at Stevens. Once called the Stevens Experimental Theater, it tested new and innovative sound and lighting techniques for use on Broadway. The sound system for the first 3D movie (3D Stereographic Sound) was also developed in this theater.
In 1991, Edwin A. Stevens Hall was designated a city landmark by the Hoboken Historic Preservation Committee and is listed in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. At the same time, Stevens initiated a full-scale renovation of the building, but it wasn’t until 1996 when Trustee Kenneth DeBaun ’49 and his wife Grace issued a challenge to Stevens alumni to complete the funding for the theater’s renovation. Their leadership gift and continued support of the renovation project was acknowledged through the naming of the facility in their honor.
When the theater re-opened in 1998, there was a lot of discussion on what it could and should be. Would it be a conference center, or an arts center? Would it be a place for the students or for the community? Would there be an educational component to it?
We had no idea it would be ALL of those things.
DeBaun PAC has been the home to a number of organizations — Stevens Dramatic Society, Theta Alpha Phi, Lyric Theater Orchestra, Actor’s Shakespeare Company, Chaotic Theatre Company, The Shakespeare Boxed Set Tour and The Theater Company of Hoboken, to name just a few. We have included Hoboken and the surrounding community in our programs and productions, both on stage and off. In the last 20 years we have...
- Seen actors grow and move on to professional careers, even some who have been cast in Broadway shows.
- Fostered innovation in the technical theater arts, with some students moving on to professional careers in the arts.
- Hosted lectures and workshops, featuring captains of industry on a variety of topics.
- Seen talented professional actors, comedians, and musicians who have entertained literally tens of thousands of our patrons.
- Created arts programs for Stevens students, such as Off Center Sketch and Improv Comedy Troupe and the Stevens Orchestra.
- Hosted workshops and programs for the community in the arts for all ages and special day-time school shows in theater, music and dance.
With so many achievements over the last 20 years, we are excited to see what our future holds!