Aug 25 2008

Yass Repertory Society

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Yass Repertory Society is the oldest, continually operating, amateur theatre in Australia. It began in 1946 with a one-act play that was produced by a talented cast from Bookham at the Yass Flower Show. The success of this production led to the formation of the society on Monday, November 10th 1947.

The first president was Ralph Crago who was a producer and actor of considerable talent and a great help to the society. The first official repertory production was “Such Things Happen”.

Over the years Yass Repertory has participated in festivals, eisteddfods and competitions in Canberra, Wagga and other regional areas and won many awards. It has also been involved with initiatives by the NSW Arts Council and raised funds for many charities and organizations.

The 1950’s saw the beginning of the “famous” Repertory Ball, a tradition that continues to this day. The original theme was a “Night in Hollywood” (all movie characters). Others included “A Night at the Circus” which was very spectacular with the Yass Memorial Hall being converted into a circus ring with cabaret tables around, complete with ringmaster (and whip!).

In 1962 Repertory requested lease of the Salvation Army Hall in Meehan Street from the Yass Municipal Council as a permanent location for their performances. The hall was purchased for $500 and named “The Repertory Theatre”. Working bees were held, furniture donated and, to raise additional funds, the hall was rented to a ballet school and for meetings, lectures and rehearsals etc. The 1970’s saw alterations made to the lighting and seating was raised to improve the theatre for audiences.

This theatre was used continuously by repertory with an average of two major productions a year until 1990, when bigger productions were staged at the Yass Soldiers’ Club or the Memorial Hall. By this time the theatre had became not only inadequate but was also in a very poor state and the costs of restoring it were prohibitive. The last production in the Meehan Street theatre was the melodrama “Only an Orphan Girl” (September 1990).

A decision was reached to sell the old theatre and an arrangement made to lease the Liberty cinema space which had remained dormant for many years. Once again working bees were held, furniture donated and funds raised to restore the space to its former glory.

Yass Repertory Society commenced productions in “The Liberty” in 1993 and since then have gone from success to success. In many ways the fortunes of the society have reflected those of the shire and its community. Yass Repertory Society continues to service that community, albeit a much larger and different one to its inception in 1947.