On 15 November 1927, Muriel Alexander initiated The Johannesburg Repertory Players (REPS). Because of the difficulties in getting large casts a non-professional arm was also formed. In this non-professional section aspiring actors could perform without fulltime commitment.
However, in 1948 the REPS became a fulltime professional theatre company working towards the building of what was to become The Alexander Theatre. The non-professional group became the RAPS - Repertory Amateur Players Society. This group went on to present plays (professionally staged) alongside other amateur groups - Trinity Players and Bank Players - the Library Theatre and Intimate Theatre became the home for these groups.
In 1964 RAPS took over the running of the National One Act Play Festival, which was originally organised and run by FATSA (The Federated Amateur Theatrical Societies of S.A.)
RAPS continued to grow as a performance society, as well as running the Play Festival - In 1969 it was decided by the committee to change the format of the Play Festival from presenting only adult plays, and include school productions. The first RAPS Schools’ Festival was held at the Library Theatre in May 1969.
In 1980 it was found necessary to disband the performance section of RAPS and after 40 years of being an amateur theatrical society, a Trust was formed to concern itself solely with the running of the Schools’ One Act Play Festival.
Now 65 years after RAPS was formed and into the 44th year of the annual Schools Festival, RAPS can say, proudly, that well over 2000 plays have been staged and 40 000 students have participated in all aspects of the theatre and some of these students have gone on to make their careers in the theatre!
The Festival is run annually in May/June at the Wits Theatre. The theatre is booked for a month. There are usually approximately 40 schools participating. The plays have to be directed by students, however, they can obtain adult advice.
Two weeks of rehearsals are held with each school getting one and a half hours of rehearsal time. They each get a chance to work on their technical aspects, lights, sound, etc. Public performances run for two weeks. There are three plays per night followed by adjudication. Three adjudicators work as a team and they have strict criteria. After the preliminary rounds, six plays go forward to perform at the semi-finals. Then three plays are chosen as finalists. They are in turn performed again, and from these the winning play is chosen.