The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society was founded in 1947, and is dedicated to performing the works of Sir William Schwenck Gilbert and Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan. For more than fifty years, we have carried out this grand mission at least twice every year, utilizing the talents and skills of a diverse assortment of students, faculty, staff and community members in the greater Ann Arbor area (which currently includes New York City).
Today, we are one of the most highly respected Gilbert and Sullivan companies in the country, known for our commitment to every show in the G&S canon (except for one for which the music has been lost), and notorious for our bold creativity in presenting 19th Century opera to a contemporary audience. In addition to our high professional standards, the Society is equally known for its warmth and amiability, a.k.a. "fun you can be proud of." Thousands of people have been members of UMGASS - some for two years, and others for twenty. Some current members are the children of people who met while performing with UMGASS (don't panic - it doesn't happen every time).
We are proud to be both on-the-job training for people pursuing a performing arts career and a creative outlet forstudents, professors and "regular" people who just need to blow off steam. UMGASS directors, designers and performers are all volunteers, working for the love of comic opera. Sets, costumes and props are constructed by the joint effort of both performers and dedicated "techies." Members of the production staff (such as music directors, artistic directors, and set, costume and lighting designers) are chosen by the Executive Board through a petitioning process every spring. UMGASS efforts are financed solely by ticket sales and donations through our friends' organization (FUMGASS). FUMGASS members receive ticket purchasing priority (see How to Get Tickets), an open invitation to a meet-the-cast afterglow party (see FUMGASS), and the magazine GASBAG (Gilbert and Sullivan Boys and Girls).
In honor of the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society's 60th anniversary we are reprinting here the text from the back page of the First UMGASS program from 1947.
The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society originated in the fall of 1946. A group of students were enthusiastic about Gilbert and Sullivan and wanted to participate in production of the operettas and to add to their availability to others. It seemed there was a place on campus for an organization which would be entirely extracurricular and which would thus give students with an urge to sing, act, or work in the theatre generally a chance to satisfy that urge regardless of the school or department in which they were enrolled or the courses they were taking. So this organization came into being.
The first year was a hard and discouraging one. Plans, originally grandiose, had to be modified and still more modified. Although no production materialized that year, the members who continued to work together and maintained the continuity of the organization gained experience toward progress for the future and by rehearsing Gilbert and Sullivan gained in conviction of the pleasure of their undertaking. In the fall of 1947, the Society's assets were a strong basic membership; a set of choral scores and plans, made in the preceding spring, for a production of The Mikado, and two fine directors, musical and dramatic. Enthusiasm and work both in the Society and without have supplied the rest. We cannot sufficiently thank all those people who have helped us make this production a success.
Our main objective for the future is to put on a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta every semester. In time we hope to get through all their works, the less well-known ones as well as the ones to which everyone comes already humming the tunes. To our audience, we hope that you may enjoy the two hours you spend in our company through this production commensurately to our enjoyment of the many hours we have so happily spent in it's preparation, and that your enjoyment will give you tolerance, if need be, as well as pleasant anticipation for productions to come.