The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society (UMGASS) traces its origins to the fall of 1946, when University of Michigan freshman Gloria Katlan (later Bennish) called a campus-wide meeting for those interested in the production of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Organizational concerns occupied the Society's attention for the first year, and it was not until the fall of 1947 that members staged a first performance of the Mikado. Since that date, the Society has produced at least two operettas each year, going through the repertoire of thirteen Gilbert and Sullivan operettas every six or seven years. UMGASS celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1997.
UMGASS is an officially recognized University of Michigan student organization, but membership is not limited to students. Any interested person may participate in UMGASS productions or hold office in the Society. Under conditions set by its constitution, UMGASS business is managed by a small governing board elected annually by active participants in the productions. The board selects each year's directors and selects and produces the shows. Since 1969, UMGASS has been encouraged and supported by a group called the Friends of the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society (FUMGASS). Chief among FUMGASS's activities has been the production of a journal of Gilbert and Sullivan news and events, both on the University of Michigan campus and worldwide. The journal's acronym Gasbag, stands for Gilbert and Sullivan Boys and Girls.
Professor Harry Benford, of the Department of Naval Architecture, and his wife have served as UMGASS faculty advisors since 1956. They were particularly active during the years 1962-1982 and were instrumental in the formation of FUMGASS. Professor Benford served as Gasbag editor from 1969 through 1982, when he and his wife retired from the University.
For further information regarding UMGASS, see their website http://www.umgass.org. The website includes information regarding upcoming operettas and a database of past productions.