The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin

Organizational Overview

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin
PO BOX 684542
Austin, 78768-4542

Mission Statement

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin (GSSA) is organized exclusively for educational purposes, including, for such purposes, production and encouragement of the production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas and excerpts thereof, in the traditional manner, and the study of the lore of Gilbert and Sullivan and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

Gilbert & Sullivan Austin presents as its summer 2017 Grand Production "The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty." Nine performances will be presented at the Worley Barton Theater at Brentwood Christian School, June 15-25. "The Pirates of Penzance" will delight Austin theatergoers of all ages who relish tuneful music, dazzling staging, and hilarious shenanigans by a band of soft-hearted pirates, bumbling bobbies, and sweet Victorian maidens-not to forget that very model of a modern Major-General!

GSA Artistic Director Ralph MacPhail, Jr. returns for his 16th season. Jeffrey Jones-Ragona, returning for his 20th season as Music Director, will conduct the 19-member Gillman Light Opera Orchestra. Bill Hatcher returns as Production Manager.

"The Pirates of Penzance" premiered in New York City in December of 1879, where the show was well received by both audiences and critics. Its London debut was in April of 1880. It is without question one of the most popular shows in theater history, and it has been performed around the world continuously for over 138 years. "Pirates" was the fifth Gilbert & Sullivan collaboration, and it introduced the ever-popular and much-parodied "Major-General's Song."

The first of two acts is set on the coast of Cornwall, at the time of Queen Victoria's reign. We are introduced to a young Frederic as well as a band of tender-hearted pirates and their leader, the Pirate King. Soon Frederic meets Mabel, the daughter of the powerful Major-General Stanley, and the two young people instantly fall in love. Due to a topsy-turvy complication owing to the date of Frederic's birth, bewilderment and hilarity ensue.

Act two is set in a ruined chapel on the estate of the Major-General. The Sergeant of Police and his corps set out with a plan to arrest the pirates due to their skull-and-cross-bones trade, but are unnerved by things they hear from the Major-General's daughters. Frederic, always present with a keen sense of duty, strives to find his true love-as pirates, police, and lovely young maidens encounter the perils and ecstasy of love. In the end this pirate adventure brings happiness to all who are along for the marvelously musical and hilarious ride.

All performances will have supertitles.

ON SUNDAY, MAY 21, Gilbert & Sullivan Austin presents "The Pirates of Penzance Preview", with performances of selected songs by the members of the cast.

Impact Statement

Gilbert & Sullivan Austin is known for its highly acclaimed annual Summer Grand Productions from the G&S repertoire. These productions are fully-staged and performed with a live orchestra. There are nine performances over two weekends in June. One performance each year is a "children's day," with special activities for children including arts and crafts projects and an opportunity for them to go on stage and meet the performers and the orchestra. Many groups attend the productions, including groups from senior centers and retirement homes. Approximately 2,500 people attend the performances, including about 500 children.

Several times a year the Society produces recital musical performances of G&S selections as well as songs from opera and musical theater. These musicales end with a sing-along and a reception. Attendance at the musicales is usually 150-200. Musicales are free and open to the public.

We are proud to present "Cox and Box" as our 2017 Mid-Season Special Production. First performed in 1866, it was Arthur Sullivan's first comic opera, and this may be the first full-length production ever in Austin of this little gem. There will be two performances of this tuneful, colorful, and highly entertaining work-Saturday March 4 at 7:30pm, and Sunday March 5 at 3pm.

Previous Mid-Season productions:
2014 - Gilbert and Sullivan's one act opera "Trial by Jury"
2015 - "The Zoo"
2016 - "Very Truly Yours, Gilbert & Sullivan," an original play featuring the lives of Gilbert and Sullivan taken from their writings and songs from all 14 of their operas. The playwright, Gayden Wren, gave a talk with musical selections prior to the show.

Our Wand'ring Minstrels are our outreach ambassadors to the Central Texas community. The Minstrels perform delightfully fun and interactive programs for schools, private parties and community events. The Minstrels are approved by AISD for performances in Austin schools, and we hope to bring the joy of Gilbert & Sullivan to more young audiences.

DEVELOPMENT of young local performers:
All of the performers in our productions are local, and the performers for our Grand Productions are recruited at open auditions, which are widely publicized through the community and to local high schools and colleges.

Each year since 2014 we began an annual program to offer scholarships to promising young artists to assist in their musical training.

We publish a newsletter 5 times a year with items of interest to our members and audience members. Our website - - has complete information about upcoming performances as well as information and photos from previous productions. Our YouTube channel - - has many videos of previous productions.

Needs Statement

As with all performing groups, ticket sales only provide a small part of our revenue, and we depend heavily on grants and on the generosity of our donors to support our programs, including our annual grand productions, musicales, smaller operas, Wand'ring Minstrels, etc. We have been expanding our programs, especially programs in schools, retirement homes and senior centers. Since we want to make our programs available as broadly as possible, we try to keep our ticket prices reasonable, with specially-priced tickets for children and group rates. Our musicales are all free and open to the public. our winter operas are by donation. Our society is run by an all-volunteer board, with no paid administrative personnel. In order to maintain this level of activity and growth, WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT.

From JEFFREY JONES-RAGONA : The productions of GSSA provide "G-rated" entertainment at a time when finding "family fare" that is not condescending, cynical, or maudlin has become increasingly difficult. The dances, costumes, spectacles and visual humor capture the imagination of younger viewers while the word-play and interweaving plot lines keep the attention of the mature spectator. The music is something that all can enjoy-- melodies that one hums on leaving the theatre but at the same time are never simplistic or hackneyed. The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Austin provides first-rate entertainment, and culture, and is an indispensable thread in Austin's cultural tapestry.

From DIANNE DONOVAN (KMFA): The President of the Board, Libby Weed, the board members and the many volunteers of the GSSA are committed to making the performances accessible and enjoyable to people of all ages. At the performances, it is not uncommon to see busloads of folks from local retirement homes and every "Grand Production" has a Children's Day, which includes special activities, including opportunities to meet the musicians and the instruments.

From MICHELLE HACHE : I have been lucky enough to have been involved with GSSA for a few years now, and it is certainly one of the most organized, diligent and tightly-knit local organizations that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Their productions serve our city in so many ways, enriching the fabric of our local performing arts community. Firstly, all operettas are perfectly suited for all ages, and the organization even hosts a specific day just for children, which keeps the love of our art form alive and well within the hearts of the generations to come. Secondly, GSSA is run by true historians and enthusiasts, so the audience can be assured that they will be treated to the highest caliber of performance. And most importantly, this organization uses the hottest up-and-coming LOCAL talent, assuring that we keep Austin's very own talent pool thriving. This is becoming increasingly rare within our city, which is why it is so very important to support the organizations that use its ever-growing, incredibly strong community of talented artists."