The 1960s & 70s
Though beginning a tumultuous decade in American history, the Sixties saw business as usual when it came to theatre on the UMass campus. Productions began to test the limits of the groups' resources, producing more recognizable shows with more impressive technical elements. In fact, a 1964 production of the musical "The Streets of New York" included real [trick] fire onstage!
Speaking of fire, the building which housed University's supply of scenery and electrical equipment caught on fire in February 1967. The blaze lasted nearly nine hours and gutted the building which also served as a rehearsal hall. Still, the group pushed forward continuing to perform regularly in Bowker Auditorium and across campus.
The late-sixties also gave rise to the Theater Department at UMass. Though theatre (as you can see) was always a staple on campus, degree programs in theatre only just started popping up during this decade. Some MFAs were awarded in '67 for instance, but it seems the department was officially established sometime around the end of the decade.
In the 1970s, UMass Amherst was booming. Student enrollment reached over 20,000, the new W.E.B. DuBois library was completed, and the UMass system opened 4 new campuses across the state. Student-run theatre on campus now competed with the burgeoning theater department and so became wholly self-sustaining, using revenue from ticket sales to fund future projects.
In 1970, the Operetta Guild was rebranded as the “UMass Music Theatre Guild”, opting to produce more recognizable Broadway hits moving forward. Such productions included: “Company” (1973), “Pirates of Penzance” (1975), “Kiss Me Kate”(1977), & even an original musical titled “Just Friends of 1923” (Fall 1979).
So as a 1976 article suggests: “No longer at center, Roister Doisters go on”. Students from the 5-College Consortium began joining on the productions — some students of theatre, though many not. Many were known to participate in both UMMTG and RD productions at this time.