But I Keep Cruisin’; Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Movin’

I was angry that no one cared to do anything about the PITA; I truly thought he was a danger. I was angry that Brad had been allowed to chase me down the hall in front of students, shouting and calling me names, and still got tenure. I was angry that I’d been promised a tenure track line and was told it had been given to Ali and another one would not be happening. I was angry that when Cherry became chair she changed my contract so that teaching Stage Management was part of it. Foolishly, I went to the Dean, hoping she would see that my anger was justified and help me do something about it. 

Instead, she removed Stage Management from my contract and cut my work percentage and salary by one quarter. 

I refused to sign Cherry’s review of my performance: every year until this one I had received outstanding reviews and the maximum raise possible. But this review basically said I wasn’t fulfilling my duties. I was hired as a costumer and professor. I was now in charge of a Stage Management program I had created and inaugurated, and I was in charge of small props. I don’t know how I wasn’t fulfilling my duties–because I wanted a dangerous student removed or at least counseled?  Because I demanded my colleague not chase me and call me names? Because I wanted someone who had actually been educated in Stage Management to be teaching that class to our students?

I wrote a rebuttal to Cherry’s bad performance review, pointing out all these things. I kept a copy and dropped one off for Cherry to attach to my review. She came to my shop about 10 minutes later, asking me to sign the rebuttal. But she was holding the folder over everything except the signature line so I couldn’t see what I was signing. I looked her in the eyes. I signed the paper, dated it and put the time beside it. 

Another 10 minutes later, Cherry returned, saying she’d messed up the other copy and asked if I’d sign the new one. This time I could see that I was signing a photocopy of my rebuttal letter. I’m still angry that she had me sign a paper she wouldn’t let me see. I’m angry she thought I was so eay to dupe. I’m also angry she changed her mind. I was going to call her out on the falsification of papers. 

Cherry is still at UND. I am not. Cherry is no longer chair; she resigned after the one year in which she managed to have me, Ali, and Kip resign. Oh yeah. I resigned. After receiving the new ¾ time contract, I spoke to my kids. Nick said quit. Fuck ‘em. I could go work at the fabric store or the bakery or something.  Monica said, come to Oceanside California and live with me and Randin. I told her we now had three cats: Kitty, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern. Could the cats come with us? They could. 

Nick and I sold our beloved house and once again packed a Uhaul and moved across the country. I cried when I left our house behind. I loved that house so much. We almost lost Kitty in a truck stop, but just as I was about to start crying, she came walking across the parking lot like she owned the place.

It took us three days to get there and when we did, the removal of stress caused me to pass out in the bathroom.  We had to put most of our belongings in storage; there just wasn’t any room in the house. Puppy wanted to be friends with the cats but they were completely not interested. 

We started a family version of Pizza Fridays. While we were living in Grand Forks I’d taught myself to make and toss pizza dough. Every Friday, I’d make a personal pizza for everyone in the house so they could all have their own preferred toppings. We’d sit out on the patio as the evening came and eat, drink, talk, laugh. I used the same outdoor table to cut costumes for a high school production of Cinderella that hired me to be a cutter and stitcher. I was amazed at the lack of mosquitos. California was in a drought, so this spoiled North Dakota girl had to learn to conserve water.

One day Kitty climbed up on my bed and never came down. If that wasn’t worrying enough, Rosie, Gil, and Puppy jumped up and laid beside her and Kitty didn’t even hiss, which was completely unlike her.  She wouldn’t eat, not even if I brought the food to her. We took her to the vet, where she impressed everyone by walking in on her own and lying down in the middle of the lobby like she was the queen of the place. Kitty had throat cancer and she never woke up from the exploratory surgery.

(S)he who was my companion through adventure and hardship is gone forever.

I applied for every job I saw and finally got a job as costume faculty at Louisiana Tech. The ‘Coordinator of Theatre’ there is one of the worst people I have ever met–and I’ve met a lot of terrible people. She claimed to have been the original Stage Manager when “Phantom of the Opera” first transferred from London to Broadway. She made degrading jokes about lesbians and then talked about her female partner in NYC. She broke FERPA laws twice in 2 days–once by calling an ‘emergency/ meeting to tell everyone on the faculty about a student’s substance abuse problems. She introduced a Chinese exchange student by saying (Please please forgive me): “This is M. She no speakee Engee.”  

C surrounded herself with all the student workers she could hire, basically creating a group of sycophants who were afraid to cross her. She didn’t let designers design, instead dictating what was to be drawn and made; the renderings were considered her property after the show. She insisted everyone in the entire department attend production meetings, which were all about how wonderful C is. Her class lectures were also all about how wonderful C is. 

I told her I hate costume parades because I think it’s terrible to talk trash about actors’ bodies, especially while the actors are standing right there, listening. C assured me she would never disrespect actors that way and then proceeded to talk about fat ankles and big thighs and uneven breasts at the top of her lungs during the costume parade she forced me to have. When I protested, she physically trapped me in my office and blocked me from leaving while she shouted at me about being unprofessional.

Did you ever notice the directors that lecture the most about behaving professionally are the least professional people around?

Even when I tried to excuse myself to go to the restroom and compose myself, she refused to get out of my way. I went to the chair and told him this. Not only did C deny it happened, she told all her classes what I’d accused her of and denied it to them too. She insisted on calling me on the phone and shouting instead of texting or emailing. Little hint: shouting into my hearing aids causes me physical pain.

Soon, marking the days off until the end of the term on the calendar wasn’t enough to get me through the day. I was marking off hours. My costume shop was inside the scene shop; my office was inside that–and used as a through-way to get to the classroom next door. The entire building was leaking, flooding, and full of mold and wasps. The sewing machines were $100 Brothers from walmart that barely worked. The supplies were mildewed and rotting. The drains in the building were uncovered and the custodian only emptied garbages in the bathrooms once a week. 

We were back in Oceanside in time for Thanksgiving.

Back to looking for jobs that didn’t suck. At MSU, Aili was now chair of Theatre and Conrad was Dean of Arts and Humanities. They conspired to get the other professor of theatre fired so they could hire who they wanted. The problem was, they didn’t want the same person. Aili wanted to hire me; Conrad wanted to hire my friend Noah. They hired someone named Ben. Aili and Conrad stopped recruiting for the department. All across the US, colleges and universities were facing extreme budget cuts. Underperforming departments were combined with each other or cut altogether. Deans were being put in charge of multiple schools. 

Conrad’s position was cut. He and Aili were given the choice of having him retire two years early, or letting Ben go so Conrad could take his place. They let Ben go. Aili told me when Conrad retired in two years, she would hire me. I knew better than to believe that. Sure enough, when Conrad retired two years later, the position was cut, leaving Aili as a theatre department of one. She stopped directing–it’s hard to create a show with no help. The MSU theatre department was cut. 

Then the music department said they would fold the musical theatre minor into their department. Summer Theatre was given to Good Chad. I went back and costumed Summer Theatre two different summers. The first year I took my Rosie cat and stayed with Kelsie.  It was miserable without Janet, Justin, Farrah, Brad, Adam, Noah…and Bram. I stayed with Kelsie but her fiance’ was gone for the summer and she was depressed. We were two miserably depressed women waiting for the summer to be over. 

Back in Oceanside, I got a job at Joann. I couldn’t wait to get back to costuming. Randin took Monica away for a weekend and proposed to her. She responded with, “You’re the stupidest person in the world!” We began wedding planning. Monica and Randin designed the dress and I made it. I made the floral arrangements, the ties, my Mother-of-the-Bride dress. I also got ordained online so I could perform the wedding.

I answered an ad for a tenure-track costume position at Truman State University in Kirksville Missouri. The ad said upon receiving tenure, the professor would be put in the rotation to be Chair of the Theatre department; the rotation was supposed to occur every three years. Take THAT, UND! Costumers DO get tenured positions! I was offered the job and happily accepted. Nick and I (and the cats) were on the move again.


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