By Olivia Pannecouk
What brought you to RU and why do you choose to work here?
“Rob (Husband Rob Arbaugh who is a theatre professor at RU) and I were touring and performing and producing shows all over. We were going back and forth from Chicago to Virginia to Michigan and that gets very taxing after a while. Then he was performing a show in Chicago while I was performing in one at Meadow Brook Theatre and it was hard being away from each other for that long. Then out of the blue, in 2011 Rob started getting offers for jobs here in Rochester—a show at Meadow Brook and a class at Oakland University. Our friend James was a student here and contacted him and told him that the technical director job opened up here in the Theatre Department, so we ended up here since all of the work was here. Soon after, I started costuming the shows here and was working 12 hour days in physical therapy (as a tech) and then coming here at night. It was a lot, but we were young so I still had energy, lol. It was hard getting fittings done that late, so I was praying I'd be able to get a job on campus to make life a bit easier and in 2013 I did! God was really answering so many prayers for us. After a short while in Academic Services, I was able to do what I had spent my life doing…event planning! (I had been a wedding/event planner since I was 13. It was a great job because I could work around my theatre schedule, but I had put that on hold for a short time and really missed it). When the events coordinator position opened up, it was like God answering another desire of my heart. I also realized that I enjoyed producing shows more than I liked being in them. Being able to mentor the students and watch them grow as performers is much more fulfilling to me than acting. I love the relationships we build and the fulfillment of making their dreams a reality. That's why I came here and that's why I stay.”
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“Seeing the students transform from inexperienced kids to talented professionals. Getting them to realize their potential if they are willing to work hard enough. When they leave here, we can comfortably send them out into the acting world and know that they will be O.K. and will make us proud. I love being part of a department that can make that happen for them. (And another thing I love about being here is getting to work with Rob!)”
What do you do outside your job to stay sane, relieve stress, etc.? or What are your hobbies?
“When you are in theatre, that's pretty much what you do. You are working during the day and rehearsing at night, so there isn't much time to do anything else. BUT... in the summer when it's a little slower, I LOVE to garden. I love being out in nature working hard. I have a problem with buying too many flowers. .I could never buy enough or plant enough. Last summer we bought a house so I tried a vegetable garden for the first time and now I love that too. During the COVID lockdown, I was able to dig new landscaping and get the vegetable garden going so it was really nice to have that time at home to do all of that. When I'm not busy with all of that, I love to travel! Love, love it!”
Where did you grow up? Describe.
“I'm from New Baltimore. Rob and I both grew up in the same area on Lake St. Clair. We went to Anchor Bay and we've known each other since the 5th grade! I loved living that close to the water and was a total water baby. The water was, and still is, my favorite place to be. I couldn't live in a place with no beaches nearby.”
What is your favorite thing to do in the Rochester area? Or in Michigan?
“We love to walk around downtown Rochester and go to all of the little shops. I love the bakeries and coffee places, and I've recently discovered Give Thanks Bakery and I'm a bit obsessed. I love Michigan because of how many places you can go and find cute little towns, especially ones on the water. Of course Traverse City is amazing, and I could go there a thousand times and still love it.”
What is your most prized possession?
“So I'm not really a ‘things’ person. I treasure people more than stuff, so I'd say Rob, Desi (our dog) and my friends and family are the most important thing I have in my life.”
What is your most embarrassing moment?
“Hmm...I'd have to think about that. I am a pretty clumsy person so I have a lot of those moments. Falling down, walking into things, tripping over things...I'm not joking....it's a lot. I really used to love to prank people at work, and once, I was jumping out from behind doors making elbow farts at coworkers (yup, I did that) and I accidentally did it to one of our more mature professors who...I....did....not....know. That was pretty embarrassing.”
What is the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome?
“I am a workaholic, and I have an obsession with perfectionism. When you have a job like both of mine here (events coordinator and costume designer), you have budget and timeframe to work within and I have a hard time saying, ‘That's good enough.’ I've had to learn that you can't obsess over things and sometimes things don't come out as well as you want them to. I really have to force myself to not add hundreds of extra hours to things and to be O.K. with "good" instead of "excellent" sometimes. It's not easy but if you don't do that, you will work and work and work and still not ever be happy with your end product.”
What is a random fun fact about you?
“Martha Washington was my relative, along with many of the characters from ‘The Crucible.’ Elizabeth Proctor was my great, great, great, etc. grandmother and I was thrilled to be able to play her when we did the ‘Crucible’ some years ago. I got to see the Bassett family home as well as Martha Washington's home when we worked in Williamsburg. Walking the streets and halls that my actual family walked was very special.”
What single piece of advice would you give to students today?
“You can go far in life with a good attitude and a strong work ethic. It's not always the best or the most talented person that gets the job. Sometimes you'd rather hire the nice person with the 'O.K.' resume over the really qualified jerk. Someone with a strong work ethic will climb the ladder very quickly because you know that no matter what you give them, they will work hard at it.”