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A Theatre Department’s Response to the Internal Auditor

How one academic administrator might answer questions about the department’s use of unusual resources (say, stiletto heels).

April 20, 2022

Following up on last week’s post, “Why Is the Finance Office Always Hassling Us?” this internal memo explores possible responses to an internal auditor’s questions regarding the use of resources by a theatre department.*


TO: Rosemary Pilkington, associate vice president for internal audits

CC: J. Pierrepont Finch, vice president for administration and finance; Milton Gatch, university comptroller

FROM: Rob Fosse, chair, Loesser Department of Theatre

RE: Theatre Department Audit Responses: Part 1, fiscal years 2017, 2018, 2019

I’m writing to answer questions posed to our costume designer, prop master and sound technician regarding certain purchases made in fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019. We appreciate your office’s vital work to ensure monies are spent appropriately and expenditures adhere to Wicket University’s policies, contractual agreements with vendors, funder restrictions and state and federal law. The theatre department shares in your belief that the best way to avoid audit findings, litigation and physical and emotional harm is to identify risks.

As one of the departments with the least funding, the lowest-paid faculty and staff, and the most likely department to be eliminated due to budget cuts, we are accustomed to frugality and using resources wisely. It is important to note that our department is unlike most; what we purchase can vary greatly depending on the shows we present each season. Also, our profession requires us to find unique solutions to recurring problems in order to conduct business cost-effectively, efficiently and safely.

I hope the following information provides sufficient justification and rationale for purchases red-flagged during the internal audit process.

  1. Rationale for One-Time Purchases

A.        Stiletto heels from dragqueenshoes.com

These shoes were purchased for the production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Photos of the actors wearing said items can be found on the department’s webpage. The costume designer wishes to remind you she wears a woman’s size 6.5. Photos of her shoes (and her wearing her shoes) are also attached. If you wish to examine her shoes and compare them with the shoes used for the production, please make an appointment with her during her office hours. The rationales for related wig and hosiery purchases are forthcoming.

B.        Sex toys and penis whistles from Priscilla’s: Where Fun and Fantasy Meet

Vibrators and other related items were used as props in the play In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play). The play has been performed on Broadway (located in New York, N.Y.) and won three Tony Awards (the highest award in the American theatre profession). The penis whistles (toy-like, plastic in nature and not dissimilar to an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile whistle but in the shape of a penis) were used in a production of Barcelona: A Love Untold (see attached affidavit provided by the student actress’s grandmother, who saw both productions in person). The prop master respectfully wishes me to convey that if he wanted to purchase such objects for his personal use, he would not have endured the embarrassment of using a university p-card and tax-exempt number.

C. Men’s pajama set from MeUndies

Please see attached department playbills for the production of Rear Window. If you are unfamiliar with this story, we suggest you watch the film version on Netflix at your leisure. Alternatively, you may find Rear Window on television. The film features James Stewart (a famous actor) and is directed by Alfred Hitchcock (also famous).

  1. Rationale for Recurring Purchases

    A.        Five gallons of Skol vodka from Good Spirits Fine Wine and Beverages

    Vodka is used to make what is commonly known in the theatre profession as “costume water.” During the show’s run, actors may exude certain bodily fluids (liquid and gas forms) that may be absorbed by their costume and create lingering unpleasant/offensive odors. Production schedules do not afford the time to send costumes to a dry cleaner, which is expensive and would ruin some custom effects on the fabric. So, a mixture of vodka and astringent (Sea Breeze being the preferred brand) is sprayed on the costumes to freshen them. This hypoallergenic method is safer, cheaper and more effective than using commercial products. Please note: the mixture is not drinkable. Any temporarily unused straight vodka is secured in a locked desk drawer to prevent students from accessing it. 

    B.        A box of 500 count of unlubricated condoms from Amazon.com

    Actors perspire a great deal under the stage lights (also See Item II-A). Condoms are used to encapsulate and protect microphone battery packs to prevent them from shorting out during episodes of physical exertion by the actors. Doing so is significant financial savings since buying 500 battery packs would be cost-prohibitive. Please refrain from red-flagging these purchases; the sound technician has already made numerous complaints to his union and doesn’t appreciate hearing giggles in the background during calls from the business office inquiring about said purchase. He stated in writing to me, which I am compelled to share, “I am not amused.”

    C.        Personal lubricant purchased from CVS

    This product is used to fill the bottom of ashtrays used when actors smoke on stage during production. While this product has other uses of an intimate nature, personal lubricant is an excellent way to mitigate fire risk, as it extinguishes lit cigarettes quickly. Please note: the rationale for purchasing cigarettes from Sheetz and vape pens from Great Vape will be provided under separate cover.

It is my sincere hope that these answers and associated documentation suffice. Let me know if you have additional questions or concerns.


Rob (Jazz Hands) Fosse, M.F.A.
Chair, Loesser Department of Theatre

*The items listed in this article and the manner used accurately describe the activities by theatre departments across the country. These items (along with things like perishable food, random office supplies and stripper poles), used for theatre productions, are often red-flagged by internal auditors and business offices. The names of individuals and the institution are fictional. Note: Being snarky or using thinly veiled sarcasm when communicating with internal auditors is not advised.


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