My first day as a temporary employee at the actuarial consulting firm Harold, Adams, McNutt & Joy, LLP, was in many respects just another day at the office, another day of precarious work in a gig economy. My workstation was familiar, though not my own: it featured a slightly outdated personal computer, a laser printer, a telephone, a lamp, and various supplies all hemmed in by grey cubicle walls, pinned with a few personal photographs and work-related charts (fig. 1). I followed instructions left by the desk's usual inhabitant, sticky notes pasted to my computer monitor directing me to open folders on the computer, listen to audio recordings, and monitor my phone. A woman's voice played from computer speakers or the phone receiver, she identified herself as Sarah Jane Tully and trained me to fill out the actuarial tables that would consume my workday. Emails arrived from coworkers, letting me know when clients had died and which tables needed updating. Entering their data into spreadsheets, I watched their mortality become obscured by the computational logic of insurers. I filled downtime between tasks by poking around Sarah Jane's computer. I hoped (mischievously) to find evidence of corporate malfeasance, but only uncovered her vacation plans; I empathized with the modesty of her middle-class beach fantasies. Occasionally the printer sprang to life, delivering love notes meant for someone else, full of lustful details. These I perused bemusedly. When I updated actuarial charts, the printer would provide brief biographies: names, images, and narratives of those who had passed on a single sheet of paper. These absorbed me totally. I read them closely and internalized the details of the images, before the digital bleating of a new email in my inbox would break the reverie and return me to the day's work.
This was my experience of the play Temping in its initial run at Dixon Place in New York City in August 2014. Directed by Michael Rau, written by Michael Yates Crowley, and designed by Asa Wember, Temping is a production of Wolf 359, a self-described “Narrative Technology Company” that has been staging original works authored and often performed by Crowley in the United States and Europe since 2007.