A Sum Total Scrapbook

Franny Silverman
March 8, 2013
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That pasta dinner with live music in Bloomington the first night of the residency at Indiana.  The big audition I flew back for that never materialized into anything more than a big audition.  The unexpected flights and airfare change fees that aren’t deductible because visiting your dying grandmother over and again all winter long is in no way a business expense.  And that’s just the month of January.

This time of year it feels like there are two kinds of people: the single employer person with one W2 from one company, and the freelancer AKA self-employed AKA multiple part-time-jobs-to-make-ends-meet-let’s-not-even-mention-under-the-table-work hustler.  I’m in the second category of people.  I’ve never not been in the second category of people.  I think even when I was a dependent, I was working retail and teaching after school classes and camp counseloring and babysitting.  And that one time when I actually had a full-time nine-to-five, it was in the Jewish nonprofit startup arts world, and I still had other side jobs, working as an actor, teacher, house manager, double-dipping for my share of the cream – monetary and creative.

This year I have six W2s and four 1099s representing employment in a total of five states.  What this means for me, as an independent performing artist and educator is that sometime between February and March every year, I spend hours in a sea of faded receipts and credit card statements, checking dates against my calendar from last year, playing numbers tetris with multiple spreadsheets: Books/Scripts, Props/Costumes, Hair/Makeup, Business Meals, Out-of-Town Meals, Memorable Meals, Unmentionable Meals…  Every fragile slip of lavender printed paper that looks like it was rolled through the old ditto copier in 1983 takes me back: Oh yeah, that reading in New Jersey where I met that dramaturg (she was so great I should make plans with her,) those pants (so cute and on sale!) that I bought for that show that was so awesome (except that it was in Morningside Heights—by the way where are those cab receipts…)

And these slips of paper, crammed into my Castanza wallet stretching leather round and soft, add up to the sum total of my annual scrapbook.  Where I was when, with whom, why, how I got there…what we ordered… a regular game of Clue.

It’s a shame I don’t have such a refined system of revisiting the undocumented moments of life where money wasn’t exchanged for goods.  Moments where I might have been sitting quietly on a bench smelling springtime, or talking with a stranger on the train, or dipping my toes in the salty urban ocean.  But this is America, where the dollar is the squeakiest wheel of all, so naturally her moments get top-billing.

But poring through documentation of 2012, I did notice a sharp decline of business expenses in the last few months of year.  It happens I’ve been busy baking a baby.  And though I need only look straight  down to see a stained t-shirt stretched over my domed middle as evidence of this gestational period, it is comforting to note the absence of deductibles giving weight to an event of much greater importance than any audition or performance.

We’ll see where we are this time next year…

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Franny Silverman is a Brooklyn-based actor, theatre-maker and educator. She is a co-founder of warner|shaw, and received Indiana University’s Jewish Studies Program’s 2012 Paul Artist-in-Residence for warner|shaw’s The Latvia Project. Franny has created and performed numerous new work for stage and ritual settings around the country as a founding company member of both Storahtelling and Northwoods Ramah Theatre. Performances with other companies include Brave New World Rep, The Culture Project, Estrogenius, Terranova Collective, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Epic Theatre, Passage Theatre Co, the Ontological-Hysteric, Little Lord, CUNY Grad Center, New Worlds Theater Project, NY Fringe Festival and Jewish Plays Project. Franny’s interactive seder installation,UnSeder|DisOrder, was presented by Chashama’s “Process is Fundamental” and she is the director of Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s song-cycle Mayim Rabim/Great Waters (BRICLab, PS122, Wexner Center, Chicago Cultural Center). Franny is the Director of Youth Education at Brooklyn's progressive synagogue, Kolot Chayeinu. She is also a new mom to Sunhillow Belle.

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