In the past two and a half years since I left New York City, I’ve felt at least mild anxiety each time I go back to visit. Something about the city itself, the streets I used to walk daily, the relationships I left there, my past coming face to face with my present. This week I went to the city for a day trip to see a play with two friends, and it was the first time I felt completely comfortable. Maybe it was because I was there with people I’d never been to the city with, or that enough time has passed…
April marks my five year anniversary of working in movie theaters. Five years ago, in 2008, I walked into the IFC Center and asked if they were hiring. That job changed my life in ways that only now am I starting to understand. On Tuesday, my friends Janet and Sandra (who run Images Cinema, where I currently work) and I went to see The Flick at Playwright’s Horizons. It’s a play about working in a cinema in the final days of 35mm film projection. Watching this play, which connects to my own life more than anything I’ve ever seen, feelings and thoughts rushed to the surface of my mind and heart.
Working as an usher/box office/concessions staff and eventually manager at IFC was such a sweet and tender time in my life (as well as a bit tumultuous). The people I met, the movies I saw, the things I learned became part of who I am. I remember my last day working there. As I walked through each theater at the beginning of the shift, doing my morning checks, I thought: this is where I became my adult self. I fell in love here. I changed.
At Images Cinema I was given the opportunity to be a film projectionist: the dream! To project 35mm film for two years, the final two years before digital took over, was an honor. That was such a special job for me, one that I’ll never forget. I loved it. I miss it all the time. For these past few months there’s been so much to focus on with the new digital projection system, and all my new responsibilities, that I hadn’t taken the time to really think about what that transition meant. While watching The Flick all these feelings began surfacing: about film, and the regret of leaving it behind, the history of it and what it meant to me personally. I thought about Dave, the head projectionist who trained me. I really enjoy all my new responsibilities, and working with the new system– being a part of something new, on the cusp of change– but there’s something about my time as a film projectionist that has a sort of glow around it.
It’s hard to really explain how I feel about this play. Seeing my movie theater life– the mundane tasks of cleaning and running a theater, etc.– heightened on a stage was so exhilarating and touching. I have a lot of feelings about it, and I’m still processing them.