This Labor Day, We Salute the (Arts) Workers

This Labor Day, We Salute the (Arts) Workers

Before you start loading up your fall culture calendar, take a moment this Labor Day Weekend to reflect on those people who make sure that the city’s cultural events — concerts, Broadway shows and art exhibitions — go off without a hitch. In a culture center like New York, that means there are thousands of people to thank; here, we introduce you to several of them. These are edited excerpts from conversations. — Nicole Herrington, Weekend Arts Editor

“For all you know, you could be going out for a walk in Bryant Park and you end up taking a full body movement class,” said Eric Parra, who led last Saturday’s class.

He started with simple combinations to warm up the spine and legs, then transitioned into slightly more complicated movement sequences, all set to the rhythms of a live percussionist.

The class highlights core aspects of the Limón technique, which values movement that swings, releases and maintains a grounded connection to the floor.

“If you fall here, you’re going to fall on grass,” Parra said. “It feels safe. It feels fun. When you’re a kid, you love to play in the grass, so I think dancing in the grass lifts the spirit.”

For Evelyn Emile, a projectionist who has been working at Anthology Film Archives for more than three years, films aren’t just seen and heard; they are also something you touch.

“I love handling film,” she said. “I have some contact with reality when I’m projecting film that I don’t have when I’m doing something digital.”

Working with film prints, she explained, requires precision and constant attention: “If I move the focus knob a millimeter, I know it will come into focus. Small movements can make a big difference on the screen.” And that’s what’s rewarding about it, she added. It’s up to her to ensure that the sometimes fragile reels of film show up onscreen in the way they were intended.

This isn’t accomplished by simply pressing a button. Film prints have to be inspected and occasionally repaired, cue marks have to be added, and lenses, aperture plates and sound formats must be set properly. All that extra effort, she says, is worth it. “Working at a theater that continues to program and screen films in their original format is very important to me. I think that when the film gets digitally transferred, it does lose a little bit of its soul.”

Film projection, she said, keeps her grounded. “Everything that I do in the booth, especially with film, has a consequence for how the film is shown. If I make small movements with framing adjustments, it affects how people see the film.”

The tactile relationship that Emile has with the films she projects has only deepened her love of cinema. Emile is particularly excited to screen films by Carl Dreyer, including “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928) and “Ordet” (1955), over Labor Day weekend. “Each of his films is really extraordinary,” she said. “They have simple plots showing everyday people, not judging them, just showing their relationships and how they work through the problems of their lives.” PETER LIBBEY

When: Carl Dreyer’s films will be shown through Sept. 3 at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, Manhattan; 212-505-5181,

Times Square isn’t a setting normally associated with well-informed conversation, but Ricky Jones says that’s what you’ll get if you come to the TKTS booth at 47th Street and Broadway to buy discounted theater tickets. “One of the big things about us,” he said, “is that you can really have a discussion with people about theater, which I think is really special.”

Part of his job, he explained, is to circulate among the customers waiting in line to go over the shows that have tickets available and that might be of most interest to them. For visitors not on top of the New York theater scene, these exchanges can reduce the stress of choosing among unfamiliar offerings. “When a lot of people come to New York City for the first time, they might know about ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ ‘Chicago’ and maybe ‘Wicked,’ but they probably don’t know about all the other shows on the board,” Jones said.

Instead of offering their opinions on shows, Jones and his team try to find the right play, musical or dance performance for each customer. “I usually ask what kind of show they are looking for, if they’ve seen a Broadway show before, and then I try to pair what they’ve seen before with what they’re looking for.”

For theater experts, these conversations can go deeper. “We can talk about the show you saw or want to see and geek out about it,” Jones said. He speaks from experience, having first come to TKTS as a theater-obsessed kid: “We would come to New York every year for Thanksgiving, and I remember there was a promoter, a British guy with purple hair. While my Mom waited in line, I would just talk theater with this guy, to the point that he has watched me grow up since I was about 8 years old.” PETER LIBBEY

When: Daily at the Times Square booth, as well as the TKTS outlets at Lincoln Center and South Street Seaport.

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