It’s not often that Broadway fans can enjoy top-tier theater right in the midst of Nassau County. But Wantagh’s Eastline Theatre, located at 2123 Wantagh Ave., is attempting to change that.
“We find this is a place that has a need for this kind of theater,” Robert Higgins, president of Eastline Theatre, said. “There’s an idea that there’s great theaters in New York City and the Hamptons but in between, what is there? We want to plug that hole.”
Eastline Theatre, founded in 2012, was sold to Higgins in September 2017. From there, thanks to the guidance of his son and Eastline’s executive artistic director, Daniel, he turned it into a nonprofit. Now, this small black box is attempting to make a difference outside of the theater.
Since Higgins took over, his wife Susan Berkowitz and he have turned the playhouse around. This year, they launched Eastline Gives, a program designed to give the proceeds from each play to those in need throughout the greater Long Island community.
“We find there is more than enough out there for all of us to share,” Higgins said. “One of the things we like to encourage is cooperation. We’d like to be a lighthouse for certain progressive causes. It can be a place people come and see a little bit of themselves.”
Throughout the year, each play that Eastline Theatre produces will have a charity associated with it. Every producer, when submitting their proposal, picked a charity that shared a theme with the play they would run. First up was Hand To God, a play that Eastline ran from Jan. 12 to 27.
The nonprofit’s first shot at Eastline Gives featured a partnership with the Long Island Children’s Museum, and it was quite the success.
“We wanted it to be very community and Long Island-centric,” Berkowitz, who is the vice president and treasurer of Eastline Theatre, said. “The Long Island Children’s Museum was great about it.”
Next on the list for Eastline Theatre is Stop Kiss, which is about two women who share a kiss. That kiss incites a lot of violence and a violent act against one of the women.
“We picked a relevant charity, which is the LGBT Network, a Long Island-centric network focused on working with kids and adults in the LGBT community who are fighting the issues all the time,” Berkowitz said. “It’s been cool because we have LGBT Network and we can say to them, send your people.”
Not only will Eastline Theatre have the play, but it is working with the LGBT Network to come up with ideas for programs after the show, like a talk-back. Performances of Stop Kiss will be held each Friday to Sunday from Feb. 16 to March 3.
Since Higgins and Berkowitz took over Eastline Theatre, its popularity has significantly increased. Hand To God was the nonprofit’s most successful play to date. They can fit about 50 people into the black box theater for each play. But eventually, they want to see their project grow, all the while staying in the area.
“We are looking for a new space, one that’s bigger,” Higgins said. “But nothing too big, because we would like to maintain the intimacy of a black box. Something to keep the intimacy alive and to give us a little more room to breathe. Our goal is to expand and stay in the neighborhood, be part of the community and support it.”
Theater-goers can order tickets online for any of Eastline Theatre’s productions at eastlineproductions.com or by calling the theater at 516-749-5047.