Nestled in the heart of downtown Wantagh is Eastline Theatre, a nonprofit, 42-seat black box theatre dedicated to providing its audience with the kind of offbeat, experimental stagecraft that is uncommon this far from Broadway.
Eastline takes a different approach than a standard venue might, eschewing bigger-budget, higher-profile Broadway shows in favor of a more left-field approach that speaks directly to the community it is a part of.
“We felt that the one thing Long Island lacked was that it did not have a theatre that was producing work specifically for Long Island,” says Executive Artistic Director Daniel Higgins.
The purposeful intimacy between performers and crowd allows Eastline to focus more on character-and-dialogue driven pieces with minimal use of set design in a smaller venue, forcing audiences to stay more focused on the actors themselves, rather than any stage pyrotechnics.
EastLine has gained some recognition, receiving a grant from the Huntington Arts Council. It achieved its nonprofit status in September 2018. Keeping the organization nonprofit is something Higgins believes in strongly, owing to his unwavering devotion to theatre for its own sake.
“No one should get into art to make a fortune,” Higgins says. “Our currency at Eastline is not money, it’s enlightenment and emotional catharsis.”
Eastline’s upcoming production is a stripped-back adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1882 novel Treasure Island, which runs July 13-28. Reconfiguring a beloved piece of adventure fiction into a stage show catering to a crowd of less than 50 without losing any of its emotional impact meant that the Eastline team’s viewpoint of theater as an extension of community was useful. As Higgins put it, when the audience is close enough to the cast to see them sweat, the transformative power of theatre shines through.
“Theatre is pointless without an audience,” he says. “But what makes it even more interesting is when that audience becomes the theatre.”
EastLine Theatre is located at 2123 Wantagh Ave. in Wantagh. It can be reached ay 516-749-5047 or eastlineproductions.com