EAST ROCKAWAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There is unbridled enthusiasm in Long Island’s growing theatrical community.

After an 18-month-long shutdown, new regional and professional troupes are performing again. There’s even an old bank that will soon be a theater, the vault converted into a stage, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Wednesday.

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That abandoned bank in East Rockaway is the talk of Main Street.

“Once we saw it, we knew we had to have it,” Tony Leone said.

Leone and Marla D’urso quit their jobs during the pandemic, she in a bakery and he in pharmaceuticals. They bought the bank with one thing in mind.

“It has been my dream and my obsession to have my own theater,” Leone said.

“Right now we’re standing where tellers would have been with the bulletproof glass here,” D’urso said.

They’ll redesign the space and open Strongbox Theatre in 11 months, but they have already treated the community to free performances.

“There are so many people in the industry that are so eager to work now,” D’urso said.

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New life blood is creating a resurgence, a theatrical renaissance of sorts in the area.

“Plaza’s Broadway Long Island is Nassau County’s only professional equity theater, opening this week with the Rogers and Hammerstein classic ‘South Pacific,'” said Plaza’s Broadway’s Kevin Harrington.

The new professional theater is inside the Elmont Library. Under a contract with Actor’s Equity, Harrington uses Broadway actors, directors, designers, and more, McLogan reported.

“They can come to a conveniently located theater with plenty of free parking and see a Broadway-caliber show, accompanied by a 16-piece orchestra, for a fraction of the cost,” Harrington said.

People running local theaters say the pandemic is never far from mind, and if COVID causes another shutdown, the producers will remain committed to Long Island.

“Maybe people will feel safer coming into a more controlled environment with less people,” D’urso said.

“It has been a bit of a cultural desert in this geography,” Leone added. “Now, after the 39 steps and all the buzz about our business, people are saying to me, ‘Wow, we don’t have to go to Manhattan.'”

It’s right in their own backyard.

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“South Pacific” opens Thursday in the Elmont Library’s 400-seat theater.

Jennifer McLogan