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Shtark Contrast debuts at Rock Hall Museum

New theater company debuts in Lawrence on Aug. 13


“Every community has its dreamers” the mission statement of the Five Town’s newest theater group, Shtark Contrast, states. Merely six weeks after the company’s founding, its members are turning their dreams into reality with the upcoming debut on Aug. 13 at Rock Hall Museum.

The newly formed company will be performing J.B Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” next Tuesday. Written under a post-World World II lens, but set in 1912, the play follows a bourgeois family celebrating the engagement of their daughter, whose lives are suddenly changed when an inspector brings news of a recent tragedy, along with an endless slew of questions. 

 “It doesn’t matter who you are,” Winkler told the Herald. “[It is] the perfect debut play for us,” Winkler stated in a news release. It expresses our mission in the most fascinating way.” The theater group prides itself on being open to the entire community, regardless of religious affiliation, background and political opinions, so members believe that the play, with its unifying theme, is more than fitting for its first production. 

Thought provoking and powerful, the play inspects not only the Birling family, but humanity as well. “‘An Inspector Calls’ reminds us that, for better or for worse, ‘we are not alone,’” said Woodmere resident Hannah Mari, quoting a line from the plat. The SUNY Purchase senior has starring role as Sheila Birling.

The company was formed after Winkler received countless requests from former students who missed the exhilaration and expression of drama. “The opportunity to have a place to be creative, collaborate, and perform stopped existing after high school, but there was still a desire to be part of the experience,” said Winkler, who oversees the drama department at Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway High School.

“I didn’t really think that there would be many chances to get back into the theater community” said Mari, a literature major, during a rehearsal. “And so coming back to this to this place where I feel supported and I feel welcome and I feel encouraged to explore this artistic style is really, really heartwarming and I'm very grateful.”

The new theater company is filling a niche long left empty in the Five Towns. “There is a lack of creative opportunity,” Winkler said, “which is a shame because the Five Towns is home to many creative people.” 

She and dedicated cast of current and former HAFTR players  — I will be playing Edna in the production — are working hard to bring this opportunity and cultural presence provided by community theater to the Five Towns, and they understand the importance of their work. 

“[It] allows people of completely different lifestyles and backgrounds to come together and do something great for the community and for theater,” Elijah Greenberg, recent HAFTR graduate and Woodmere resident said. He will be starring as Arthur Birling.

Assistant director and Lawrence resident, Danielle Freud, said that rehearsals are going well and she thinks people will enjoy the performance. “This has the potential to make a very big difference in the Five Towns,” she said. “The more people who get involved, the more people who come see our show, the better it will be for the community,”

For more information on the show, call (516) 476-9219. Rock Hall Museum is at 199 Broadway in Lawrence.