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Op-Ed: NoHo's Arts District is in Scary Shape; Here's How You Can Help - LA Weekly

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, located within the NoHo Arts District produces more than 20 haunting theater experiences a year. And we proudly do it in the NoHo Arts District.

I founded Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Company back in in 1992 in an industrial garage in Northridge. I moved the company to NoHo in 2000 because it was a strangely gritty community in the Valley that gave us the opportunity to create shows filled with zombies, ghouls, demons, estranged spirits and all the scary monsters we could imagine. The neighborhood continues to be a perfect fit for our off-beat, hour-or-less haunted franchises, original classic works such as those from Shakespeare, Moliere and The Brothers Grimm, as well as a roster of original new works, dance musicals, children’s theater and our annual Halloween maze and experience — “Urban Death: Tour Of Terror.”

ZJU Theatre Group was midseason when the pandemic hit, freezing our programming. Even though Zombie Joe’s is known for super fun n’ thrilling theater, COVID-19 has been truly terrifying for us and our entire arts district. But we would rather fight than be scared about the virus and the effects it has on our community. So we’ve joined forces with the ladies of nohoartsdistrict.com and 18 NoHo theaters to create the “Save NoHo Theaters from COVID-19Go Fund Me campaign. We have spent 20 years creating our strange methods of “theater-ing” in our NoHo home, and the theaters that founded the NoHo Arts District have become our family. We owe it to our amazing theater family, fans and supporters to weather the coronavirus storm, and to return triumphant with an exciting new season of riveting theater and haunted experiences.

(Courtesy ZJU)

But like with most L.A. theaters, the NoHo Arts District spaces survive month to month in order to create their shows because they are not government supported and cannot sustain even a short-term shut down.  Without shows, classes, rentals and ticket sales, theaters cannot survive. This has an effect on the entire community because without the patrons, actors and crew, restaurants, bars, apartments and other local businesses lose revenue. I can even say that without NoHo theaters there will be no NoHo Arts District.

I am not being dramatic or apocalyptic. If 18 out of 22 theaters close, this area will have to be called North Hollywood again. Theaters have a huge economic impact on restaurants, bars, apartments, hotels, other creative industries, local businesses, etc. NoHo theaters do more than 500 shows per year and that translates to nearly 20,000 people every year who enjoy its shows. Theatergoers spend on average of extra $32 above the theater ticket price for dinner, drinks and retail purchases. We are just a one-square mile neighborhood, but we have the highest concentration of theaters outside of New York City.

But NoHo theaters are more than a place for shows. The theaters host 35 acting classes on any given night, which makes NoHo a place for actors to practice their craft and build friendships in a city of 10+ million people. ZJU Theatre Group is more of a theater family.

Why did residents and businesses move into the NoHo Arts District? Because it’s an arts district! NoHo was not always how it is today. In the ’90s, it was scary. The theaters helped rebuild the blighted and crime-ridden North Hollywood neighborhood. They were the impetus for the creation of the NoHo Arts District and attracted other theaters and creative industry folks as well as new developments, restaurants, bars, apartments and hotels.  It began with a few gutsy, enterprising, hard-working theaters. This is the spirit of our NoHo neighborhood!

The bottom line is: We are doing everything we can to stay a strong, vibrant theater district in this one-mile stretch of the Valley — the first, the original Valley neighborhood. We haven’t fought to maintain NoHo as an arts district for 20 years just to give up now. The #SaveNoHoTheatres Go Fund Me goal will allow theaters to survive into the summer when the productions and audiences return, and NoHo’s entertainment and nightlife scene will be booming again.

(Courtesy ZJU)

Where contributions go: ACME Comedy Theatre, ACME Comedy Club, Actors Workout Studio, Actors Workout Theater B, Avery Schreiber Playhouse, Brick House Theatre, Group Rep Theatre Main Stage, Group Rep Theatre Upstairs, Loft Ensemble Mainstage, Loft Ensemble Sawyer’s Playhouse, Secret Rose Theatre, Theatre 68 Flex, Theatre 68 Main Stage, The Sherry, TU Studio, Whitmore Lindley Theater Center Theatre #1, Whitmore Lindley Theater Center Theatre #2 and Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group.

NoHo is also the hip-hop dance capital with studios and choreographers that create the moves we see on TV and in film and all over Instagram. We make a lot of music and boasts the largest amount of recording studios west of the Mississippi with musicians from all genres having recorded in the district. NoHo was the first neighborhood in the Valley, and it has become a METRO hub, attracting new talent, creative businesses and visitors alike.

I speak not only for Zombie Joe’s, but for all the theaters in NoHo and beyond, that when life goes back to our new normal, please see a show!

Please visit our neighborhood’s website: nohoartsdistrict.com and donate to “Save NoHo Theaters from COVID-19Go Fund Me campaign.

Zombie Joe’s “ASTROGLYDE 2020” – a livestreaming theater-festival of 18 10-minute-monologues of “Truth, Terror & Titillation,” kicks off Fri., June 5, and runs for 18 consecutive nights thru June 22. All shows start at 8:30 p.m. More info at zombiejoes.com.