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EVENTS : Middle-of-the-Road Party : The success of NoHo will be marked by an unprecedented two-day street closure for a celebration.

June 09, 1995|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; T.H. McCulloh writes regularly about theater for The Times

NORTH HOLLYWOOD — NoHo is celebrating this weekend. And to show how happy the area is, the authorities--for the first time-- have allowed a section of street to be closed off for two days in a row to accommodate the event.

Saturday and Sunday, Lankershim Boulevard will be closed to traffic between Magnolia Boulevard and Chandler Boulevard as the third annual NoHo Performing Arts Festival celebrates the rebirth of the area as a home for artists, restaurants, coffeehouses and, most particularly, theaters.

Though the NoHo arts district actually runs east and west between Cahuenga and Tujunga boulevards, and north and south from Burbank Boulevard to Camarillo Street, the focus this weekend is the intersection of Magnolia and Lankershim.

Lankershim had fallen on sad times up until a few years ago. Debra Sakacs, executive director of the Universal City / North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, describes the neighborhood as resurrecting itself.

"I just see it being an area where people who are creative can come and be together, and practice their craft, whether it is as a performing artist or a visual artist. And people from all over coming to visit the area to see what they have to show," Sakacs says.

"It's just the fact that it's happening here, and you can walk from one theater to the other, from one coffeehouse to the other. It's very satisfying to see something happening in an area that had really been slipping. There's just so much heart in all of this. It's very positive, that's what I see happening now."

There are several coffeehouses, fine restaurants and theaters already operating in the neighborhood, predominantly Actors Alley at the El Portal, which has just moved into the Storefront, the first of its three theater spaces to be completed after earthquake repairs. During the day this weekend, the company will be presenting one-act plays at the Storefront. Hourly, in a tent straddling Lankershim adjacent to the El Portal, a dozen other Valley Theatre League theaters from the area will also present short plays, scenes from their current productions, sketch comedy and audience-participation improv shows.

Across the street from the El Portal, on the vacant lot in front of the Academy Plaza, an outdoor stage will be the site of performances by various musical and dance groups, also performing hourly.

All these events are free (except for some children's rides at the corner of Magnolia and Lankershim). All are listed in the festival program, which will be handed out at the two entrances to the festival and at the Chamber of Commerce booth on the grounds. Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis.

Festival Chairman Brad Hills of the Road Theatre, which just moved into the Lankershim Arts Center, says, "Everybody is so behind the NoHo arts district, so supportive of what's going on in the district. The whole aspect of the street used to be so dreadful. It has changed remarkably, and there are so many more changes that are going to happen in the next six months to a year, to make it a place people want to come to."

According to Sakacs, Lankershim Boulevard will be flying banners to herald the area's new look, and more major changes are in store. Trees will be planted along the boulevard, and all areas will be well-lighted, including alleyways, so that visitors to the area can safely walk from theaters to coffeehouses and restaurants, and to the galleries and studios.

Sakacs says, "It's not just Lankershim Boulevard. It's spreading to other areas. The people who live in the area, who weren't sure about their property values, are much more encouraged by all of this. I'm from the northwest Valley, and people have to know what's going on in NoHo. There's so much available here. And that's what the festival's all about."

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Festival Theater Schedule

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY

Actors Alley Repertory Theatre, two one-acts, "Trumps" and "Lemonade on the Promenade," by Louis Felder, 2, 4 and 6 p.m.; also "Montebello News Service" by AART's Latino arm, Azitlan Playwrights Collective, 3 p.m., El Portal Storefront Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd.

SATURDAY ONLY

10 a.m.: Gene Bua Acting for Life Theatre and Zia Productions, "The Nerd" by Larry Shue.

11 a.m.: Two Roads Theatre, "One Perfect Rose," one-woman show about Rose Kennedy.

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY

1 p.m.: Synthaxis Theatre Company, "Collage," audience-participation improv comedy.

2 p.m.: Road Theatre Company, scenes from current production "Akela," also one-acts "Safe Distance" and "Guerilla Cookies."

3 p.m.: Actors Forum Theatre, "Bits and Pieces," including scenes from new musical by Alix Solomon, scenes from "Earth and Sky" by Douglas Post, and scenes from AFT's acting workshop.

4 p.m.: American Renegade Theatre Company, drama about an autistic daughter and the clarity of spirit that shines through her dark world.

5 p.m.: Actors Workout Studio, "Confessions," sketch comedy pieces from the group's Artists Circle.

6 p.m.: NoHo Actors' Studio, "Animal Night Unplugged," original comedy.

7 p.m.: Alliance Repertory Company, "Mississippi Tapestry."

Where and When

What: "NoHo Performing Arts Festival."

Location: Lankershim Boulevard between Magnolia Boulevard and Weddington Street, North Hollywood.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 12 noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Price: Free (except for children's rides).

Call: (818) 508-5155.

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