COVID-19 THEATER SERIES: The NoHo Arts District – An Interview with Nancy Bianconi

Elaine L. Mura - LA Splash

Registered Critic, Writer

Nancy Bianconi is the president of NoHo Communications Group, Inc. (NCG), an arts and entertainment company specializing in arts education and marketing. NCG owns/operates NoHo Communications Group, Inc. For 20 years, NCG has been responsible for marketing the NoHo Arts District with a major focus on theaters. It has also produced / sponsored 85 per cent of NoHo’s theater / arts community events. Nancy has provided assistance with business practices, including administrative, finance, and coordinated marketing collaborative programs. Nancy has produced three off-Broadway musicals and has provided consulting to hundreds of dance and theater schools / companies in NoHo and Los Angeles. Nancy took time out from her very busy schedule to interview in April 2020.

Ronnie Marmo in “I’m Not a Comedian – I’m Lenny Bruce” at Theatre 68 – Photo by Doren Sorell

Tell us something about the history of the NoHo Arts District. What makes the NoHo Arts District special? 

Nancy Bianconi:  In the 1990s, North Hollywood was a blighted, crime-ridden neighborhood. Due to the cheap rents, theaters began to move in; and it was the theatres who helped rebuild the blighted and crime-ridden North Hollywood neighborhood that we now call NoHo. In 1992, the theaters and the Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce petitioned the City of Los Angeles to declare this one-square-mile section of North Hollywood as the NoHo Arts District. Theaters 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. The theaters have a huge impact on the neighborhood and on Los Angeles as a whole.

  • NoHo has 22 theaters in one square mile.
  • NoHo had the highest concentration of theaters outside of New York City.
  • NoHo theaters present more than 500 shows per year, including world premieres.
  • NoHo has 35 acting classes held any given night.
  • More than 20,000 people enjoy NoHo’s shows throughout the year.
  • NoHo theaters are an economic multiplier for local restaurants, bars, local businesses, etc.  Theater-goers spend on average of $32 above the theatre ticket price for dinner, drinks, and retail purchases.

The official site for the NoHo Arts District,, was created in 1998 to showcase this unique neighborhood, the first established neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. What makes NoHo an eclectic neighborhood is that it is the only performing arts district in Los Angeles. The theaters established this section of North Hollywood as an arts district; and, over the years, it has blossomed into a booming creative neighborhood. NoHo is filled with 20+ live, professional theaters, which is the highest concentration outside of New York City. 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. NoHo makes 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; it has become a METRO hub and attracts new talent, creative businesses, and visitors alike.

Acme Comedy Theatre, NoHo Arts District – Photo courtesy of Nancy Bianconi

When did the theaters close due to COVID-19? Were any of the theatres in the middle of a run?

NB: All theaters closed when the Mayor ordered a shut-down. They were either in the middle of a run or about to open a show. The NoHo theaters are used for a variety of acting classes, one-night events, workshops, seminars, fundraisers, etc. Our theaters are open to all and the neighborhood utilizes them for many events. Our creative makeup means that our theaters are a normal use, a normal part of daily life, you could even say an essential service – when we are not under quarantine.

TU Studios, NoHo Arts District – Photo courtesy of Nancy Bianconi

Over the past weeks, how has COVID-19 impacted the theaters?

NB: Eighteen of the 22 live, professional theaters in the NoHo Arts District will close within two months because of Covid-19. It will not only harm the theaters, but also the NoHo Arts District as a whole. All the NoHo theaters survive month-to-month in order to create their shows because they’re not government supported and cannot sustain even a short-term shut down.  Without shows, classes, rentals, and ticket sales, theaters can’t survive. This has an effect on the entire community because, without the theater patrons, actors, and crew, restaurants, bars, apartments and other local businesses lose revenue. Without NoHo theaters, there will be no NoHo Arts District.

Group Rep Theatre, NoHo Arts District – Photo courtesy of Nancy Bianconi

What are you doing to prevent closing for good?

NB: To avoid closure of 18 theaters in Los Angeles’ performing arts district, has created a “Save NoHo Theatres from COVID19” Go Fund Me campaign to help pay for 60 days of rent for the 18 theaters. The NoHo Arts District  is just one-square mile, and it has the second largest concentration of theaters in the United States. We need to make sure that it survives.

What do you think will be the impact of COVID-19 on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you foresee any permanent changes?

NB:  If we lose our NoHo theaters, we also will have lost theaters in Hollywood, downtown, West LA, and Santa Monica. Can Los Angeles still be the entertainment capital of the world without theater? I don’t think so.

Secret Rose Theatre, NoHo Arts District – Photo courtesy of Nancy Bianconi

What do you need right now to keep going forward? What would you like from the theater public? 

NB: Like all businesses and individuals, we need a true moratorium on rent / mortgages. There is a freeze on rents, but what happens when the freeze is over? How is anyone – theater, dance school, or individual – supposed to repay back rents/mortgages when they have been forced to close, stop working, and have zero income? We all would like the answer to this question. In the short run, we would like to see support for our gofundme campaign from theater lovers, local politicians, arts organizations, etc. We are a large theater community that is an economic multiplier. Without theater patrons who go out for a show and dinner, restaurants would be negatively impacted. Without actors and technical / creative crew, who would fill the apartments? When life begins to function again – although it will be different – we would love to see our theaters packed with audiences, including some who’ve never seen a show in NoHo. We want to reopen with a splash!

Loft Ensemble, NoHo Arts District – Photo courtesy of Nancy Bianconi

What are some of your future plans?

NB: ​The future of NoHo theatres will be determined by the amount of money we raise through our gofundme campaign. NoHo theaters are determined to continue producing plays, festivals, acting workshops, and home-to-church services, community organization meetings, etc. It is from our theaters that tomorrow’s Broadway and Off Broadway shows originate.

This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Elaine Mura moved to New York City as an adult, where she completed her doctorate in psychology and worked in one of New York’s many State hospitals. Subsequently, she decided to scratch a persistent itch to travel and spent ten years living and working in Denmark, Germany, Portugal, and Iran – with shorter stops in the many scenic spots in between. She aplied her skills all over the world doing research, clinical practice, and academic pursuits. Since relocating to Los Angeles, she taught students in the graduate program at Pepperdine University for many years and spent the last 20 years as a forensic psychologist with the California State prison system. But the writing bug forever lay just beneath the surface, and she is currently writing magazine articles and theater reviews while working on a play, a novel, and a book of short stories.