The NoHo Arts District dot Com team always says:
“NoHo is only as great as its people.”
This is true for Dennis Gersten of T.U. Studios who has been a strong theatre advocate and a shaper of what our arts community is today.
When and what made you start a theatre in NoHo? What was the district like then?
We created T.U. Studios in the fall of 1995. My wife and I had bought our house in the Valley one year before this, so NoHo was a convenient location that was already becoming a center for the Arts. Our not-for-profit corporation, Theatre Unlimited, was established in 1993; and we produced three shows in Hollywood before moving to NoHo. The District covered a larger area then than it does today. There were twenty-some theaters in the Valley Theatre League – most were within the NoHo hub. Redevelopment had not hit us yet, so rents were affordable. We staged many shows in those first few years.
Since the growth of NoHo, what changes do you like and dislike?
The kind of growth that occurred has not been kind to the artist. The District received little more than lip service from those whose assistance was needed to grow and protect an Arts community. Developers had the resources to push their projects forward, and so, as in other cities, gentrification drove some theaters out of business. We were forced to let our acting company go and become a theater rental facility, if we were to remain and meet the rising monthly expenses. After our first landlord sold the building, our rent doubled. Our neighbor, the wonderful Iliad Bookstore, moved out of the District because their rent tripled.
What is the hardest thing about managing a small theatre?
Whether producing or renting out space, small Theatre is not a place for making money. It is for the expression of the higher self.
Tell us about your career as an actor. What advice would you give to an emerging actor?
After receiving an MFA from CalArts, I got involved in the theatre community in L.A. It has been consuming. There has been some film and TV work, but it’s what I do on stage that matters most to me. This past year I was in two productions at the Odyssey Theater that were very rewarding to work on – “Tempest Redux” and “The Hairy Ape.” I’ve just begun work on “Macbeth,” which is looking like another wild ride. I am also directing quite a bit.
I don’t give advice about “the business.” As for acting, I tell my students that it’s all about practice, discipline, and experiencing the world as an artist: look to art, music, dance, writing, nature, science, religion, politics; and look for the beauty in all of it. You will need to know, feel, and experience much if you hope to have depth in your work. It can’t be faked.
Tell about your theatre. Can anyone rent your theatre? How do they inquire about renting the theatre?
Theatre Unlimited Studios is available for productions, classes, workshops, auditions, film shoots, rehearsals, and meetings. We have a 55-seat Theater with lights and sound, a raised stage, wing, dressing room, lobby, two restrooms; and a 460-sq.-ft. Studio with carpeting, risers, and skylight. T.U. Studios is located at 10943 Camarillo Street in the NoHo Arts District, close to the 101, 170, and 134 freeeways. You’ll find us one storefront east of the intersection of Lankershim Blvd., Vineland Ave., and Camarillo St. We have ample parking in our lot and surrounding streets. For rates and availability, please contact DENNIS at: email@example.com or 818-205-1680.
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