If Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre isn’t the only theatre dedicated to horror themed plays, year round, it isn’t because the format doesn’t work.
What began as a makeshift theatre run out of a Northridge garage in 1992 has grown into an award winning, critically acclaimed theatre practically underneath the gateway into North Hollywood’s burgeoning Arts District. Featuring a rotating lineup of original shows, such as their hallmark “Urban Death,” alongside Edgar Allen Poe adaptations and Shakespeare reinterpetations (always with a morbid twist), Zombie Joe’s claims a number of LA Weekly theatre awards, and has been applauded by the LA Times, who called the theatre, “a model of barebones ingenuity.”
“From the very beginning, our group has been intrigued with the blend of the horror macabre with a tight French-tableax style of highly physical, high-impact theatre,” explains Zombie Joe, who gives a polite “no comment” when asked on how he earned his name. He describes the usual “ZJU” production as his own brand of progressive theatre: “fun, fascinating, and always on the ‘cutting edge,’” and “passionate toward the survival and growth of the living arts.”
“Urban Death,” an ongoing, evolving show at Zombie Joe’s, is a collection of short vignettes of just a couple minutes each, most without dialogue, full of eerie mood, gore, and horror. A sleeping girl unaware as a creature crawls out from under her bed. The transformation of corpses into the living, walking dead. An artist cutting herself to use the blood as paint. In the course of an hour show, audiences will be treated to nearly fifty of these mini-scenes, some terrifying, some dark comedy, that perhaps are best described as living portraits or statues.
Zombie Joe’s adaptations of more, relatively, mainstream fare is seamless. Their production of “Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death” earned them the LA Weekly Theatre Award for Best One Act Ensemble. The North Hollywood Patch said of a recent production of “Romeo & Juliet,” “Rarely has anyone written or a theater company more touchingly and movingly presented a work of such resonance and power.”
“I thought it was dead, but grand guignol is alive and well,” horror director Drew Daywalt wrote in his review of Zombie Joe’s on FearNet. “It just doesn’t live in 19th Century Paris any more. It dwells in contemporary North Hollywood.”
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Most shows $15.
4850 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601