SINCE its designation as a theater and arts district in 1992, North Hollywood, a.k.a. NoHo, has been the unofficial center of live performance in Los Angeles. Like its New York counterpart SoHo, the urban village bisected by Magnolia and Lankershim boulevards was built on a bohemian spirit that nurtured independent theaters (now numbering 22), indie art galleries, vintage shops, tattoo parlors and sidewalk cafes. But the arrival of the Red and Orange Metro lines has brought a wave of development to the neighborhood. Rising above the transit stops, the NoHo Commons, a three-phase housing and retail development, is nearing completion and promises to attract loft dwellers trolling for upscale dining and shopping. Pricey fashion boutiques have already begun to appear. But for now, NoHo maintains a very thespian character.
A night at the theater
The jewel in the crown of NoHo's theater district is the El Portal Theatre (5269 Lankershim Blvd.,  508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com). The Art Deco marquee hails from 1926, and the onetime 1,400-seat movie palace, rebuilt in the late 1990s, now houses three distinct theater spaces. Also of note: the Deaf West Theatre (5112 Lankershim Blvd.,  762-2998, TTY:  508-8389, www.deafwest.org), which presents shows in American Sign Language translated into spoken English.
Before and after the show
NoHo's new loft denizens will no doubt flock to local favorite Eclectic Wine Bar & Grille (5156 Lankershim Blvd.,  760-2233, www.eclecticwinebarandgrille.com) for pre-theater dining with a Mediterranean emphasis. No plans after the show? No problem. Hit NoBar (10622 Magnolia Blvd,  753-0545), a laid-back, dimly lighted, brocade-wallpapered lounge with a jammin' jukebox. Seeing a matinee? Brunch at Eat (11108 Magnolia Blvd.,  760-4787), home of the addictive "Ned's Shreds," hash-brown-style shredded zucchini.
Art: not just for the walls
Adorn your fingertips with a trip to the nail bar at ultra-glam Mani-Kir Royale (11008 Magnolia Blvd.,  985-6264, www.mani-kirroyale.com), where a fixed-fee day pass gets you free-flowing beer, wine or bubbly along with your raspberry-framboise mani-pedi. Or opt for more permanent ornamentation at the Electric Pen Tattoo (10757 Magnolia Blvd.,  506-8828), an art gallery-cum-tattoo parlor that specializes in neo-traditional tats, mixing Ed Hardy-style Americana with Asian influences.
Bodies in motion
Channel your inner "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" at Xtreme Martial Arts World Headquarters (5140 Lankershim Blvd.,  980-2962, www.xmahq.com), where ancient self-defense practices meet high-flying acrobatic action in classes for children and adults. Prefer something a little more grounded? Try a master class with Wade Robson, the " So You Think You Can Dance?" choreographer, at Millennium Dance Complex (5113 Lankershim Blvd.,  753-5081, www.millenniumdancecomplex.com).
The holiday spirit
NoHo's abundant vintage stores are treasure troves for Halloween costume shopping. Pick up complete belly dance regalia at Someone Else's (11024 Magnolia Blvd.,  761- 6627) or a flapper frock at the Age of Innocence (11054 Mag- nolia Blvd.,  980-0462). While you're at it, start your Christmas shopping early at the Almost Christmas Prop Shoppe (5057 Lankershim Blvd.,  285-9627, www.almostchristmaspropshoppe.com), where Santa's on call year-round.