Studio Z Performing Arts gives students a full immersion into what it takes to do a show

Next week, a group of high school-age theater students will pack a season's worth of work into a week, as Studio Z Performing Arts prepares for a public production of the "school edition" of "Rent" Aug. 10 in Cobblestone Performing Arts Center.

"What we normally do in twelve weeks, we're packing into one," said Joanne Thomas, Studio Z's business manager and one of its founders. That includes learning the lines and music, rehearsing, stage design and set-up — the many interconnected pieces that go into a production's puzzle. And she's not kidding about one week: The auditions are being held this Thursday, Aug. 2, with callbacks Friday, just seven days before the curtains rise. Then there's six days of rehearsals Aug. 5-10, following by the show at 7 p.m. Aug. 10 at Cobblestone, 1622 Route 332, Farmington. (Tickets, at $10, are available at

They'll have a little help, though: Adam Pascal — who played "Roger" in the original Broadway production of Jonathan Larson's musical about young, poor artists struggling to get by in New York's East Village as they deal with difficult relationships, the tension between the bohemian artistic life and financial reward, and the spectre of AIDS — will be on hand Aug. 9 for a "masterclass" with the kids in which he will offer feedback, pointers and inspiration to the students. The masterclass Aug. 9, from 3 to 5 p.m., will be open to the public to witness; tickets ($50) also are available at

"It's a great experience for them," Thomas said.

This is still the first year for Studio Z, formed by four theater educators who wanted to offer high-level education and performance opportunities, including interaction with industry professionals like Pascal, to students.

"Our team is four of us who have been working together off and on for 26 years doing theater programs in different schools," Thomas said. "We finally decided, 'Why don't we strike out on our own, and we can do whatever we want?'" Still, they set up their schedule so as to allow student participants to still take part in their schools' productions if they wanted.

Thomas, an administrative assistant to the assistant principal at Victor High School, has produced many stage shows for adults and theater productions in schools, including a fundraising variety show at the Victor school that ran for years. She's joined by artistic director Judy LB Zanin, creator of the Palmyra Players and director of many productions for the Geneva Theatre Guild; executive director Jennie Gilardoni, veteran of many productions as a performer with Rochester Children's Theatre, Blackfriars Theatre, Brighton Summer Theatre and more; and director of finance David Curry.

Based largely in Palmyra but essentially "nomadic," Studio Z offers classes on stage craft, acting technique, directing — everything in the theatre world from A to, well, Z — for students in grades 6-12.

"We have an intern program that teaches the performance side of things, how to run light, how to run sound — then they take charge of the show, and they run everything," Thomas said. In addition to full-scale productions, they also do twice-yearly public showcases and a regularly performing Senior Show Choir. They recently collaborated with Dangerous Signs, a local deaf/hearing-impared company, on productions of "Little Shop of Horrors" at MuCCC and Geva in Rochester. They've also done versions of "High School Musical" and "School of Rock."

So what's planned for the second year? Productions of "Romeo and Juliet" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" — though these, Thomas noted, will be a full 10 weeks in the making rather than the intense one-week treatment "Rent" is getting. There also will be assorted showcases — someone taking a directing class, for instance, may have the opportunity to direct a one-act play.

Home of the blues

In blues lore, no place looms larger than the Crossroads. And while Routes 5 and 20 and Route 15A in Lima may not be the intersection Robert Johnson had in mind, it's the site each year of the three-day Crossroads Blues Festival featuring a long lineup of local performers in multiple venues. The festival, Aug. 3-5, is sponsored by Blue Heron Logistics and supports Camp Good Days and Special Times, and its services and programs for children with cancer and sickle cell anemia and their families.

Here's the lineup:

West Stage (next to Fanatics Pub): Friday — Dirty Bourbon Bues Band, 8 p.m.; Saturday — Jennifer Westwood & the Handsome Devils, 2 p.m., Nick Shnebelen Band, 5 p.m., Poison Whiskey, 8 p.m.; Sunday — Steve Grills and The Roadmasters, 1 p.m., Johnny Rawls, 3:30 p.m.

East Stage (next to Dave's Upper Deck): Friday — Hanna and the Blue Hearts, 8 p.m.; Saturday — Owen Eichensehr, 4 p.m., Tony Holiday and the Velvetones, 7 p.m.; Sunday — Vinyl Orange Ottoman, 2 p.m.

Presbyterian Church lawn: Saturday — BCW Trio, 10:30 a.m., Country Rain, 11:45 a.m.

American Hotel: Saturday — Peter Griffith, 4 p.m., Curly & Lill, 6 p.m.; Sunday — Mike "Cotton Toe" Scrivens, 2:30 p.m.

There's also a slew of events for kids and adults, including a firefighters' waterball tournament, a parade, pony rides, a petting zoo, "Euro Bungy," a euchre tournament, a bed race, and assorted food and craft vendors on Saturday and Sunday.

A feast of folk

Café Veritas has announced its 2018-19 lineup of folk music concerts, held at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, 220 S. Winton Road, Rochester. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. (doors 7 p.m.), with tickets at $18 ($10 students with ID, free for children under 12). Tickets went on sale Wednesday, Aug. 1. Tickets, including a season pass, are available at

The lineup:

Oct. 6: Suzie Vinnick

Nov. 3: Greg Greenway

Dec. 1: Tracy Grammer

Jan. 5: Songwriters in the Round (participants to be announced)

Feb. 2: Peter Mulvey

March 2: Ellis

April 6: Richard Shindell

May 18: The Kennedys