You watch them as they strut the stage, bathed in footlights, commanding a scene or captivating a crowd. You listen as they discuss their latest exhibit at a gallery opening, soaking in the praise for their visionary works. You think to yourself, "I could do that." And if you've got the talent, maybe you could.
But first you have to know how to break into the local arts and entertainment scene, and that takes some networking. Below you'll find some suggestions of local arts groups that welcome newcomers eager to join the ranks of the creative class, or regular opportunities to ply your craft.
In addition to its terrific museums and art galleries, Rochester is home to a burgeoning community of working artists. If you'd like to get to know them, check out some of the following art groups.
Anderson Alley Artists (andersonalleyartists.com) is the name given to a collective of artists that rent studio space in a former factory at the corner of Goodman and Anderson streets. Any artist who rents a studio is technically a "member" (so long as studio spaces are available), and perks include networking with fellow artists working in a variety of media, as well as the opportunity to participate in the Second Saturday open-studio tours that occur October through May, seasonal open houses, and other Neighborhood of the Arts events.
The Rochester Art Club (rochesterartclub.org) was founded in 1877, and is one of the oldest continually active arts groups in the country. Membership is application-based, and jurying occurs twice a year, in May and October. The club puts on member exhibits, as well as a variety of lectures and demonstrations to educate the community.
Many area groups focus on a specific medium. They include the Genesee Valley Calligraphy Guild (gvcalligraphy.org), Genesee Valley Plein Air Painters (gvpap.com), New York Figure Study Guild (nyfigurestudyguild.com), the Print Club of Rochester (roc-printclub.com), Rochester Area Colored Pencil Club (rochesterareacoloredpencilclub.org), and the Weavers' Guild of Rochester (weaversguildofrochester.org).
Other local art groups focus on geographic groupings; they include the Irondequoit Art Club (irondequoitartclub.org), Penfield Art Association (penfieldartassociation.com), and the Suburban Rochester Art Group (srag1.blogspot.com).
In the past year, comedy open mic nights have exploded in Rochester. Here's a chance for you to try out your best material in front of some warm bodies and see if you've got what it takes to become the next Dave Chappelle, or if you're better off cracking wise with your friends.
Every Wednesday, The Mez (389 Gregory St, 281-7367, houseofhamez.com) hosts Comedy Underground8-10 p.m. On Sundays, Boulder CoffeeCo. hosts a comedy open mic at its South Wedge location (100 Alexander St, 454-7140, bouldercoffeeco.com) at 8-10 p.m., and on Mondays hosts another edition at its Brooks Landing location (955 Genesee St, 287-JAVA) 7-10 p.m. And the Comedy Club at Daisy Dukes (2235 Empire Blvd, Webster, 671-4880, thecomedyclub.us) sporadically hosts open mic comedy nights throughout the year.
If stand-up isn't your thing, Rochester is also home to several improvisational comedy troupes that periodically hold tryouts for new members. Nuts and Bolts Comedy Improv (nutsandboltsimprov.com) has performed at numerous local venues, most recently at Spotlight Theatre Arts in Fairport. Village Idiots Improv Comedy (villageidiotspresent.com) performs most weekends in Village Gate on Goodman Street. Unleashed! (unleashedimprov.com) currently performs at the Jewish Community Center. And Geva Comedy Improv (gevatheatre.org/onstage/improv) performs roughly once a month at Geva Theatre.
Dance is growing in Rochester, and the city is home to many excellent dance troupes that specialize in styles ranging from modern to ballet to African to hip-hop. But membership can be exclusive, and if you just want to get out and shake your groove thing, check out these regular open dance events.
For Latin dance aficionados, Midnight Tango takes place every Wednesday 7 p.m.-midnight at Nasty D's (140 Alexander St, midnighttango.com). Inikori Dance (inikoridance.com) leads salsa dancing at Tapas 177 (177 St. Paul St) Thursdays 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m., and Latin ballroom dancing Fridays at Clarissa's (293 Clarissa St) 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Flat Iron Café (561 State St, 454-4830, flatironcafe.net) features free salsa classes Thursdays 9 p.m.-2 a.m., Saturdays starting at 7 p.m., and bachata and merengue Tuesdays at 9 p.m., followed by a Latin dance social. And DancEncounters Co-Op (1115 E Main St, 473-8550, dancencounters.com) holds an Argentine tango dance every Sunday 7-10 p.m.
The Rochester Swing Dance Network (rochesterswingdance.com) is very active, with weekly "swing-ins" on Thursdays 8:30-10:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church (2000 Highland Ave), and additional swing dancing events on a near-weekly basis. DanceEncounters also gets in the swing with a West Coast swing dance on the first and third Fridays of the month, 8-10:30 p.m., and ballroom dancing every Thursday 7:30-10 p.m. The Country Dancers of Rochester (rochestercontra.com) host contra dances every Thursday 8-11 p.m. at CovenantUnitedMethodistChurch (1124 Culver Rd), and other English/contra dances throughout the year.
If you have the acting bug, there's no shortage of acting opportunities in Rochester. Although roles are hard to come by at the area's most prestigious theater -- that would be Geva, which primarily casts professional and union actors -- there are many quality troupes that welcome amateur actors and performers. The following hold open auditions at multiple times throughout the year.
Blackfriars Theatre (blackfriars.org) puts on a broad range of impeccably staged shows; the 2008-09 season featured the avant-garde thriller "The Pillowman," Charles Busch's raucous backstage comedy "Our Leading Lady," and the musical "The Spitfire Grill." JCC CenterStage(jccrochester.org) continues to grow with more sophisticated works like its recent staging of Tony Kushner's musical "Caroline, or Change." Relative newcomers Black Sheep Theatre Coalition (blacksheeptheatre.org) and Method Machine (myspace.com/methodmachine) focus on challenging, literary pieces like "Rashomon" and the Sylvia Plath-centric "Edge," respectively.
More specialized local theater groups include Downstairs Cabaret Theatre (downstairscabaret.com), whose offerings include upbeat song-and-dance shows. Bread and Water Theatre (breadandwatertheatre.org) stages several gay-themed plays per year, while the Rochester Shakespeare Players,a branch of Rochester Community Players (rochestercommunityplayers.org), stage an open-air Shakespeare play each summer. Mercury Opera (mercuryoperarochester.org) is the local community opera group, while the Off-Monroe Players (off-monroeplayers.org) produce works by Gilbert & Sullivan. NTID Performing Arts (rit.edu/ntid) casts both hearing and deaf community actors for its shows, and Rochester Children's Theatre (rochesterchildrenstheatre.org) casts both kids and adults for its full season of shows.
Many area towns also have their own theater troupes, including Gates Community Theater (gatescommunitytheater.org), Geneva Theatre Guild (gtglive.org), Irondequoit Theatre Guild (irondequoittheatreguild.org), Penfield Players (penfieldplayers.org), Pittsford Musicals (pittsfordmusicals.org), and Webster Theatre Guild (webstertheatreguild.org).