The editor and publisher of a humble journal such as this does not often get out to witness any of the many events that make up our day-by-day calendar. While our readers are at the theater or auditorium or arena for tonight’s entertaining event, our editor and often several of his staff are back at the office writing our "preview" coverage of the events that will happen in a week or 10 days from now.
But last Saturday evening, through a pleasant twist of circumstances, our editor found himself at an event marking the beginning of what is hopefully the rebirth of Crossroads Theater, the New Brunswick-based, African-American company that won a Tony award for best regional theater just three years ago but has since been closed down because of financial misfortunes. The event was held at another somewhat beleaguered arts organization, the Arts Council of Princeton, which has been struggling with its neighbors and the Planning Board to effect a much-needed reconstruction of its Depression-era building.
There was cause for hope and food for thought. Rhinold Ponder, the Princeton attorney who is president of the Crossroads board, announced that the theater had made strides in reconciling accounts with various creditors, including the IRS. George Faison, the Tony Award-winning choreographer, was introduced as the theater’s interim artistic director. Ossie Davis recounted his early days in theater, when he ventured north and found a home at a small theater in Harlem. In places such as Crossroads, Davis said, other aspiring actors might also find a home.
Joseph Edward, bounding across the creaking boards of the aging Arts Council stage, performed an excerpt from his 100-minute monologue based on "Manchild in the Promised Land" at Passage Theater in Trenton (reviewed in this issue on page 22).
And then a bluesman named "Mississippi" Charles Bevel took center stage. He played the part of a spectator at a parade honoring the fallen fire fighters and police officers of September 11. In dialogue and then in song he compared the nation’s outpouring of support for the rescue workers to the indifference toward the civil rights workers of the 1960s. Weren’t the rescue workers already being paid a premium because of their dangerous assignments? When the danger proved deadly, did that entitle their families to a greater premium?
The evening at Crossroads raised a question we had not heard raised once in the mega-media’s thousands of hours of September 11 coverage. A few hours later we ended up disagreeing with Bevel’s premise, deciding that getting caught in an act of war was not part of the bargain made by New York’s police and fire fighters.
But we also concluded that a theater company like Crossroads is a vital element in the community, that a venue such as the Arts Council is an important part of the Princeton downtown, and that an occasional evening out with the newsmakers should be an important part of an editor’s job.