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This article was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on December 15,
1999. All rights reserved.
Crossroads’ Good News
The rumor-buffeted Crossroads Theater has some good
news — and it’s all solid fact. The New Brunswick-based regional
theater has formally announced the extension of the run of "Play
On!", starring Leslie Uggams and Stephanie Mills, with five
performances on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, December 21, 22,
"Musically the show is a trail of delights, with plenty of jivin’,
groovin’, and dancin’ thrown in the mix for good measure," wrote
Simon Saltzman in his U.S. 1 review (December 1). The show’s singing
stars provide "a banquet of song, dance, and dazzle," and
the bold, handsome set by Eduardo Sicangco and sassy colorful costumes
by Felix Cochren contribute their own "non-stop parade of visual
The stage was set for rumor and innuendo when Crossroads was forced
to cancel six previews of "Play On!" before the musical opened
(on time) on Wednesday, November 24. Carrying a sizable debt of $1.2
million, and lacking an endowment fund, the winner of the 1999 Tony
Award for outstanding regional theater could not open the show until
it secured a loan to pay vendors of sets and costumes for the show.
At a press conference at the theater on Monday, December 6, co-founder
and artistic director Ricardo Khan addressed the confusion swirling
around Crossroads’ future. Facing economic difficulties that would
have closed down many arts organizations, Crossroads, Khan says, will
fight on with new management and fundraising appointments and a plan
to launch a campaign for a permanent endowment.
Together with Mayo Sisler, CEO of Millennium Bank, and Leslie Anderson
of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, Khan announced a $500,000
loan from New Millennium Bank, backed by a $250,000 guarantee from
the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, as the key element to
its rocky economic picture. New Jersey Secretary of State DeForest
B. Soaries Jr. was on hand to announce his intention to rally support
for the theater in the state legislature. The Star-Ledger of Newark
subsequently published an editorial urging that the New Brunswick
"treasure" be preserved at all costs, perhaps with a state
appropriation comparable to the $3 million bailout of the New Jersey
Symphony Orchestra in 1995.
Crossroads’ conspicuous triumphs over the years include
the premieres of "The Colored Museum" by George C. Wolfe,
"The Love Space Demands" by Ntozake Shange, "Black
by Leslie Lee, and "Sheila’s Day" by Duma Ndlovu. Add to these
Pearl Cleage’s "Flyin’ West" that opened the 1994 season at
the Kennedy Center in Washington, "It Ain’t Nothin’ But the
currently on Broadway, and August Wilson’s "Jitney," developed
by the playwright at Crossroads in 1997.
Stressing that Crossroads is "actually in better shape
than we have been for quite some time," Khan introduced Dale
in the new post (created in June) of president of the board of
and CEO. Caldwell is global recruiting director and former senior
manager with Deloitte Consulting. He has a degree in economics from
Princeton (Class of ’82) and an MBA from Wharton.
Among the stabilization steps taken since last June, Crossroads has
hired Andre Robinson Jr. as executive producer; appointed Deborah
Stapleton as general manager; and hired Harold Scott as artistic
during Khan’s one-year paid sabbatical. Membership on the board of
trustees, which has already raised half its $400,000 debt reduction
goal for fiscal year 1999-2000, has been expanded by seven new
News of a leave of absence for Khan, disclosed in the Star-Ledger
at the same time as the "Play On!" money woes, has been one
of the most alarming developments of recent weeks. Khan confirmed
his one-year paid sabbatical, beginning January 1, mid-way through
his 22nd Crossroads’ season, noting that this had been negotiated
and planned since November, 1998. "This will be a time of renewal
for me," he said, explaining that he would use the time both to
travel and explore his Caribbean roots, as well as to lead a
campaign to create a multi-million dollar endowment for the theater.
In other recent management changes, Robinson returned to Crossroads
in July after an eight-year hiatus. During his previous tenure with
the company (1988-1991) he supervised the company’s business,
and development department, and was intimately involved with the
of the company’s seasons. His work with Crossroads reached its apex
in the 1990-’91 season with the construction of the company’s new
theater complex and multiple productions of shows running in cities
around the world. He also produced many of the company’s most
benefit concerts including those by Bill Cosby, Smokey Robinson, Ray
Charles, and Dionne Warwick.
Still to come this season are "Yellow Eyes," a world premiere
drama by Migdalia Cruz, that opens February 3, and "Venice,"
a new play by Kathleen McGhee Anderson that opens March 16. The season
concludes in April and May with the 11th annual Genesis Festival of
new play readings and workshop productions.
Although many regional theaters have faced similar financial woes,
with some forced to throw in the towel, Crossroads stands alone and
remains unique as the nation’s foremost theater dedicated to the
experience. Its unique cultural objectives and progressive dramatic
goals make many in the arts community feel that Crossroads deserves
"special consideration" from the community, the government,
and those committed to the continuing development of multi-cultural
theater. Its success or failure as a world-class dramatic institution
reflects back on the entire community it serves.
— Nicole Plett
New Brunswick, 732-249-5560. The show starring Leslie Uggams and
Mills has been extended through Thursday, December 23. All tickets
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