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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the February 14,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

New Light for Crossroads

Crossroads Theater, dark since last October when it

canceled its 2001 season, has received a vote of confidence —

and cash — from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

At its annual fellowship awards meeting on February 6, in Newark,

NJSCA voted to award the New Jersey Theater Alliance (formerly known

as the New Jersey Theater Group), $100,000 to help rehabilitate


The nonprofit alliance will work in partnership with Crossroads’ new

board of directors to restructure the company’s operations, initially

by securing professional management.

Winner of the 1999 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater,


collapsed last fall under the weight of somewhere between $1.7 and

$2 million debt. A new board of directors was drafted to undertake

a complete financial and operational reorganization of the nation’s

most respected black theater group, with the hope of reopening this


Crossroads’ co-founder and artistic director Ricardo Khan, who took

a sabbatical leave in January, 2000, announced in July that he would

not return to his former role. At the time he noted that the theater’s

"insurmountable financial challenges… have barraged us daily

for most of our 20-some years, and nearly burned me out."

Crossroads moved into its jewel-box, 310-seat theater at the New


Cultural Center on Livingston Avenue in October, 1991. August Wilson’s

"Jitney," Keith Glover’s "Coming of the Hurricane,"

and Pearl Cleage’s "Blues for an Alabama Sky" are among its

recent offerings. With or without the vaunted Tony Award, the theater

had become an acknowledged treasure among New Jersey’s performing


Laura Aden, executive director of the New Jersey Theater Alliance,

says her organization is a natural partner to help Crossroads get

back on its feet. "The New Jersey State Arts Council has known

all along that we would be able to assist in whatever way the council

thought appropriate," she said in a phone interview last week.

"Crossroads’ entire staff was let go in October, and the board

is virtually all new, but there isn’t anyone on the board who is an

arts professional arts administration."

She says the $100,000 grant is earmarked to enable the board to hire

an executive director to assist it. "The grant is very


for salary — or salaries — one person can’t do it all,"

says Aden, who plans to meet with Crossroads’ board within the week.

Attorney Rhinold Lamar Ponder of Princeton, who specializes in


relations and civil litigation, was serving as board attorney last

year before Crossroads collapsed. He became board president in


following the departure of Dale Caldwell.

Management rather than money seems to have been at the root of


troubles. Last year the state legislature voted $500,000 in matching

funds to help Crossroads reduce its debt and the New Jersey State

Council on the Arts reserved $350,000 for the theater’s fiscal year

2001 operations. Because both grants required a debt-reduction plan,

none of these monies have been paid. On the artistic front, Crossroads

was awarded an $80,000 grant last October from AT&T to produce


Meninas," a Lynn Nottage drama that had a staged reading at its

annual festival of new plays.

"I’m very optimistic about Crossroads’ future," says Aden.

"If the work and the diligence that this new board has put in

to date is any indication what they will be like in the future, they

will succeed. But it’s imperative that they hire a professional to

lead the board. It’s vitally important to secure a future for this

culturally valuable institution, not just for the state, but for the


The State Theater has announced that on Thursday, March 22, it will

present jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris and his quartet in concert

at Crossroads Theater. Originally scheduled for the State Theater

stage, the event has been moved, not only to provide a more intimate

setting for the audience, but also to help keep the inactive building


— Nicole Plett

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