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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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