Corrections or additions?
This article by Nicole Plett was
prepared for the March 12, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All
Season Ends at Crossroads
Crossroads Theater Company has chosen Joseph Edward’s
"Manchild in the Promised Land" as the fourth and final
of its 2002-2003 season of renewal. Working with a new "strategic
mission," the Crossroads board of trustees has moved the play’s
presentation from Crossroads’ bijou 265-seat theater at 7 Livingston
Avenue to the Lord Sterling School on George Street, the newest school
in the New Brunswick system.
The decision comes as Roberta Coleman, executive director of
puts finishing touches on a "new vision" for the 1999 Tony
Award winning company.
"We have spent the past few months asking ourselves tough
about artistic excellence, audience development and financial
she says in an interview from her office. "What better way to
demonstrate this renewed commitment than by bringing the theater to
Coleman says the use of the state-of-the-art school’s 450-seat theater
is a reflection of Crossroads’ new direction.
"We’re extending our reach out to the community and trying to
improve access to the arts for non-traditional theatergoers,"
she says. The theater is currently in negotiations with the New
Cultural Center regarding its future use of the stage facility on
which it owes back rent. "Our plan for next season is to use the
theater here at Crossroads for our mainstage presentations," she
Manchild in the Promised Land" is a powerful stage
adaptation of Claude Brown’s autobiographical novel about growing
up on the streets of Harlem in the 1950s. Performances take place
Friday, March 14, at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 15, at 3 and 8 p.m.,
and Sunday, March 16, at 3 p.m. The Saturday matinee performance is
being offered free to New Brunswick students and their families.
Joseph Edward is an actor, playwright, and educator who most recently
appeared in the film "Bad Company" with Anthony Hopkins and
Chris Rock. He has presented "Manchild in the Promised Land"
at Trenton’s Passage Theater twice: first for its 2002 Solo Flights
Festival, and again this season, brought back by popular demand.
Crossroads acknowledges its collaboration with Passage to bring the
Edward show to the New Brunswick stage.
In 1965, Claude "Sonny" Brown opened a window onto the world
of America’s urban misery with his autobiographical novel,
"Manchild in the Promised Land." Writing a chronicle of one
Harlem boy’s life, Brown wrote, often in brutal terms, of how he
successfully navigated the treacherous path to adulthood. Working with
the author, Edward took up Brown’s story for the stage, trumpeting its
truth to new generations of Americans of all ethnicities. His solo
transformation of the epic novel into a 100-minute monologue sweeps up
its audience up in the challenges, hopes, and disappointments of a
young man caught in a web of violence and drugs.
Born into a culture of poverty and violence, Brown suffers his first
gunshot wounds at age 13, and lands in reform school. Here his
intellect and talents are awakened and he gets his second chance. Even
as he watches his beloved brother languish in jail, a broken man,
Brown discovers that, as a jazz musician, he can finally command
respect without violence.
Like Passage Theater, Crossroads sees in "Manchild" a positive
and uplifting coming-of-age story, one particularly well-suited to
its young audiences. It is a cautionary tale that some young people
may feel is an over-optimistic portrait of opportunity for today’s
black youth. Yet Edward’s towering conviction, both as an actor,
teacher, and a role-model, carries the day.
Crossroads, too, hurt by debt, is hoping for that second chance.
"It is important that our supporters know that this season was
simply a new beginning, not the end," says Marguerite
Mitchell-Ivey, president of the Crossroads board of trustees. "Not
only did we reduce our debt significantly and put on a well-received
season of productions without a major rise in debt, but we also
developed a viable plan for our future. This we truly feel is a
celebration of our spirit and resilience."
Coleman says the company’s "New Vision" model, to be announced
shortly after the season’s end, will include schools, faith-based
organizations, non-profit and arts organizations, and the business
community as company partners.
Crossroads is also acknowledging the efforts of departing interim
artistic director George Faison who helped coordinate this re-opening
season. Coleman reports that Faison succeeded in launching his own
theater in New York City in December, the Faison Firehouse. "We’re
so very happy for him. He was working on that project at the same
time he was lending his artistic support to our homecoming
season,"she says, "but he’s too busy to do both."
Coleman also expressed gratitude to Crossroads subscribers,
patrons, and theatergoers. "We faced so many challenges and
numerous obstacles with the help and support of people who understand
and appreciate the importance of Crossroads and multicultural theater
controlled, produced, and presented by people of color," she says.
— Nicole Plett
Lord Stirling School, 101 Redmond Street, New Brunswick, 732-545-8100.
$15 & $25. Friday, March 14, 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 15, 3 and
8 p.m.; and Sunday March 16, 3 p.m.
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