Crossroads Theatre Company
Crossroads Theatre Company, recipient of the 1999 Tony Award® for Outstanding Regional Theatre in the United States, is the nation’s premiere African American theater. The American Theatre Critics Association together with the American Theatre Wing and the League of Regional Theatres and Producers presented the prestigious Tony Award® to Crossroads in recognition of its 22-year history of artistic accomplishment and excellence. Crossroads is the first African American theater to receive this honor in the 33-year history of this special award category.
Crossroads continues to lead the nation with its commitment to literary works that examine the African American experience so that it may be understood and appreciated by all people. Crossroads’ recent Tony Award® and 20th Anniversary celebration are both indicative of the perseverance and vision of those who continue to support the theater. Both are of great significance, not only to the immediate Crossroads family of staff, subscribers and patrons, but also to the City of New Brunswick, the State of New Jersey, the nation and the legacy of Black theater itself. When co-founders Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson envisioned a space where, as actors, the two young men could work on substantive, non-stereotypical roles, little did they realize that their vision would grow into the major institution that it is today.
Crossroads has filled an otherwise empty space on the cultural canvas of the country and the world, with a collective body of work that remains unparalleled by any other theater in the nation. Crossroads forged its vision into reality through the development, production and touring of new works from throughout the African Diaspora, and positive imaging of African American life, history and culture. These honest theatrical portrayals helped move the consciousness of the nation forward and into the twenty-first century by building bridges of understanding and veracity between people of all backgrounds in this society and the world.
Crossroads’ primary effort has been its four-play main stage season, where the many timbres of the African American experience have been given voice in full productions. Since it’s founding in 1978, Crossroads has produced over 100 works, many of which were premiere productions by the world’s leading African and African American artists. Crossroads’ world premieres include: The Colored Museum, which originated at Crossroads in 1986 and was then seen by millions on national public television when it was produced for WNETs “Great Performances,” and Spunk, both by Tony Award® winner George C. Wolfe.
Additional Crossroads world premieres include: The Love Space Demands, Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem; Black Eagles by Leslie Lee, an historic chronicle of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II; Sheila’s Day, the cultural collaboration of six South African and six African American women written by Sarafina! creator Mbongeni Ngema that toured the US. Britain and South Africa after its run on the Crossroads stage; Ruby Dee’s stage adaptation of the novel, The Disappearance; Vernel Bagneris’ worldwide hit musical, And Further’Mo; fonner U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove’s first play, The Darker Face of the Earth; the award-winning Lost Creek Township by Charlotte A. Gibson; Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues; Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song and History of the Word.
Other noteworthy productions by Crossroads include: celebrated American playwright August Wilson’s reworked play, Jitney; Flyin’ West, written by Pearl Cleage and starring Ruby Dee (Kennedy Center) and Trazana Beverly and Olivia Cole (Crossroads); Nomathemba, a musical by Ntozake Shange and Joseph Shabalala, founder and leader of Grammy Award-winning South African recording artists Ladysmith Black Mambazo; Marian X’s The Screened-In Porch; and Two Hah Hahs and a Homeboy, written by Ruby Dee and starring Ms. Dee, Ossie Davis and their son, musician Guy Davis.
Through both its main stage productions and the Theatre’s community and education programs, Crossroads reached audiences of diverse origins who were able to experience live performances of plays that illuminate the many complexities of Black life. Many of the past audience members had only been exposed to limited, superficial and sometimes stereotypical images of African Americans through the news and mass media. Crossroads continues to embrace its responsibility to put forth realistic, multi-dimensional images of Black people, and remains committed to spreading the truth far beyond its New Brunswick home to reach other New Jersey communities as well as national and international audiences.
Crossroads has toured productions to Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, CA, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, the West Indies, London and South Africa. Crossroads is a resident theatre of The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and an affiliate theatre of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ and the New Victory Theatre in New York City.
Crossroads’ work also has been seen and publicly hailed by President George Bush, General Colin Powell, the newly nominated United States Secretary of State and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, civil rights matriarchs Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott- King, South African President Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, actor Denzel Washington, musicians Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, actress/singer Phylicia Rashad and many more. U.S. Congressman Donald Payne has twice included Crossroads in the distinguished Congressional Record, once in relation to the Theatre’s production of Leslie Lee’s Black Eagles and once to commemorate Crossroads’ 20th Anniversary and Co-Founder and Artistic Director Ricardo Khan’s receipt of an honorary degree from Rutgers University in 1997.
Crossroads received the National Governors Association Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, from which it has also received funding annually since its inception, has also designated the Theatre as a Major Impact Arts Institution. The Minneapolis Foundation’s Working Capital Fund Program supports crossroads for Minority Cultural Institutions through a grant from the Ford Foundation.
In addition, Crossroads has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, The Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, The Royce Family Fund, The Rockriver Foundation and AT&T Onstage, among other distinguished awards.