Khan Returns to Crossroads Theatre; Mandela! Concert Part of Upcoming Season

News   Khan Returns to Crossroads Theatre; Mandela! Concert Part of Upcoming Season Ricardo Khan has returned to New Jersey's Crossroads Theatre Company, which he helped co-found a quarter-century ago.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that Khan, who left his reign as artistic director three years ago, is currently working on the theatre's upcoming four-play season. Khan told the New Jersey paper, "These three years that I've been in Trinidad and Africa has allowed me to see how other cultures interact with our own. We need to recognize our global roots. That's one thing I want to do at Crossroads now that I'm back."

The 25th Anniversary Season at the theatre, which specializes in works by and about African-Americans, will feature a revival (the one-woman musical The Late Great Ladies of Blues and Jazz that will play in December starring Sandra Reaves-Phillips) and three new works. Jerome Hairston's Color Me Dark kicks off the season in November. Khan will direct the production, which is based on Patricia C. McKissack's novel about a young African-American girl who moves from Tennessee to Chicago in 1919.

February will see the debut of Ossie Davis and Paul Keens-Douglas' Walking with Ijapa, which features various tales and fables from the West Indies, West Africa and North America. A director has yet to be named.

The final production of the season will be Duma Ndlovu and Steve Fisher's Mandela! The musical, which is currently a work-in-progress, will be presented in a concert format directed by Khan. The world premiere of the musical is slated for July 2004 in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Last month, the financially struggling Crossroads Theatre announced an alliance with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The famed Center will help the New Jersey theatre company — which closed its doors in 2000 because of massive debts — to “rebuild and solve its financial crisis.” *

When the Crossroads Theatre Company reopened its doors two years ago, it offered a season of just four plays and was able to reduce its debt by $1 million. Company Executive Director Roberta J. Coleman told the Washington Post, “Our goal was to reopen the doors and get the subscribers back into the theatre, without adding to the debt.” Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser added, “[The Crossroads Theatre Company] consistently did some of the best theatre in America. However, they didn’t have the management wherewithal to sustain themselves in a different economic environment.”

The Crossroads Theatre Company and the Kennedy Center do have a history. The two formed an agreement in 1994 to co-produce four plays, which included Flyin’ West and Nomathemba. A goal of the new alliance is to bring more Crossroads productions to the Kennedy Center.

A 1999 Tony Award recipient for Outstanding Regional Theatre, Crossroads Theatre Company was founded in 1978 by Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson and became the “nation’s premiere African-American theatre.” In its somewhat tumultuous history, the company presented world premieres of The Colored Museum, Spunk, The Love Space Demands, Black Eagles and Sheila’s Day. Its first Broadway production was the Tony nominated musical revue It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues.