New Jersey's Crossroads Theatre has the blues.
No, they're doing just fine, thank you -- in fact, they begin their 21st season Oct. 1. But two of the shows in their upcoming season are steeped in the blues tradition.
Opening the Crossroads schedule is Pearl Cleage's Blues For An Alabama Sky (Oct. 1-Nov. 1, opening Oct. 8). Set at a time when the Harlem Renaissance was fading into the Great Depression, Sky depicts four close friends and the difficult times that threaten to harden them.
Atlanta-based playwright Cleage's saga, Flyin' West, was a 1996 Chicago hit at Onyx Theatre, and Sky played at Chicago's Goodman Theatre back in March. Cleage's latest, Ernesto's Eyes, is scheduled to premiere at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre later this season. Alabama Sky premiered there as well.
Following Cleage's Blues will be the musical revue Ain't Nothin' But The Blues, with contributions by Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Ron Taylor, Dan Wheetman and director Randal Myler. The show, running Nov. 17-Jan. 3, 1999 (opening Nov. 19) traces blues from the arrival of African slaves on American shores to the modern sounds of r & b. After the New Year comes Ali (Jan. 28-Mar. 7, 1999; opening Feb. 4, 1999), Geoffrey Ewing's one-man show, about boxer and outspoken celebrity Muhammad Ali, is specially selected to coincide with Black History Month.
Mar. 10-22, 1999 brings the 10th annual Genesis Festival, celebrating "new voices in African-American Theatre." Closing the season, Apr. 1-May 16, 1999 (opening Apr. 8), will be Charlotte A. Gibson's Lost Creek Township, a world premiere drama set in post-Reconstruction era Indiana.
Since 1978 Crossroads Theatre, has mounted more than 100 productions, including 36 world-premieres. Last season's roster included The Darker Face of the Earth and Crumbs From The Table of Joy. Co-founder Ricardo Khan serves as the company's CEO and artistic director.
For subscriptions ($44-$138) and information on the Crossroads Theatre Company, 7 Livingston Ave. in New Brunswick, call (732) 249-5581.
-- By David Lefkowitz