NJ's Tony-Honored Crossroads Promises History of the Word and Hines-Helmed Ella Musical in 2004-05

News   NJ's Tony-Honored Crossroads Promises History of the Word and Hines-Helmed Ella Musical in 2004-05
Crossroads Theatre Company, the Tony Award-honored African-American theatre of New Brunswick, New Jersey announced three plays of a planned four-play 2004-05 season.

Founding artistic director Ricardo Khan is back at the helm following several years of financial uncertainty for the troupe devoted to black voices. Two of the four productions will be world premieres (including an Ella Fitzgerald musical directed by Maurice Hines), plus a classic comedy from the Caribbean.

The Crossroads season will open Oct. 15-24 with The History of the Word, a world premiere "theatre work performed by a young, multicultural cast of artists who chronicle the history and power of the spoken word," according to the announcement.

The show was created "when several of the country's most respected and talented spoken word artists came together under the direction of Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj in New York and created original pieces that explored contemporary themes affecting young people today, including self-image, family and religion, and related them to the inspirational speeches of historical figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, Walt Whitman, Sojourner Truth, Muhammad Ali and William Shakespeare."

The History of the Word was developed in workshop based on internationally-known writings as well as writings of children. Maharaj is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Career Development Program for Directors. Maharaj is the recipient of the 2003 Woodie King Jr. Award for Outstanding Direction of Damn Yankees (St. Louis) and is also the recipient of the 2001 Audelco Award for his direction and choreography of the musical Jamaica.

In December, Crossroads will celebrate the life and artistry of Ella Fitzgerald with a world premiere musical production conceived, directed and choreographed by Maurice Hines. Written by Lee Summers, Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song (Dec. 3-12) looks at the life of a vocal legend whose career spanned more than half a century, from the Apollo Amateur Night in 1934 to Carnegie Hall in 1991.

Director and choreographer Maurice Hines is a Tony Award nominee for Best Actor in a Musical for Uptown...It's Hot! His credits also include Bring Back Birdie with Chita Rivera and Sophisticated Ladies, Jelly's Last Jam, Eubie! and a recent national tour of Guys and Dolls (in which he played Nathan Detroit).

Two Can Play, a play by Jamaica's Trevor Rhone, will play Feb. 25-March 6, 2005, as a co-production of Crossroads Theatre Company and New York's Queens Theatre in the Park. Ricardo Khan will direct.

"This classic Caribbean comedy witnesses the human relationship of two people trying to escape the political unrest of Kingston, Jamaica at the height of the Caribbean nation's ideological struggles in the early 1980s," according to Crossroads. "With its universal themes of love and compassion, uncertainty and confusion, Two Can Play has been performed on the world's stages from New York to London to Nairobi, Kenya."

Trevor Rhone is co-founder of Jamaica Barn, Jamaica's oldest professional theatre. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Jamaican government's Commander of the Order of Distinction and the 1996 Living Legend Award presented by the National Black Theatre Festival.  In 2003 he was a guest lecturer at both Lafayette College and Harvard University Law School.

The season will also include the return of the Genesis Festival of New Voices (April 6-10, 2005). The Genesis Festival began more than a decade ago as the brainchild of Crossroads' co-founder Ricardo Khan and New Play Development Director Sydne Mahone "as a means of giving voice to young writers and new, cutting-edge forms of theatre in a nurturing and creative environment."

Among the plays that have found their way from Genesis to the world's stages are Sheila's Day, Spunk, Oak and Ivy and several works by Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Ntozake Shange.

The season finale, to be announced at a later date, will take place in April, following Genesis.

Ricardo Khan is returning as Crossroads artistic director. In a statement, he said, "For 2004-2005, I've had more time since returning one year ago to focus on the development of these plays and the messages in each and of the season. I'm excited to bring them to the Crossroads stage, because they highlight the extraordinary talents of a culturally diverse world of voices new to most of us in American theatre."

For further information and to purchase single tickets and season subscriptions, contact (732) 545-8100.


Crossroads received the 1999 Tony Honor for Regional Theatre.

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