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BWW Interview: Artistic Director Ricardo Khan and CROSSROADS THEATRE COMPANY

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Artistic Director Ricardo Khan and CROSSROADS THEATRE COMPANY

BWW Interview: Artistic Director Ricardo Khan and CROSSROADS THEATRE COMPANY

Crossroads Theatre Company, under the Artistic Direction of Ricardo Khan, opened its 2021-2022 season at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC) debuting a bold new vision for the company titled "Crossroads Festival Theatre." Crossroads Festival Theatre consists of two installments: Fall Festival and Spring Festival, running September 22 to October 10, and June 7 to June 26, 2022, respectively. Crossroads Festival Theatre also introduced the new Free Family Saturdays series of family friendly arts going experiences, from music to storytelling, with free arts making activities and the Nightly Community Reading Series.

The Fall Festival included the world premiere of When Day Comes created by Ricardo Khan in collaboration with the award-winning acapella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock and writer and actor Daniel Beaty's award-winning one-man performance of Emergency. Both productions received great reviews and audience attendance.

Kicking off the second half of Crossroads 2021-2022 season is the ever-popular Genesis Festival of New Works and New Voices April 4-April 17, 2022, featuring established playwrights Richard Wesley, Nikkole Salter, Abena P.A. Busia and four young writers to be determined in the Arthur Laurents Theatre.

The Spring Festival which runs from June 7, 2022 to June 26, 2022 will include a captivating array of performances that includes:

Freedom Rider - The world premiere of a new play conceived by Ricardo Khan and co-written by Murray Horwitz, Nathan Louis Jackson, Ricardo Khan, Kathleen McGee Anderson, and Nikkole Salter. Freedom Rider tells the story of young volunteers who train in non-violence in order to desegregate the interstate bus system in 1961.

Text Me When You Arrive - In the tradition of Woza Albert, three women present a satirical look at gender-based violence. Poignant and sharply funny. Produced by The Market Theatre Laboratory, the educational arm of world-famous The Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa and in collaboration with Crossroads Theatre Company. This production marks the North American premiere of this play.

Free Family Saturdays Series - One-hour musical performances by family music's leading artists. The series kicks off with Falu's Bazaar, whose beautiful traditional and contemporary melodies and rhythms introduce young audiences to the beauty of India. Grammy nominated for best Children's Album. Other artists to be announced.

Nightly Community Reading Series - Crossroads Theatre Company works with the community to inspire people to give voice to their artistry and promote the work of local artists.

At the helm of Crossroads Theatre Company is the Artistic Director Emeritus, Ricardo Khan. The Company has an admirable and inspiring mission to promote a deeper, more informed cross-cultural conversation on community, our interconnectedness, the histories we share and don't share, the human condition today, and the world we strive to build for tomorrow.

Broadwayworld had the pleasure of interviewing Ricardo Khan about his career and the season ahead at Crossroads.

Khan is a director, writer, educator and the Tony Award-winning Artistic Director who co-founded the Crossroads Theatre Company, one of history's few African American theatres to ever rise to both national and international prominence as a major professional arts institution.

For two decades Khan nurtured and guided the creation of well over 100 new works that have forever enriched the cannon of the American theatre, while launching countless careers for writers, directors, designers, composers, managers and actors of color. Through Crossroads he worked with and provided a creative home and premiering stage for Ntozake Shange, August Wilson, George C. Wolfe, Anna Deveare Smith, Melba Moore, Leslie Lee, Denise Nicholas, Kathleen McGhee-Anderson, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Mbongeni Ngema from South Africa, Rani Moorthy from Malaysia, Linda Nieves-Powell, former United States Poet Laureate Rita Dove and many more. As the originating producer of the groundbreaking "The Colored Museum" and "Spunk", both by George C. Wolfe, "Black Eagles" by Leslie Lee, "The Love Space Demands" by Ntozake Shange, "Sheila's Day" by Mbongeni Ngema, and "Two Ha Ha's and a Homeboy" written and starring Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Guy Davis, Khan established Crossroads as a major player on the American theatre scene. Khan was the originating producer of the production of "Paul Robeson" starring Avery Brooks, which went on from Crossroads to Broadway in 1988, and in 1998, the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical, "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues." And shortly after the passing of esteemed playwright August Wilson in 2005, Khan returned to Broadway to write, stage, and together with co-producer Woodie King, Jr., present the New York tribute to August Wilson in the Broadway theatre that now bares Mr. Wilson's name.

Mr. Khan's New York directing credits include works at the Negro Ensemble Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center, the Signature Theatre and the world famous Apollo Theatre. He was Associate Producer for a number of Crossroads productions at the New York Public Theatre for the late Joseph Papp, and in 2006 served as Associate Director for "Hot Feet!", a Broadway musical developed by Maurice Hines with legendary songwriter Maurice White and featuring the music of Earth, Wind and Fire. In 2009 he co-wrote "FLY" with Trey Ellis about the esteemed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, which has been produced in numerous major cities across the country and most recently, for its Pasadena Playhouse engagement, received the prestigious NAACP award for Best Theatre Production in Los Angeles, 2016. "Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing" followed that, a play inspired by myths and stories from Negro Leagues baseball and American jazz. Khan's latest projects, "Freedom Rider" and "Letters From Freedom Summer", will both receive world premiere productions at the Crossroads Theatre Company in 2021. And of his most high profile achievements recently, Ricardo Khan was the Producer and Director of the highly acclaimed opening night gala ceremonies for the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC on September 24, 2016, with performers and creatives that included Yolanda Adams, Daniel Beaty, Dave Chappelle and Frederic Yonnet, Ava DuVernay, Savion Glover, Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder.

Ricardo Khan holds an MFA in both acting and directing from Mason Gross School of the Arts, and an Honorary PhD from Rutgers University where he is also in the University's Hall of Distinguished Alumni. He served as President of the Board of Theatre Communications Group, the national organization of America's professional theatres, from 1995 to 1998, and is proud to have been named Artistic Director Emeritus at his celebrated Crossroads Theatre Company.

We asked Ricardo if there was anyone who influenced his early career or education. "Early on it was my mother and father. My mother was from Philadelphia and a part of the African American society that was working to lift us up as a people. I was greatly influenced by her love of arts and culture. My parents met at Howard University. They believed in the value of the cultural context and I was raised with this contextual understanding."

Ricardo spoke to us about a moment that stands out in his career. He had the honor of working with Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis when they were in residence at Crossroads. He commented, "They were down-to-earth and beautiful people." In fact, one night when Ricardo was having dinner with his parents at a restaurant next door to the theatre, he saw them getting into their car but they stopped and entered the restaurant to take an extra moment to say hello and meet his parents.

Riccardo told us how it feels to be at the helm of Crossroads Theatre Company again. "This season fulfills a vision for the theatre community and the local community. We are in a revolution, a movement right now, a movement to humanize a very unsettled society. There is work on the stage, the magic of the audience and in the theatre lobby. It is that magic that is a celebration of what we can become. That is what Crossroads is."

Garden State theatergoers and many more know that Crossroads Theatre Company has a great appeal and reputation in the theatre community. Riccardo affirmed the reason why. "Our focus has always been artistic excellence. That is the number one key. Artistic excellence can and must be achieved. It must be first and foremost in your mind. That has always been Crossroad's priority.

We were curious about Riccardo's impressions about the theatre's new home in NBPAC. "The Crossroads Theatre Company has always had the blessing of being in its own building. So in this new situation, it is important that we approach it as our opportunity to imbue the building with all of who we are. What I've experienced with NBPAC is that this center is an incredibly beautiful, state of the art facility, where we any artist can accomplish his or her best work. I have restructured my season so that we can be performing throughout the center at the same time. By doing that, we are able to fill the whole center as with Crossroads. When you come to Crossroads during any one of its performances, you will experience Crossroads in any one of the venues. As we go through the year, we will be rolling out the marketplace, before and after the show with various vendors that represent the African diasphora at large. All of this is the context within which we are establishing our new home."

We wanted to know if there was anything else, absolutely anything Ricardo wanted Broadwayworld readers to know. "I want them to know that live theatre of any kind is one of the few opportunities that we have in our society to come together and unite as people. It is transformative, educational, illuminating. It is ultimately an artist sharing a gift with the audience and the audience sharing their lives with us. When you visit a place like Crossroads, our hope is that people are coming to the this crossroads of many different roads, and then leaving feeling just a little better than when they first arrived. That's is what I hope they get. " He left us with a inspiring and important comment, "Crossroads is the place to be!"

For more information about Crossroads Theatre Company at NBPAC, please visit: https://www.crossroadstheatrecompany.org/.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Crossroads Theatre Company


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