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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Crossroads Theatre, located at the heart of Downtown at 7 Livingston Avenue, has a strong tradition of bringing African-American theater, stories, and traditions to the people of New Brunswick.
In 1999, Crossroads was the first African- American theatre to receive the Tony award for “Outstanding Regional Theatre” and they have been nominated for and won several other theatre and community awards.
According to the mission statement, Crossroads Theatre is a “theatre company dedicated to creating and producing professional theatre of the highest standards of artistic excellence,” that strives to “ present honest and positive portrayals of people of color from around the world.”
They also work towards providing “a nurturing working environment for writers and artistic collaborators,” to use “art to provoke and challenge a multicultural audience,” and to educate “audiences by creating bridges of understanding between people of all cultural backgrounds in this society and the world.”
The Theatre was started in the 1980’s by two Rutgers University Mason Gross graduates who wanted a company that would cast African-American actors and tell the stories of African-Americans and their respective cultures. Initially housed in an old sewing factory with only 120 seats, Crossroads Theatre moved to their downtown location in 1991.
“Crossroads Theatre tells stories in an authentic way,” said Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones III.
The company is working on three productions for the upcoming season: 6th Annual Holiday Jubilee, College Colors, and Fly.
The 6th Annual Holiday Jubilee is a “multicultural approach” to the holiday play that “changes every year to accommodate a repeat audience,” said Jones.
Attending the Holiday Jubilee is a tradition for many local families, and children always are able to attend for free.
Jeanel LeBlanc, the musical director of the Holiday Jubilee, says her production of this year’s show is a “night of family fun that gets you in the holiday spirit.”
Each year’s production has a loose theme, and this year’s theme is gospel. The plot focuses on a musical choir competition, and all of the songs will be sung in a gospel style.
In the past, the Holiday Jubilee was wedding themed and couples were invited to renew their vows on stage. The Jubilee is always interactive and family friendly, explained LeBlanc.
This is LeBlanc’s first year directing the show, but she has been involved in the cast in various roles since the Jubilee started six years ago. To purchase tickets for the Holiday Jubilee, use this link.
In April, Crossroads Theatre will be doing a 5th Anniversary Encore production of Fly. Originally premiered at Crossroads Theatre five years ago, this play is coming back to the Theatre during one stop on a national tour.
According the Crossroads Theatre production list, Fly is an “encore presentation of award-winning play about hope, endurance, and accomplishment. Fly brings to life the famed African-American Army Air Corp fighters known as the Tuskegee Airmen who flew during World War II.”
The airmen “served with distinction” because they “knew they couldn’t fail since they were representing their entire race,” said Jones.
This play, which debuted at Crossroads Theatre, made its way to the famous Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. where even First Lady Michelle Obama said how much she enjoyed it.
Crossroads Theatre will also be performing College Colors, described as a “modern comedy about race and identity on the college campus,” from February 4th-14th.
When asked about the future of Crossroads Theatre, and of live performance groups in general, Marshal Jones III was optimistic. Despite the onslaught of new ways to access media, such as video streaming services, Jones feels that the unique experience of theatre will continue to thrive.
“Storytelling in a live setting is not the same as Netflix,” he said. Being able to “collectively watch storytelling with a group of strangers means you can reach out and touch these people. Human contact is valued and seen here as an asset.”
To view this valuable asset, attend a Crossroads Theatre performance. The full schedule can be viewed here.