Crossroads Theater in Five Points Is at a Crossroads — Again
The show must go on for Jaryd Smart (left) and Erik Rodne.
In 2011, five talented Denver high-school grads dropped out of college after their freshman year and formed a theater troupe. Crossroads Theater, a 105-seat venue on Welton Street then managed by the City of Denver, was the first place to give the group a chance. The city was offering cheap rates to put artists on the stage, and there was no pressure to attract a big audience. The group, which would later become the Black Actors Guild, staged an improv comedy show, and although it didn’t sell many tickets, the young actors got something more valuable: the confidence to continue. “We went into it without having any idea what to expect. Crossroads really gave us a chance to make mistakes,” recalls Kevin Marchman, one of the Guild’s founders. “It really was the jumping-off point that gave us enough confidence to be like, ‘Yeah, we’re nineteen-year-old kids who don’t really know what we’re doing, but we belong here.’”
Soon the Guild didn’t need Crossroads; it was selling out venues across the city. From 2013 until 2015, the group rented the Atlas Theater as its headquarters and main performance space, but when one of the group’s founders, Corin Chavez, died unexpectedly, the remaining members decided to leave the Atlas while they recovered from the loss and decided what to do next. Last month they returned to Crossroads, selling out the space where they’d gotten their start with one of their trademark Show Ya Teef improv shows.
Kurt Lewis was in the audience that night, filled with pride as he watched the group he’d helped mentor perform on the stage he’d built in 2007. It was a sweet moment for the man who’d risked everything to give Five Points a space for artists young and old — a space that’s subsequently swallowed up so many creative efforts. “It’s the best satisfaction I’ve ever had,” Lewis says, “and the worst financial decision I ever made.”
The Kurt Lewis Years (2007-2010)
Kurt Lewis has been a fan of theater since he was a kid growing up on a farm in rural Nebraska, where his father would recite lines from Macbeth. As an undergrad at New Mexico State, he acted in plays when he wasn’t playing baseball or taking pre-law classes. But after he graduated from the University of Denver law school in 1981, law was his life. He started a successful career as an intellectual-property lawyer, satisfying his creative urges by teaching entertainment law at DU as well as acting classes for lawyers; he also wrote plays and acted in local productions himself. Still, he admits, “I thought I’d be practicing law until I died.”
After Lewis was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001, his priorities shifted. He scaled back his law work and focused almost exclusively on more creative pursuits. He became a regular at the Mercury Cafe and the Bindery|Space, a theater space across the street; he dabbled at producing plays and even helped manage the theater. But when the LIDA Project, an experimental theater troupe, made the Bindery its primary performance space in 2006, Lewis thought it was time to find his own theater.
He had partners in the venture — a dance instructor and local actors — but they were just the talent; Lewis would be responsible for the funding. He had just won a big case at his law firm, netting his client almost $6 million and himself substantial fees. With the progressive nature of Parkinson’s on his mind, he decided to take a risk before it was too late.
During a stroll along Welton, he noticed a space for rent about fifteen yards from the entrance to the legendary Rossonian Hotel and a half-block from the 27th and Welton light-rail stop on the D Line. The rental was on the ground floor of the newly constructed Welton Homes at the Point, an affordable apartment complex built by the nonprofit Hope Communities. When Lewis stepped inside and saw that the space was completely empty save for six concrete pillars supporting the building, he let his imagination run wild and began planning what would become Crossroads Theater.
Hope Communities put Lewis in touch with the Denver Office of Economic Development, which gave him a $340,000 loan to build out the space. Lewis oversaw all of the construction. He hired a local architecture firm, Studio Completiva, to build the stage, the lobby and the bar. He brought in seats from the former Auditorium Theatre, which had been renovated and turned into the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, to give the new venue an authentic vintage feel. After Lewis burned through his original loan and was unable to secure another one, he sold his loft in the Golden Triangle and put the proceeds into the theater.
Today Lewis jokingly blames his brave leap of faith on the side effects of a Parkinson’s medication: “Mirapex makes you do impulsive things...like finance a theater.”
When construction was finished in 2007, Lewis named the space Crossroads Theater and gave it the tag line “Theater on the Rail,” in recognition of its proximity to the light rail. The theme was “a convergence of creative cultures,” Lewis says, to reflect his intention that the space be a place where community members could gather and creative minds could perform.
On April 25, 2007, Cafe Nuba, the predecessor to Slam Nuba, christened Crossroads with a stunning slam-poetry performance. “There was a line of people all the way out onto Welton,” Lewis remembers. (Although many of the original poets have moved on, Slam Nuba still performs regularly at Crossroads.)
But the optimism engendered by that first night was short-lived. Running a small theater is no easy feat; there are costs to cover and artists to appease, and money is scarce. A key component of a theater’s success is gaining the community’s attention and loyalty.
And Lewis missed an opportunity to click with the community when he chose a script set in Ireland, Bold Girls, for the first play at Crossroads. Five Points was once the heart of Denver’s African-American community; by 2007, the population had become primarily Latino — and the Irish were in short supply. He made a more savvy choice for the second production: The Sisters, Sweetwater, written by Hugo Jon Sayles of Shadow Theatre Company, Denver’s only black theater company at the time.
But the biggest boost came when Paragon Theatre — which was coming off its biggest season, both critically and financially — moved to Crossroads, where it staged a series of successful plays.
Crossroads hosted more than theater, though. Lewis followed through on his promise of creating a community space and rented out the theater for jazz concerts, films, comedy shows, dance lessons, school-sponsored events and art exhibits. Many of these events couldn’t afford to pay the full rate, though, and fewer still could fill the place.
Adding to the standard difficulties of operating a theater was an economy in rough shape. “We picked probably the worst time in history to start a theater, which was right before the big crash,” Lewis says. Developer James Ellis was a big supporter of Crossroads and had planned to reopen the Rossonian as a jazz club and restaurant in 2008. Lewis was counting on that development, but it never got off the ground — and light rail didn’t drive the expected traffic to Crossroads, either.
“There was a very big hesitancy for people to come into the Five Points area,” says Dennis Malone, who was hired as operations manager at Hope Communities in 2014. “Five Points was still a no-fly zone for many people in 2007. Because of the rumors, because of the history, unfortunately it all kind of went along with a season when there were a lot of gang shootings and things like that. I think that really interfered with bringing a crowd down there. People wouldn’t even get on the light rail to go down to this area.”
In 2008, Parkinson’s was starting to take its toll on Lewis. In a last-ditch effort, he went looking for a little help.
He didn’t have to go far. Jeff Campbell, founder of the Colorado Hip Hop Coalition and a fixture in the Denver arts scene, worked next door at Blackberries Ice Cream & Coffee (now Coffee at the Point) and lived in one of Hope’s apartments above the theater. The two had become fast friends during the construction of Crossroads; Campbell even starred in a play there written by Lewis, The Blue Vagabond, about a homeless man who finds his true calling as a storyteller.
Campbell proved a natural fit as Lewis’s assistant manager, hired to help bring in talent and run the theater. “The condition was already hindering his speech and movement; you could sense his urgency to fulfill his dreams and leave behind a legacy,” Campbell says. “That is what made me want to help. By the time I came on board in ’09, things were already a bit disorganized and the budget was depleted. We talked about roping off the sidewalk so people could drink out front, but the cost outweighed what was to gain from it. We talked about a lot of ideas, but before we knew it, it was just too late.”
That year, Lewis penned a letter that was published in the Denver Post, asking for help for Crossroads and making it very clear that the theater would close if someone didn’t save the day.
“He told me he was going to probably default on it and that someone else was going to step in,” Campbell recalls. “I wanted to turn it into a nonprofit, because I had experience founding and directing a nonprofit.”
Campbell began organizing a board of directors and raising funds, but before he could make a pitch, the theater’s savior had already been chosen: the Denver Division of Theatres and Arenas, which would soon morph into Arts & Venues.
Crossroads Creative has recruited a new cast of volunteers (left to right): Amanda Faye Martin, Michael Santini, Toluwanimi Obiwole, Andre Carbonell, Erik Rodne, Ernest McKinney, Jaryd Smart, Jessica Grossman, Rob Shapiro, Kiet Nguyen, Kevin Marchman, Ryan Foo.
The City Years (2010-2013)
Denver signed a three-year lease for Crossroads with Hope Communities in December 2010. The city’s roster of venues includes Red Rocks, the legendary 9,000-seat amphitheater, as well as 2,000-plus-seat theaters at the Denver Performing Arts Complex; Crossroads was its smallest space by far. To some, adding the theater seemed like an odd move for Denver — but the city had one very good reason to take on the project: If Lewis defaulted, the city would be stuck with a bad loan. Instead, Arts & Venues paid off $205,000 of Lewis’s loan to the Denver Office of Economic Development with excess funds raised through rental and parking fees the previous year.
That eased Lewis’s burden, gave the OED some cash to loan to other worthy enterprises, and provided Hope with a reliable tenant. But there was more to the city’s rationale: Crossroads fit with the department’s desire to expand theater programming for the City of Denver.
“I heard throughout my tenure at the city that we needed to diversify the types of programming and also the ethnic mix of programming and the ethnic mix of our audiences,” recalls Jack Finlaw, then the city’s director of Theatres and Arenas. “So when I discovered that Crossroads Theater was having financial difficulties, I thought, ‘Well, that would be a way to sort of fulfill our mission. We could rescue that situation and add to our mission to serve a more diverse audience.’”
Erik Dyce, chief marketing officer for Arts & Venues in 2010, remembers a senior staff meeting called by Finlaw to gauge interest in acquiring Crossroads. Dyce says he was the only one who welcomed the project, and because of his position, his opinion carried weight. “I was allowed to prevail because it was in my jurisdiction to not only run the Crossroads Theater, but market the Crossroads Theater,” he says. “We were averaging about 1,500 events a year, and adding the Crossroads Theater was an easy one, I felt, because we could use lots of our existing resources to not only operate the venue, publicize the venue, but buy talent for the venue.”
The city had the money and manpower to run the theater, and its first step was to invite the Five Points community to two public meetings to discuss the space. Arts & Venues was willing to rent the theater at bargain rates to attract interest, and the Black Actors Guild was one of the early groups to take advantage of that deal.
But there were challenges from the start. The same day the city announced it was taking over Crossroads, Paragon revealed that it was leaving for a new venue. And soon, city officials discovered that running a small theater was nothing like managing a giant venue such as Red Rocks or even the Buell.
Tad Bowman, Arts & Venues director of events at the time, says it simply required too much effort to fill the seats and attract talent to make Crossroads worth the city’s while: It took more time to manage Crossroads at a loss than it did to book a venue like Red Rocks at a profit. “Economics are what they are, and they’re tough to deal with,” Bowman adds. “You can spend a lot of time and effort trying to get something like the Crossroads Theater going. The benefit or the return on that investment, it’s just not very big.”
Brian Kitts, today director of marketing and communications at Arts & Venues, agrees. “You have to be really committed to that type of space,” he says. “You really have to work hard to program those, and I think that was the difference.... I don’t know that the city was the right group to program a space that size. We do a good job at programming Red Rocks, but it’s largely with the help of Live Nation and AEG. It’s different when you have your own set of theaters and you are the one who’s expected to provide the content for that space. That’s not something that I think was a very good fit.”
According to Dyce, some of the groups that originally committed to using the space backed out, adding to the challenges. “It certainly was becoming a financial burden for the city, because some of the groups weren’t utilizing it as much as they originally thought or shared with us,” he says. “We had built a pro forma based on community input on the amount of times the facility would be used, and I think it fell off.”
The stigma surrounding Five Points was also a problem. “We did learn that some shows that were put into the Crossroads experienced much lower attendance because of the area,” recalls Dyce. “There was gang activity that occurred within a block of Crossroads Theater a few times, one resulting in a death. I think that caused enough concern to limit its potential.”
But Campbell, who continued to live above the theater, doesn’t buy that theory. “That’s bullshit,” he says. “I’m so tired of people talking about Five Points when you got white ladies jogging with their baby strollers down Welton. If people are so afraid to come down there, then why is it full of nothing but yuppies and hipsters? It’s just old lingering racism in people that make people say that.”
Ryan Foo, one of the founders of the Black Actors Guild, shares that sentiment. “I know that perception is totally there in Five Points; I understand that,” he says. “Why? Because there are conflicting communities, and they’re pissed the rent is going up and they’re getting moved out of their houses. It creates a sense of conflicted community. Does that mean there’s more crime? No.”
Ultimately, Finlaw says, personnel changes within the city made it difficult to keep the theater. “We really did have our hearts in it,” he explains. “Frankly, the timing was bad. We had the best of intentions, but we all changed personnel because of John [Hickenlooper] going off to become the governor.” Dyce also left before the city’s lease was up, leaving another hole in the original Denver crew that had taken on Crossroads.
As the three-year lease wound down, the city started looking for a suitor to take over the theater.
“Any time you go into something like that, you think you can make a change and you can create something,” says Kitts. “I would characterize it as a sense of disappointment that it didn’t sing the way we wanted it to.”
Hope Communities’ Dennis Malone has faith in Crossroads Creative.
The Center for Spiritual Living Years (2013-2016)
When Reverend James R. Chandler, founder of the Center for Spiritual Living Denver, died in 2011, his congregation found itself in transition. CSLD’s space in Capitol Hill was being sold, and the new minister, Mary Jo Honiotes, had to find the church a new home. She started holding services at Crossroads, and she fell in love with the space and Five Points. By the time the city was ready to let go of Crossroads at the end of 2012, CSLD was ready to sign on as the main tenant. The plan was to raise enough money through donations and theater rentals to cover the lease.
Burgos with: Ransteez, Giothevillan, Chicitychino
TicketsSat., Jan. 28, 8:00pm
Stand Up! the Workshop - Comedy Showcase
TicketsTue., Jan. 31, 7:00pm
TicketsThu., Feb. 2, 7:30pm
These Jokes Are for You (W/ Denver Comedy Champion Nathan Lund)
TicketsThu., Feb. 2, 8:00pm
Future Faces of Funny
TicketsWed., Feb. 8, 7:30pm
The Center for Spiritual Living was founded by Dr. Ernest Holmes in 1949; its doctrine is based on his book The Science of Mind and revolves around inclusiveness, self-healing and the unity of spirit and science. Honiotes describes CSLD as a place for people in “church recovery,” and she says she thought Crossroads was the perfect place to grow the congregation while continuing to push Lewis’s vision of creating a community hub for artists. “I loved being right there,” she says. “I loved having the opportunity to run the theater at the same time. We’d have classes, events and be there for Sundays. It was the perfect place to invite the theater and arts to be there.”
It was also an overwhelming job. When CSLD was just renting the space from the city, all she had to worry about was the twice-a-week services. When the organization became the main tenant, however, all of the responsibilities of running a small theater fell on Honiotes’s shoulders. She hired an operations manager and put her musical director in charge of booking.
Many of the same groups that had used Crossroads during the city’s tenure continued to rent the space from CSLD, and those fees combined with donations enabled Honiotes to pay rent on time every month. For a while, it seemed a match made in heaven.
Honiotes made it a point to mingle with neighbors and welcome the community to classes, workshops and services. She understood the history of Five Points and wanted to honor it. “They say that church on Sunday is the most segregated time in America,” she points out. “My vision or my hope to bring in more African-American people to our community — that didn’t realize itself to the degree that I wanted it to. People don’t do church very much anymore, period.”
While Honiotes was busy tending to her congregation and its home, her stepdaughter, Kristin Honiotes, was busy establishing herself as an actor and businesswoman. In 2012, she’d helped form the Wit Theatre Company, a bare-bones group that dumpster-dived for props and rehearsed in the basement of the Blake Street Tavern; its first show was at the Bug Theatre. When Wit grew to the point that it needed a theater to call home, it began renting space at Crossroads. Jacob d’Armand, an Arizona native who’d helped found Wit, wound up getting hired by CSLD as a technical director for the space in 2014.
At a party, he and Kristin Honiotes encountered Jaryd Smart, a Floridian who’d attended Northern Arizona University, d’Armand’s alma mater, and taken a class taught by a professor who kept in touch with d’Armand. When Smart moved to Denver, the professor had suggested that he connect with Wit — but in a stroke of serendipity, they met by chance. The trio teamed up and started working on plays; d’Armand soon brought on Smart to help with the technical aspects of running the space.
“He and I were in here, and we were just fantasizing all the time,” Smart recalls. “We would just sit during events and talk about improvements we would do to the space and how amazing it would be to have free rein.” They produced two original shows together: Quarrel, whose plot is supposed to remain a mystery, and Bucket, which invites local artists to get on stage and try something new, like crossing something off your bucket list.
Kristin Honiotes (right) parted ways with Rodne and Smart last month.
A t the beginning of 2015, with one year left on CSLD’s lease, Honiotes decided to step down as minister, initiating another transition for both the church and Crossroads. The musical director who had been booking shows also left; Kristin Honiotes stepped in and took over those duties at the theater. Meanwhile, CSLD hired a new leader, Patrick Soran, who decided the congregation needed a fresh start and found an available church at 31st Avenue and Humboldt Street. The decision was final: CSLD would not be renewing its lease to operate Crossroads.
Kristin Honiotes jumped at the chance to take over the theater. At the meeting during which CSLD told Hope Communities that it was leaving, she offered to take on the space. When Hope declined, Honiotes brainstormed with Smart and d’Armand. Adding Erik Rodne, a friend of d’Armand’s who was helping out, the four young theater enthusiasts formed Crossroads Creative, intent on persuading Hope to let their group run Crossroads. They thought of buying the theater outright, but Hope wasn’t selling — and raising the necessary funds would have been a long shot, anyway.
In late 2015, Hope sent a list of criteria to parties interested in leasing Crossroads, and the group started formulating a business plan. A key part of it was an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to raise $75,000 to cover expenses for a year.
But Crossroads Creative wasn’t the only interested party. “It was the strangest thing, because we knew ahead of time,” Smart says. “When everyone else found out, people were coming out of the woodwork.”
One of those people was Campbell, who still lived above the theater. His idea was to form a nonprofit organization and pull from his network of local actors and artists to fill the theater. “Once CSL found themselves in that same boat, I started to organize again and pick up where I left off, essentially,” Campbell remembers. “That’s when I met Jaryd and those guys.”
So Campbell started working with Crossroads Creative; they seemed to share a similar vision. The members of Crossroads Creative thought Campbell could run the nonprofit side of the space devoted to community events while they focused on generating revenue by renting the space out; they all had an interest in producing and acting in plays.
Hope’s Dennis Malone had the final decision on who would take over the lease. He was also Campbell’s landlord, which created a conflict of interest, Campbell says. “They weren’t really interested in my idea of making it the Apollo Theater of the West in the Harlem of the West,” he adds. “They were much more interested in a new, progressive, hipster style of theater that would reflect the new residents who were coming into the neighborhood. They really weren’t interested in preserving the cultural integrity, and that was my idea and that was my interest — so therein lies the conflict.”
Campbell says he walked into a meeting with Hope accompanied by Kristin Honiotes and d’Armand, and all three were ready to tackle the project together. But it was clear that Malone wanted Honiotes to be in charge of things, he says: “We were at a meeting together, and Hope said, ‘We want you to be in charge,’ and they pointed at Kristin. They said it right in front of me. Basically, I felt like they were telling me I wasn’t qualified or wasn’t professional enough or whatever. They were hella shady in that meeting.”
Malone says simply that Campbell didn’t have a solid plan and that the choice of going with Crossroads Creative was nothing personal. “We gave him a fair hearing, a fair chance,” he says. “In fact, we asked him to give us a proposal. He never could get the money together to do anything. He had a financial problem.”
At that point, Campbell says, he had $15,000 ready to go from donors — but he didn’t mention that to Hope or Crossroads Creative. Instead, he decided he was done. Soon after, he accepted a position with Genesis Prevention Coalition and moved to Georgia to help turn former penitentiaries into housing for veterans. He plans on returning to Denver this fall, though, to stage a production of a play he wrote, Final Fight of the Freedom Fighter.
Crossroads Creative was blindsided by Campbell’s exit, Smart says. When the Kickstarter campaign started last fall, the team had to forge ahead without the one member who had the best shot of rallying the community.
“I felt like I was the perfect fit for that particular problem,” Campbell says. “I might not be the greatest administrator or organizer, but I certainly was a part of the community, and I certainly was a person who had the type of relationship within the community that could create a viable support base.”
The Kickstarter failed, raising only $8,000 of the proposed $75,000 — but at their next meeting, Malone told the Crossroads Creative founders that he was impressed with their enthusiasm and vision. “Unfortunately, they came up short,” Malone recalls. “We sat down with them and said, look, so you don’t get pinned down on a lease you can’t commit to, let’s do three-month leases. We will review it every three months, and if you guys are still alive and kicking, then we’ll renew it again.”
Ryan Foo and the Black Actors Guild first performed at Crossroads in 2011 and are now regulars.
The Crossroads Creative Years (2016-?)
Crossroads Creative officially took over Crossroads Theater on January 1, 2016. The group started in a financial hole: Malone was willing to waive the security deposit but wanted $3,500 up front for one month’s rent. Kristin Honiotes ponied up the cash herself, and the new theater owners started looking for events to book.
That was easier said than done; theater groups typically book their productions months ahead, and there was an uncomfortable number of blank squares on the Crossroads calendar. Still, the partners knew what they were getting into. “I don’t think any of us went into this thinking it was going to be a fun cakewalk,” Honiotes says. “We all showed up like, here we go, we’re about to dig in and do all the work — and for us, we’re not getting paid, so it’s really just our passion to build this and really make it something.”
Honiotes was the businessperson; she did most of the booking. Smart took over as production manager, developing shows and finding talent. D’Armand reprised his role as technical director, and Rodne was anointed artistic director, responsible for the company’s image. They worked hard, and business steadily increased. They weren’t in the black, but they were building momentum with performances by Slam Nuba and the Black Actors Guild, as well as in-house productions and community-centered events. Denver Kids Inc. held a Core Values Award ceremony there for students in the Denver Public Schools; the Gift of Jazz, a nonprofit that teaches music to Denver students, hosts a monthly program at the theater. And the Agency, a relatively new sketch-comedy troupe, signed on to hold a free show there every month.
Malone was so impressed by the increased activity that he extended the lease through the end of September.
But the honeymoon didn’t last. When d’Armand moved back to Arizona to be with his family, his role was diminished. Honiotes, who had kept her day job, started spending less time at Crossroads. And at the end of May, both of them suddenly severed all ties with Crossroads Creative.
Honiotes says only that she left for “personal reasons”; Smart says d’Armand felt he was “rendered ineffective.” Although he acknowledges there had been some communication problems, Rodne says he didn’t see the breakup coming. “When we started our Kickstarter, one of our founding ideas was that we don’t want to let things get lost in committee, and communication breaking down to such a point that we weren’t effectively communicating about things that could happen,” he says. “I don’t think it was a fault of anyone compromising ideas or ideals or anything like that.”
Smart and Rodne doubled down. They filed paperwork giving them full ownership of Crossroads Creative and held a meeting early this month at which they enlisted seven volunteers to assist at the theater. One of those volunteers is Toluwanimi Obiwole, Denver’s first youth poet laureate and a member of Slam Nuba. “We really wanted to save the Crossroads Theater as a community center, because it’s been really important and still is very important to the community in Five Points,” she says. “That’s also why I wanted to volunteer, because in my future, I want to be a community organizer, and helping out at the Crossroads Theater is definitely going to help me out with those skills. I love the idea of learning about your community as a means of better equipping yourself to help them.”
Michael Santini, a recent transplant with a background in theater, also volunteered. “I’m one of those people who just moved out here from Chicago, and I feel like I’m contributing to the gentrification that’s happening in the Denver metro area,” he says, “so meeting people who are dedicated to having this space and preserving it as a community center, an arts center — somewhere where talent can thrive and be recognized and have a comfortable space to be in — it’s inspiring, to say the least.”
While removing extra soap dispensers from the bathroom may seem a minor task, the volunteers’ willingness to take on such housekeeping duties impressed Smart. “That’s the kind of space we’re trying to be in. A space of action, which is what we’ve been trying to get to, and now we’re there. For us, this is the best possible thing,” he says. “We spent the first six months as a four-person team, and now we have expanded ourselves. We’ve had two members leave. We’ve brought on a bunch of people now who see what we want to do.”
Rodne, too, is optimistic. “Jaryd and I have been in the space and collectively have the ability to run everything — so it’s going to stay open, which is good,” he says. “It’s a win. I’m confident that our skills overlap in such a way that we can take care of the space and we can be looking out in different directions, managing different things, and making sure that operations run smoothly.”
Money has always been an issue for anyone running Crossroads, and Smart and Rodne say they have a few tricks up their sleeves. Smart is exploring sponsorships and a loan from Kiva, an online platform where loans are crowdfunded by people all over the world. Impressed by Smart and Rodne’s energetic approach, Malone modified the lease to make it easier for them to afford the space. Combined with an expanded roster of shows and community events, it may be enough to keep the theater afloat.
They know they still need the support of the community. “I don’t think it’s about us, and I don’t think it’s been about us,” he says. “We don’t own the space; the space is there for the community. Thankfully, nothing’s been interrupted in that process. It’s still the same message, just slightly refined.”
The message is the same, but the community of Five Points is definitely changing. “I think one of the problems is that the neighborhood has yet to find a distinct identity,” says the Black Actors Guild’s Kevin Marchman. “You can’t really have a cultural nexus without people buying into the culture as a whole.”
The Guild’s Ryan Foo likens the Crossroads saga to the recent history of Five Points. “I think Crossroads is a perfect metaphor for where Five Points is right now, which is conflicted,” he says. “It’s growing, it’s evolving, and that’s not a painless process.”
No pain, no gain: Malone is ready to offer the group another extension in September. “I’m just enthused about how they’re going toward doing this,” he says. “They’re both working well together, and I just think that maybe this was the push that was needed to kind of get a different look. I think they’re taking the right course, and if anything, there’s new enthusiasm.”
For his part, Campbell wants to see the theater stay open — even if he’s not running it. “It’s all good,” he says. “I really love the Crossroads, and I’d really love to see it survive.”
Kurt Lewis is cheering on the group, too. “The enthusiasm is key,” he says. “You need passion and persistence in whatever you do, and they have it.”
The show must go on!
Kurt Lewis wrote this poem when Crossroads Theater was just getting started:
Crossroads the Dream and the Reality
Images in our minds
Sketched the seats and the stage
From a blank space populated
Only by six concrete pillars.
Eyes Of dreamers and doers and creators
Saw tomorrow yesterday.
Dancers, actors, musicians, painters and poets
Populated our imaginary stage,
Now suddenly real and ready.
So welcome everyone
To the magical place in the center of the city.
Where the roads and the rail meet
And creativity leaps like a dancer
Sings the blues on a Saturday nite
and tells the stories
Of this city and its people.
Want to check out the action at Crossroads Theater? Here are just some of the events planned for the next few weeks:
Southwest Shootout, Preliminary Round
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 1, $10
Regional poetry-slam competition featuring the best poets from across the Southwest.
Bucket: 9th Edition
8 p.m. Saturday, July 2, $10 suggested donation
An open-mic free-for-all produced by Crossroads Creative and featuring music, comedy, and art.
Broadsided: An estrogen-fueled comedy show
7 p.m. Wednesday, July 6, $15
Sketch, improv and standup comedy inspired by stigmas and stereotypes about women.
Show Ya Teef
8 p.m. Friday, July 15, $10
The Black Actors Guild’s high-energy and interactive improv comedy show.
Green Day’s American Idiot
Presented by Fearless Theatre
July 28 through August 19
A musical based on the album of the same name, co-written by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong.
Crossroads is located at 2590 Washington Street. For more information, call 720-526-2467 or go to xroads.info.
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