The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Ricardo Khan

Ricardo Mohamed Khan was born on November 4, 1951, in Washington, D.C., to Mustapha and Jacqueline Khan, a doctor from Trinidad and an American nurse. Khan was raised in Camden, New Jersey. In 1968, as a high school student, he went on a class trip to Broadway and saw an all-black cast perform Hello, Dolly. The trip inspired him to become active in his high school’s drama program, and the next year, he attended Rutgers University, where he studied psychology and theater. Khan earned his B.A. degree in 1973 and his M.F.A. degree in 1977, both from Rutgers University.

Khan and one of his graduate school classmates, L. Kenneth Richardson, were frustrated by the limited opportunities for African Americans in theater; they wanted roles that went beyond conventional stereotypes. In 1978, they came up with the idea for the Crossroads Theatre Company as a place to promote black theater and black artists. With help from Eric Krebs of the nearby George Street Playhouse and a government grant, the company became a reality; its first theater was the second floor of an old factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Crossroads Theatre Company presented their first world premier, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show by Don Evans in 1981. In 1986, with the premiere of The Colored Museum, Crossroads was established as a distinguished regional company. The next year, Khan and Richardson launched a $1 million campaign to build a new playhouse, though Richardson left the group before the new stage was completed in 1991.

In the following years, the Crossroads Theatre Company became increasingly well-regarded; in a famous 1996 speech, playwright August Wilson described it as a role model for black theaters. Khan won a number of personal awards as well, including induction into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni; an honorary doctorate from his alma mater; and the New Jersey Governor’s Award. In 1999, the Crossroads Theatre Company received the Tony Award for the Best Regional Theater.

However, lingering financial problems forced the company to make major cutbacks. In 2000, Khan went on sabbatical, traveling in Trinidad and later in Africa. That same year, Crossroads had to close for a season; the next year, it was able to mount a few shows, and it has gradually built back up since. In 2003, Khan returned to his role as artistic director, and in 2008 the Crossroads Theatre Company celebrated its thirtieth anniversary.

Accession Number

A2007.238

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/14/2007

Last Name

Khan

Maker Category
Schools

Friends Select School

Moorestown Friends School

Plymouth Meeting Friends School

Cherry Hill High - West

Rutgers University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ricardo

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

KHA01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

Believe. Hold Fast To Dreams.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/4/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Stage director and artistic director Ricardo Khan (1951 - ) co-founded and was the artistic director of the Crossroads Theatre Company in New Jersey.

Employment

Self Employed

Crossroads Theatre

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2366,120:4004,172:10054,252:15164,365:15456,370:20795,453:30675,583:30935,588:31325,598:40120,708:46423,744:59669,980:79076,1133:84666,1221:90652,1261:91240,1270:95104,1367:97120,1407:115540,1580:139416,1909:142242,1933:142758,1947:143102,1961:148216,2017:149968,2054:150333,2060:156495,2208:163220,2252:163645,2258:168444,2296:168899,2302:169718,2314:176907,2429:178636,2452:182367,2504:187600,2526:190142,2577:190798,2586:195612,2643:198337,2672:211046,2839:211426,2844:214232,2879:215798,2900:217364,2927:217799,2933:220235,2968:220670,2974:225214,3015:229890,3064:230265,3070:230565,3075:239086,3173:245424,3229:245928,3236:253312,3350:257118,3403:257726,3412:261070,3471:261754,3490:262438,3506:264946,3555:265554,3564:266770,3585:267378,3594:273735,3629:274246,3642:275560,3669:276217,3680:280816,3776:281619,3790:282057,3797:282641,3806:283444,3827:283882,3834:284466,3843:297418,3982:298170,3991$0,0:36038,518:35910,524:36533,533:38224,559:40340,567:42468,610:51470,678:52388,689:54160,713:64090,763:83340,971:87806,1010:88884,1044:94182,1141:95367,1160:106510,1352:107266,1363:109030,1396:110710,1428:117885,1508:126115,1580:126510,1586:127063,1594:127458,1600:127774,1605:130144,1662:132040,1704:132751,1714:133699,1728:135358,1755:139150,1822:139782,1831:141283,1885:141757,1892:143653,1935:163869,2197:164562,2208:165332,2228:167873,2278:172270,2317
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ricardo Khan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes his mother's personality and influence

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes his families' businesses

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan describes his parents' education at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ricardo Khan describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ricardo Khan recalls his father's medical residency in Norristown, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan's mother remembers her professors at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan describes his father's personality and career

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan remembers moving frequently during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes his neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ricardo Khan remembers his mother's civic involvement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ricardo Khan describes his education in Quaker schools

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ricardo Khan describes his experiences of discrimination at the Moorestown Friends School in Moorestown, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan remembers the Friends Select School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan describes the music of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan recalls the televisions programs of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan remembers the Moorestown Friends School in Moorestown, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan recalls Cherry Hill High School West in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan remembers the all-black Broadway production of 'Hello, Dolly!'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan remembers his first role as a director

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan remembers the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan recalls his theatrical involvement at Cherry Hill High School West in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes his decision to attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan recalls his theater involvement in Camden and New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes his experiences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan recalls his decision to attend the Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan recalls Broadway's African American productions

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan remembers the New Federal Theater in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan describes the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan remembers founding the Crossroads Theatre Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan recalls naming his theater company

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan describes the mission of the Crossroads Theatre

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's opening season

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's audiences

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroad Theatre's awards

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan remembers his directorial influences

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan recalls his production of 'The Darker Face of the Earth'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's production of 'Jitney'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's financial difficulties, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's financial difficulties, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan remembers his departure from the Crossroads Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan talks about the closure of the Crossroads Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes Crossroad Theatre's funding

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan reflects upon the challenges facing black theater companies

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes his return to the Crossroads Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan reflects upon his reasons for leaving the Crossroad Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ricardo Khan describes his hopes for the African American theater community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Ricardo Khan remembers the all-black Broadway production of 'Hello, Dolly!'
Ricardo Khan remembers founding the Crossroads Theatre Company
Transcript
So you're a junior in high school [Cherry Hill High School West, Cherry Hill, New Jersey] at this point?$$Yeah.$$And so you're in 'Funny Girl' [Isobel Lennart] in this, in this performance?$$That's right.$$And so where are you performing?$$In the high school. It was a (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, I thought it was like a downtown audition.$$No, it was the high school musical--$$I understand. I understand.$$It was the high school musical, and that was the weirdest thing for me. It was like you're going to be a guy in the dancing, words going to get out (laughter). But I just turned it around, I said, oh my god, I love this, I could do this. So that year Benny [Benny White (ph.)] and I were in this musical, 'Funny Girl,' and I'm more into--I tend to like acting, but he always loved dance. But his mother, her name was Peggy White [ph.], god bless her soul, she would always prior to this take us out to see plays, like community theater and stuff like that. There were these things in the Camden [New Jersey] area called the music fairs where there's this big tent and underneath the tent they had seats and they had professional summer stock shows that would come through, musicals and things. She would always take us to these things. Also in Jack and Jill [Jack and Jill of America, Inc.], which is where, we would always go out to these shows and functions and every month was something different. One month it may be to go skiing, one month it may be to--one month we sat with a Black Panther who taught us things about movement at that time and one month in that junior year in 1968, the trip was to go to a Broadway show. Now, none of us had ever gone to a Broadway show before. We lived there in Camden and in Cherry Hill [New Jersey] and we went, got on the bus and it drove us up. All these Jack and Jillers to see a show on Broadway, 'Hello, Dolly!' [Michael Stewart], and what was remarkable about it, we didn't really know anything about it, was when we got in there, 'Hello, Dolly!' had become a big hit. It was produced by David Merrick and Carol Channing, the people that had made it famous. It won all these Tony Awards [Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre] but when we got there it was an all-black cast. Pearl Bailey was the lead and Cab Calloway. Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway and an all-black cast of 'Hello, Dolly!' of all things, 'Hello, Dolly!,' which has nothing to do with our culture at all. It was based on 'The Matchmaker' [Thornton Wilder], it was incredible but it was amazing that we were there doing it. All of sudden Broadway which is the center of theater in the world and the best show on Broadway at the time that we could be that, that we could be the best, no, no, no. Unbelievable what that did to us, these kids who hopped on a bus in Camden, New Jersey to come up to New York City [New York, New York] to see a show on Broadway and look up there and see that these people up there look just like us. Never ever could I come up with the words that properly describe this impact. But there was one thing that happened even more powerful and that was that at the end of the play we get back on the bus to go back to Camden and we're on the bus and a couple of the people from the play--from the show come out onto the bus and look at us kids and say, "You know what, we just wanted to thank you for coming." These guys, they were in this Broadway show and they came onto our bus to thank us for coming and then we asked them questions, they answered us back and all of a sudden there was a dialogue between us and these Broadway people who looked like us. I think that was the most powerful thing for me because it showed me that it doesn't matter how big you are, it doesn't matter how big you are, how bright your star is. Always remember where you came from, always remember that part of your role is excellence on stage or in film or whatever you're pursuing but the other part is to give back and I learned that that day.$But I had a meeting right after that with a friend of mine who by that time was working at CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act], and he gave me the ins and outs of it. I applied, sent in a grant through the George Street Playhouse [New Brunswick, New Jersey] because we needed an umbrella organization; George Street said they'd do it. I wrote the grant, we put it in through George Street, they did some talking, I did some talking, we got a grant for basically--what came up to about $230,000 in 1978 to start what was called the ethnic theater project because we weren't allowed to use the word black (laughter). We got $230,000 and we were allowed to hire about twenty two people with that money. Actors, administrators, production people, public relations, everybody we needed to start a black theater in New Brunswick [New Jersey]. We found this little hole in a wall place it used to be a sewing factory. Half of the second floor was available, it had been vacant for a long time, we got in there, we got the money--the CETA money. The first thing we did was we had to renovate, and while we were renovating we were doing workshops. We sent workshops out in the communities the same way I learned how to do it in that other CETA project, we did it here 'cause I figure you know what, we needed to break down the barriers between the community, which at that time was primarily black and Hispanic, and theater which was formal to them. We also wanted to break down the barriers between the traditional theater going audience which is predominantly white and the black theater which they didn't think they could be a part of. So that's what the workshops are for, we went out and we did workshops everywhere to teach whatever we could to people and let them know we're here. Then we did an open house and fourteen people showed up and then we did it again and I think twenty people showed up, and then we finally were ready to rehearse a show, and now this is in 1979, early part of it. The first show we did was 'First Breeze of Summer' ['The First Breeze of Summer'] written Leslie Lee and we did that show and of course because we had that funding from CETA, we didn't have to charge for tickets, it was all free, and it was a big, big hit and that was what started the Crossroads Theatre Company.