City Native Shares “Common Ground” With Crossroads

NEW B RUNSWICK, NJ - John Keller has seen the city's theater scene flourish into a vibrant community thanks to some major transformations to the downtown business district in recent years.

Those changes have spelled opportunity for the city native, actor and graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, who last week performed in the  “CommonGround: Festival of the People” at Crossroads Theatre.

“When I was a little kid, you would never be in downtown New Brunswick after 4:30,” Keller said. “When I was 11 years old, if I ever told my mom that I had walked from one end of town to the other, she would have killed me.”

Sign Up for E-News

He even recalls a time when the George Street Playhouse was an abandoned pornography theater. Today, however, the city provides a nurturing environment where theater and other art forms flourish, he said.

Keller participated this year as a reader for one of the annual festival’s productions, Alice Childress' “Trouble in Mind.”

He attributes part of the positive cultural and structural changes to the presence of Rutgers University, Johnson & Johnson and two major hospitals as well as the city’s convenient geographic location.

“All of those factors have made it possible for individuals in a lot of varied fields to setup shop in New Brunswick, and it is no less true for the arts,” Keller said.

As part of the city’s theatre district, Crossroads stages the annual event as a celebration of the city’s cultural diversity, and to provide opportunity to local artists.

“This festival allows Crossroads to further connect with various groups in the community and share their passions and stories with our Crossroads’ family,”  said Marshall Jones 3d, the theater’s executive director.  “The programming is diverse and we look forward to bringing this work to our stage.”

The CommonGround festival echoes Crossroads’ mission statement and dedication to high quality theatre with motifs that focus on cultural diversity and engage a multicultural audience.

“It’s a festival looking to explore theatrical pieces that examine some sort of disparity between two different groups,” Keller said. “The stories are about people trying to find common ground.”

Keller went to high school in New Brunswick and after attending college in Massachusetts and traveling the country with various theater companies, returned to his hometown and received a graduate degree from Mason Gross.

He works in the Mason Gross theater department, teaches part-time at New Brunswick High School and is the artistic director for a local non-profit arts organization, CoLAB.  

Keller also notes that since the city has become a more appealing place to live, Mason Gross graduates have increasingly chosen to stay rather than moving to New York City to pursue their acting careers.

“Now that New Brunswick has a social downtown culture, it makes it possible for artists who have decided to stay and commit themselves to the area, to live here and not just work here,” Keller said. “It’s the type of atmosphere that encourages artists to commit themselves.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In
Sun, February 25, 11:00 am
East Brunswick

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - February 23, 2018

The Jaffe Briefing Is going on Winter Break, returning Monday, March 5


 NEWARK - The Archdiocese of Newark is somehow making national news, after Cardinal Joseph Tobin sent out a tweet Wednesday that raised one or two eyebrows. Tobin tweeted "Nighty-night, baby. I love you," Hmm, people asked. Now who ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 22, 2018


TRENTON - If New Jersey raises the sales tax back to 7 percent, will anyone notice? That's the big question from New Jersey Policy Perspective, which questions last year's gimmick that cut the sales tax rate to 6.625 percent. NJ 101.5reports that tax cut equates to $2 a week in "savings" for middle-class families. Meanwhile, this ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 21, 2018


ON THE HIGHWAY - Authorities were frantically looking into a "mystery tar" that appeared suddenly on cars driving along I-295 in South Jersey, causing tires to gel with the road. They quickly realized that a stretch of the highway in Salem County was smeared with liquid asphalt, leaked from a tanker and causing dozens of cars to get ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 20, 2018


STATEWIDE - Jittery parents are sending their jittery kids to jittery schools this morning, as classes resume after a President's Day weekend filled with wall-to-wall news coverage about gun safety. School districts statewide have been reporting threats - all thankfully not credible - as district leaders are on the highest alert. East Brunswick, for ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 16, 2018


E STREET - While a tired nation is demanding gun control (yet again), Springsteen guitarist Stevie Van Zandt is having none of it. No stranger to political opinions, the New Jersey icon tweeted "What happened to us? We are averaging 2 school shootings per week AND WE DO NOTHING ABOUT IT!" Many tone-deaf politicians on Capitol Hill ...

The Jaffe Briefing - January 15, 2018


TRENTON - As state lawmakers are set to announce a bill at 11 a.m. to decriminalize pot - an issue that has consumed the Statehouse -  the Record is reporting on an often-ignored issue: the state's ridiculously antiquated liquor laws. For example, supermarkets in the state can only have up to two liquor licenses, stemming ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, February 24


Project Feeder Watch

Green Home & Garden


Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

New Jersey Audubon's Plainsboro Preserve, Plainsboro

Family Adventures - Early Spring: Emerging ...


Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

Edison High School Auditorium, Edison

Free community viewing of "Bag It"


Trees Have Sex? Rutgers Researchers Have All the Answers

February 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A few years ago, Rutgers researcher Jennifer Blake-Mahmud was working on a botany project in Virginia when colleagues pointed out a striped maple, a common tree in the understory of mountain forests from Nova Scotia to Georgia. 


“They told me, ‘We think it switches sex from year to year, but we don’t know why,’ and I said, ...

Rutgers Union Rally Planned Friday for $15 Minimum Wage

New Brunswick, NJ - On Friday, February 23, student groups, a coalition of Rutgers unions, and representatives from campuses across the nation will hold a rally and march on College Avenue to demand a $15 minimum wage.

The action, initiated by the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Rutgers American Association of University Professors - American Federation of ...

RU Students Rejoice: Starbucks Reopens at The Yard@College Avenue

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - In what many consider to be the biggest news of the day on the Rutgers University campus, the Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue has once again reopened.

Officials with the New Brunswick Development Corp. reported this morning that the popular coffeehouse is open "for good."

The Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue, located at the corner of College ...

Valeski: Placing Police Officers in Schools was Planned for Two Years

February 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In the midst of a media firestorm Tuesday, Dr. Victor Valeski, East Brunswick Superintendent of Schools, fielded questions from local and national journalists regarding the placement of armed police officers inside each of the district's K-12 buildings.  The move seemed to many as a "knee-jerk" reaction to the fear generated by the massacre of ...

Shouts of Racial Slurs Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

February 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...


Letter to the Editor: Low-Income Families Who Need Safe Cribs Have Nowhere to Go

February 15, 2018

One recent email came from a pastor in East Orange, sharing the struggles of a young couple who have no safe place for their baby to sleep.

Then, there was also a phone call from a Newark hospital, making its fourth request in two years, as well as a frantic text from Puerto Rico, for a family who lost everything in the hurricane.

They all pleaded for the same thing: A safe crib for a ...

Somerset Patriots Sign Frontier League All-Star RHP Randy McCurry

February 17, 2018

The Somerset Patriots have announced the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Randy McCurry for the 2018 season.

“I’m excited to play in the Atlantic League this year,” said McCurry. “It’ll be a transition for me but I am ready to face some really good competition and help the team win.”

McCurry enters his first season with the Somerset Patriots and ...