Rich has been executive director of The New Group, a nonprofit off-Broadway theater company, since 2002; president of the board of trustees of Princeton Summer Theater; former executive vice president of programming for ABC Radio Network; and founder of Radio Today, a radio production company, in 1984. Majored in English.
Alkalay has been chairman of the board of The New Group since 2005 and previously was board president; principal of the law firm McLaughlin Stern. Majored in English.
EDGY, ENSEMBLE THEATER
When Rich took over as executive director of The New Group shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, he inherited a company that figured prominently in the New York theater world but one that was financially stressed. Thanks to a growing budget, an uptick in subscribers, and increased ticket sales since then, the company has been able to produce more elaborate, expensive productions, says Rich. Founded in 1995 by artistic director Scott Elliott, The New Group specializes in edgy, ensemble-driven theater in an intimate setting and produces works by new playwrights as well as revivals.
EXPLORING RELATIONSHIPS AND FAMILIES
The New Group’s plays tend to focus on relationships and families while exploring contemporary themes, says Rich. The 2010–11 season opens Dec. 13 with previews of Blood From a Stone, a darkly comedic play about a troubled working-class family in New Britain, Conn. — the debut of playwright Tommy Nohilly. Previous shows have included Roar, about a Palestinian-American family living in Detroit in the wake of the first Gulf War, and a revival of Sam Shepard’sA Lie of the Mind, about families torn by violence and resentments. The New Group also is a co-producer of the musical Avenue Q.
Rich says he finds “a hunger among theater audiences for substance.” In recent years the company has started “dark nights” and “salon nights” programs, featuring panel discussions with actors, directors, and playwrights. On show nights, Alkalay mingles anonymously among audience members during intermission as they argue about the production. “When they’re doing that, it just proves to me that they’re engaged,” he says. And that’s what The New Group aims for when choosing shows. He adds, “It’s got to be compelling theater, or we’re not going to produce it.”