By Caitlin McNamara
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS â€” On Monday, Jan. 9, a spirited new Brooklyn Heights-based theater group will hold a gala at DUMBO's Galapagos Art Space to launch its second season. The evening, hosted by Random Access Theatre, will feature previews of all three of its 2012 season productions.
Random Access' inaugural season presented new work, but this season will be about reviving classics. Last season, following the theme "something's not quite right here," topics ranged from ghosts in the London tube to failed relationships. This coming season will be about "decadence."
The theater group was co-founded by Heights residents Jennifer Sandella, as artistic director, and Jessica Ko, as managing director. They met while studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but today, they live less than a mile apart and meet at least every other day. All of the Random Access groups convenes about once a week.
Sandella was born in Greenwich Village, but has deep fondness for Brooklyn, where her roots also go deep. Her great-grandmother was a longtime resident, and she herself attended Brooklyn Technical High School.
"I had lived all over the city, but Williamsburg was the first place I felt a sense of community and involvement," she says. "Within two weeks, I knew the people at the corner coffee shop. And I think you move into any Brooklyn neighborhood and you get that. It's things like that that make you feel like there is something more important happening."
Sandella acted professionally for several years, and despite enjoying it, she says, "I knew pretty early on it wasn't what I wanted to commit my life to."
Her working relationship with Ko began after graduate school, in New York, when Ko enrolled in Sandella's scene study class, and they found that they enjoyed working together.
"Jessica is probably one of the best classical actors I've ever met," Sandella says. "It's probably our love of the classics that brought us together. She's the backbone [of Random Access]. Without her this wouldn't happen."
The first show in the coming season will be Rope, a staged production of the Patrick Hamilton play made famous by Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film adaptation. The director will be Christopher Shepard, and Sandella says she doesn't know of any other recent New York City productions of Rope, which they are excited about.
The two other shows planned for this season will be site-specific Machinal, directed by Sandella in a to-be-determined location, and Twelfth Night, reimagined for today and directed by Lawrence Lesher in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
"There is something to be said for analyzing these texts in contemporary perspective," says Sandella. "They were contemporary in their time. Perspective is key to understanding them."
Sandella's big hope for the future is to secure dedicated theater space in DUMBO or Brooklyn Heights. "[This] might be a pipe dream, but we want to be part of this community. There are a few theaters that do wonderful but very specific work, and we want to add to that."
They've seen other small theaters struggle by growing too fast, so their approach is to "do good work and the rest will follow."
"We always say, 'We don't want to do museum pieces.' If you're doing something people have seen eight times in their lives you better have a good idea what you're trying to say with it.
"So people should come see our Twelfth Night, because they'll never see another like it!"
For more details about Random Access, their schedule or the gala fundraiser (tickets $20) visit www.randomaccesstheatre.com.
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