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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Kevin Spacey to mentor region’s theatre hopefuls

Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey and his theatre foundation will be leading professional workshops for 35 young theatre enthusiasts from the Mena region under the Middle East Theatre Academy's Home Grown initiative this month.
A training session at the MIddle East Theatre Academy. Courtesy Middle East Theatre Academy
A training session at the MIddle East Theatre Academy. Courtesy Middle East Theatre Academy

The Hollywood star and theatre veteran Kevin Spacey is coming to Sharjah to lead 35 young theatre hopefuls from across the Mena region during a two-week drama workshop in Sharjah starting on Sunday.

The project, a partnership between the Sharjah-based Middle East Theatre Academy and the Kevin Spacey Foundation, hand-picked the 18 to 25-year-old participants from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Palestine and Syria for its new Home Grown initiative.

The not-for-profit Meta was established in 2011 by Spacey and the Emirati businessman and social entrepreneur Badr Jafar to open new avenues in creative arts in the region and to nurture youth. The fully funded workshop has been created by Spacey’s foundation and will culminate in a 50-minute stage production hosted by the actor on January 25.

Alicia White, Meta’s project coordinator, says Home Grown aims to make professional theatre training accessible to all.

How did the collaboration with the Kevin Spacey Foundation come about?

Badr Jafar has always been an advocate of using the arts to create social capital as well as for creating cross-cultural dialogue. Seeing how KSF was set up to promote and advance the creative arts for public benefit, Badr and Kevin got together and founded Meta to introduce, influence and nurture the Mena youth in the art of theatre, stage performance and related education. The not-for-profit academy is offering a range of creative opportunities for young, emerging artists throughout the Middle East, with a special focus on motivating underprivileged youth by facilitating workshops, masterclasses and special events.

What was the goal of setting up Home Grown?

It is the first innovative philanthropic programme to discover and nurture young artistic talent in performing arts. The programme’s objective is to create a platform for promising young talent and arm them with the necessary skills and experience to excel, with the help of professionals, mentors and support. These young men and women will have the distinct opportunity to work under one of the most experienced professional theatre teams in the world.

What areas of performing arts will be covered by Home Grown?

Home Grown focuses on several important parts of the theatrical arts, ranging from physicality and movement to stage craft. The project also aims to support the development of a young, creative community across the Mena region. The participants will hopefully go on to collaborate on future projects together.

How many people applied for the programme?

More than 300 and even after the application deadline, people are still applying. More than 100 auditioned in person and online, and 35 young men and women were chosen from 12 countries.

Why is the programme free?

The Middle East is full of potential, so we wanted to make sure the programme was accessible to everyone and that it was an opportunity that was fully inclusive and didn’t depend on the means of the applicants. To do this, our presenting sponsor, Crescent Enterprises, along with its partners have fully covered the costs of this programme including the whole production and theatre team, as well as the flights, and lodging for all the successful candidates.

What can you say about the potential in the region from the youth that applied?

The joint teams of Meta and KSF were incredibly impressed by the calibre of those who applied. They are all bursting with talent and passion, and it is our hope that this programme will provide a platform for their personal and professional development.

Can you tell us about the team that will be leading the workshop?

The KSF team have a huge amount of experience running projects of this kind and are mainly based in London. They are very skilled in creating theatre with young people and we are excited to see the outcome. They will also be leading the training for participants and teaching them new skills and techniques.

How many sessions will Kevin Spacey be taking?

Kevin will be present at times and will lead some masterclasses during the programme.

What is the theatrical production the students will be staging at the end of the workshop?

A play has been specially commissioned for the project. It is called Dhow Under the Sun and is written by the Iraqi playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak. The play will be in both Arabic and English. The opening performance will be presented by Kevin Spacey at the Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts.

aahmed@thenational.ae