x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Oscar star Spacey's theatre workshops to mentor young

The Middle East Theatre Academy plans to offer workshops for youngsters in every aspect of the industry, including acting, writing, producing and directing.

Oscar winner Kevin Spacey is helping to nurture underprivileged children in the Middle East through a theatre project with a UAE investment company.

The announcement is the latest charitable concern for the Hollywood actor, who supports similar initiatives in the US and UK as part of the Kevin Spacey Foundation.

The Middle East Theatre Academy plans to offer workshops for youngsters in every aspect of the industry, including acting, writing, producing and directing.

The programme will be the first of its kind in the region.

Spacey, who will host tonight's Laureus Sports Awards in Abu Dhabi, said encouraging shy or disaffected youth is a subject close to his heart.

"I was very shy as a child," he told The National. "I often didn't feel like I fit in. And I would not have a career if it weren't for writers, directors and producers who took a chance on me, quite frankly before I showed any real promise.

"I believe in the ethos of mentorship. It happened to me. It changed my life."

In collaboration with Crescent Investments, a Dubai-based subsidiary of Crescent Group, the non-profit academy plans to not only reach out to children who lack confidence and direction, but also to support the region's budding film industry.

Badr Jafar, the chief executive officer of Crescent Investments, said the academy would begin rolling out workshops led by industry professionals in coming weeks.

Although the first classes are planned for Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Mr Jafar said the programme will be expanded throughout the GCC in the hopes of promoting the region's film industry.

"I have always felt there is a lack of good theatre in the region," he said. "But this is not just about entertainment, but to nurture home-grown talent. One aspect is nurturing the talent, the other is exporting some of our content from the Middle East and seeing it on foreign stages."

Spacey said whether the children continue in theatre or film is a secondary objective. The main goal for the actor known for such roles as The Usual Suspects and American Beauty was to improve their sense of self.

"When I do workshops with these kids, I look in their eyes and I see myself," Spacey said. "I know exactly what they are experiencing. You can begin to change someone's circumstances and someone's life."

jtodd@thenational.ae