Lights, camera, action! This week, the UAE will play host to an Academy Award-winning actor and his initiative Home Grown – and it’s all happening in Sharjah. Words Liz Totton.
From Saturday January 10, a troupe of 35 talented youth actors from across the Middle East converged upon Sharjah to further their talents under the watchful eye of renowned actor Kevin Spacey. The Middle East Theatre Academy’s (META) Home Grown is an intensive theatre training programme that’s a joint partnership with Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the ruler of Sharjah, and The Kevin Spacey Foundation. The programme, which has been free for those selected, will culminate this week in the production of a new play in Arabic and English with a regional theme. The performance taking place Monday January 26 at the Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts will be open to the public.
Spacey has been present at times throughout the project and is leading expert classes in addition to observing rehearsals. The accomplished actor, aside from being an Oscar-winning star of the stage and screen, is committed to giving back. Spacey was discovered and then mentored by actor Jack Lemmon during an acting workshop when he was 13 years old. Lemmon was an accomplished actor and certainly did not need to be teaching an acting workshop to kids, but he was committed to doing what he called ‘sending the elevator back down’ to help talented youth actors. Spacey is dually committed to helping young talent. He founded the Kevin Spacey Foundation as a means to inspire and mentor talented young actors in the manner that Lemmon helped him, and to try and give back what the industry has given him.
Spacey, the star of TV series House of Cards and a number of Hollywood blockbusters, joined up with Emirati businessman Badr Jafar – a social entrepreneur reputed for collaborating with internationally renowned enterprises on numerous socially responsible projects – to launch META in 2011 as a joint initiative. The organisation is a first-of-its-kind academy designed to introduce, influence and nurture youngsters in the region in the art of theatre and stage performance. The non-profit academy offers a range of creative opportunities for emerging artists with a special focus on motivating underprivileged youth by facilitating workshops, masterclasses and special events.
Led by industry professionals in every facet of theatre and stagecraft, participants have the opportunity to gain insight into the areas of movement, voice, characterisation, staging and stage craft, as well as directing, writing, producing, lighting, set design, costume and make-up application. When asked about the launch of the project, Spacey said, ‘Over the past four years, the KSF has been working to nurture, train, and support emerging artists in performing arts and film. We offer financial assistance and mentoring to get new work off the ground, unique theatre in education projects to inspire learning and fully funded university seats to those young artists. We do this because I believe that if you have been lucky enough to do well in the business you want to do well in, then it is your obligation to send the elevator back down. That’s why we are working with META and we are excited about presenting Home Grown, the first venture between the academy and my foundation.’
The Home Grown initiative is a labour of love for the two social entrepreneurs committed to growing the theatrical arts in the region. Jafar says, ‘The arts have always been an essential pillar of world civilizations and the aim of this philanthropic initiative is to cultivate artistic spirit from the myriad talented young men and women across the region. I’m confident that a programme of this nature will provide the opportunity to nurture these home-grown talents and develop them to be the ambassadors of the Arab region around the world.’
The collective mission of the KSF, META and Home Grown is impressive and the production will be well worth the drive to Sharjah for. If you’re keen to catch a rising star taking the elevator up with Kevin Spacey, now is your chance.
Ticket prices are to be announced. January 26 performance is open to the public. Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts, Al Burj Street, Al Mraijah, Sharjah, www.middleeasttheatre.org (06 568 1333).