Launched in 2011, as a joint initiative with world-renowned screen actor, director and producer Kevin Spacey and The Kevin Spacey Foundation (KSF), The Middle East Theatre Academy (META) is a first-of-its-kind academy designed to introduce, influence, and nurture the youth of the region in the art of theatre, stage performance and related education. The non-profit Academy offers a range of creative opportunities for young, emerging artists throughout the Middle East, with a special focus on motivating underprivileged youth, by facilitating workshops, master classes and special events. Led by industry professionals in every facet of theatre and stagecraft, participants gain insight in the areas of performance, directing, writing, producing, stage management, lighting, set design, costumes, and makeup application. Facilitated by KSF in collaboration with META, emerging artists and students, who may not otherwise be afforded the opportunity due to their social, global, or otherwise economic circumstances, will have a chance to discover important life skills, develop a passion and create a path for achievement.
‘Sending The Elevator Back Down.’
The Kevin Spacey Foundation (KSF) was established in the United Kingdom in 2010 and in the United States in 2013. KSF’s purpose is to use the esteem and fame associated with its namesake to create initiatives that discover, train and mentor emerging artists in drama, dance, music, and film. Its services include financial assistance to enable the creation of new work, educational opportunities, and mentoring by respected associates. KSF Grants fund future practitioners, assisting them in the exploration and realization of new, exciting ideas. KSF Scholarships are offered to those wishing to attain a higher education in the performing arts in partnership with leading universities in London and New York. KSF Learning projects give secondary school students the opportunity to develop their creativity through bespoke theatre projects.
On January 25, 2015, META launched its inaugural project, ‘Home Grown’, discovering and celebrating the artistic talent that saturates the youth of the Middle East, a community consisting of over 200 different nationalities and cultures. Created and facilitated by our partners at The Kevin Spacey Foundation, this unique philanthropic programme offered 34 talented youth across the region a once-in-a -lifetime, expense-free opportunity, to realize their potential in the areas of art, theatre and music. The intensive two week theatre training programme, which took place for the first time in the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE, culminated in the production of ‘Dhow Under the Sun’, a play in Arabic and English, which publicly premiered in the presence of academy award-winning actor Kevin Spacey and to local guests in support of the inspirational initiative.
To have a closer look on how META influenced its participants, please watch the following short video:
"Do you want to play safe or do you want be happy?"
The city of Dahab and surrounding areas have been hit by a devastating flood. Many people have sought refuge in Dhow Camp. There, Ghalia, a gifted young
engineer is trying to build a powerful solar panel with the help of Anis, an enterprising cigarette seller. "Dhow Under the Sun", is a touching story that sheds light on current social and environmental issues of the Arab world and proves leadership and innovation are the key to its future. It is a story full of humour and romance, and about the agonies and rewards of pursuing your dreams.
1. What You Need. A quiet room; a camera, webcam or phone to video yourself on; something to rest it on or a friend to film; and the audition speech.
2. Technical details. Before you begin your performance, do a test run to check the lighting and sound. Say a few lines, record, and then review the footage. It’s important you’re well-lit and that we can hear you. Check for any distractions in the background too, a solid colour background is the best option if you can find one.
3. Framing. You should be in the centre of the screen with your chest and head both fully visible. You can be sitting or standing. Ideally, the camera should remain in one position throughout the scene.
4. Think about the character’s situation. It’s important you’ve made decisions about the backstory of your character before you start recording. Here are a few questions to start thinking about, but there are plenty more you can answer too: Where is the character? What happened to them just before this scene? Who are they talking to? What emotions are they feeling? How old are they? What time of day is it?
5. Don’t try to guess what we want. We want to see what you think is interesting about this character, not you trying guessing what we might like. The most important thing you can do is to make clear choices about your character’s backstory and stick with them. They should be choices you feel are honest, and that you feel comfortable and confident portraying.
6. You can use the script. You may want to memorise the lines, but you don’t have to. We want to see your performance, so as long as the script doesn’t get in the way then you may find it easier to have it nearby. Make sure we don’t hear the paper rustling, though!
7. Relax and take your time. The best thing about a video audition is that you can record it as many times as you like until you feel happy with it. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to do a few takes. You will perform at your best if you feel relaxed and focused.
An extract from the play Withdrawal
by Mohammed Al Attar, English translation by Clem Naylor
Today when I went into town early - it was the first time I’d done that in ages – it felt so hot and crowded with traffic…
But the problem today wasn’t really the traffic, the problem was that I was scared of people all the time. I mean, not scared of one particular person, I just felt like I wanted to run away from them all the time. When I decided to go to a café in the old town I couldn’t manage to sit there for more than a quarter of an hour before I felt like I wanted to run away again. It was so crowded there too…
When I left the al-Hamidiyeh souk I couldn’t find any sort of transport and there was a moment when I felt like I was being strangled… Seriously, people were coming and going, everyone was in a rush and I was sure no one know why. I started feeling dizzy, it looked like the faces of the people around me were repeating themselves, it looked like everyone in the crowd had the same face, and they were all hurrying along staring at the ground.
There was one very old lady who noticed me, she wanted to know what was wrong or something, she asked me if everything was all right. By that point I was sitting on the edge of the pavement, just trying to breathe. Then, even though I couldn’t see very clearly, I walked off. I carried on walking for more than an hour in the sun until I got here. Maybe I shouldn’t go outside again in the daytime. By the end of the night people have usually settled down at home and I can walk around more easily.
Founder, Kevin Spacey Foundation
Kevin Spacey was born in South Orange, New Jersey and spent most of his youth in Southern California. As a teenager Kevin attended a drama workshop led by his idol, Jack Lemmon. On seeing Kevin perform, Jack put his hand on his shoulder and said: ‘That was a touch of terrific, kid. This guy is an actor. You need to go to New York and study to become an actor’ which is exactly what Kevin did. He attended The Juilliard School in 1979.
Kevin made his first Broadway stage appearance as Oswald in Ibsen’s Ghosts in 1981. His break through theatre performance was in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey Into Night opposite his now mentor, Jack Lemmon. Whilst always harbouring a love for the stage, Kevin went on to work in television and subsequently movies. He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects and an Oscar for Best Actor as Lester Burnham in American Beauty. On stage, his performance in O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh was recognized with the Lawrence Oliver Award for Best Actor and a Tony nomination. In 1997 Kevin founded TriggerStreet Productions, an entertainment company that has produced The Social Network and the Netflix original series House of Cards.
In 2003 Kevin became the Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre and moved to London. He focussed on the importance of encouraging young people to build confidence through drama and developing emerging talent with the award-winning Old Vic New Voices programme. Kevin made his UK Shakespearean debut in Richard II at the Old Vic in 2006 and in 2008 he was appointed as Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University. In 2010 Kevin was named honorary Commander of the British Empire as recognition for his exceptional work in theatre.
Kevin set up the Kevin Spacey Foundation in the UK in 2010 and in the US in 2013, with the aim of continuing and expanding his work of ‘sending the elevator back down’ by supporting new artistic talent. Over the course of his career, Kevin has led many acting workshops for young people - sharing his knowledge and experience in the way Jack Lemmon did for him as his mentor. He has delivered classes for emerging artists all over the world through the inaugural Kevin Spacey Foundation project: Richard’s Rampage.
Badr Jafar is an Emirati impact entrepreneur who strives towards using entrepreneurial principles to create and manage ventures which achieve positive social impact and create social capital. As an advocate of cultural diplomacy, Badr has helped launch a number of initiatives in music, theatre and film to promote cross-cultural dialogue between the Arab Region and other regions of the World.
Badr founded the Middle East Theatre Academy in partnership with Kevin Spacey to encourage the Arab Region’s talents within film, television and theatre, and provide an international creative platform for the youth of the Region.
Badr is an appointed member of the Guggenheim Middle Eastern Circle and the Artistic Director’s Circle of The Old Vic Theatre Trust. In 2014, Badr was awarded the Gold Medal in the Arts by the Kennedy Centre International Committee on the Arts for his work to bridge cultures through music and theatre.
Executive Director, The Kevin Spacey Foundation Creator of Home Grown
As Executive Director, Steve leads artistic and business planning of The Kevin Spacey Foundation which aims to create initiatives that discover, train and mentor emerging artists. He oversees both day-to-day and long term strategy to ensure the Foundation’s aim to ‘send the elevator back down’.
Steve was previously the Programme Director of Old Vic New Voices for ten years, the multi award-winning department of The Old Vic Theatre which focuses on supporting new talent, creative learning and community theatre. During his time there he commissioned over sixty plays in the UK and US; produced five major productions, created 30 education projects and discovered numerous actors, directors, writers and producers. Before The Old Vic he created award-winning theatre projects for his own theatre company, Tricycle Theatre and CragRats.
He has also worked for the BBC, ITV, The UCL Bloomsbury, Immediate Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Sky Arts, West Yorkshire Playhouse and IdeasTap as a facilitator, actor, director, dramaturge, casting director and producer. He is a Master at the Drama Centre London and a judge for The Royal Television Society.
‘We are excited to be launching something so unique and creative with such a pioneering individual such as Badr. The Kevin Spacey Foundation has long believed in the power of the arts to transform lives. Home Grown will be no exception.’
Roxanne is an experienced theatre producer with a focus on new and participatory work. In roles at the Theatre Royal Plymouth and The Old Vic she worked with local communities to create socially resonant, high quality and award winning theatre productions on a large scale – involving up to 200 participants.
She also delivered several intensive creative development projects to support emerging theatre makers further their skills and careers. Roxanne has worked on several high profile independent projects, most recently on Letter to an Unknown Soldier which saw over 21,000 people contribute creatively to a new war memorial, including Prime Minister David Cameron and actor Stephen Fry. Previous roles have included work with Tobacco Factory Theatre; Bristol Old Vic for Mayfest; Battersea Arts Centre and Olivier Award winning company OperaUpClose. Roxanne also works as a theatre facilitator, engaging people of all ages and experiences to create performance and develop interpersonal skills.
Born and raised in England to Jamaican parents, Alicia completed her secondary education in Dubai prior to returning to the UK for her tertiary studies. She returned to Dubai to pick up a career in Events Management.
Alicia has worked on a number of diverse, high level projects over the last 7 years coordinating and delivering a Seniors professional tennis championship, managing a very successful International cricket series, three Invitational golf tournaments along with several Gala dinners.
In the area of the arts, she has managed Live comedy shows, Dance extravaganzas and Drama workshops. She is particularly pleased to have curated a notable and significant Islamic Art Collection.
An experienced project manager, Alicia considers herself a citizen of the world with a natural love of people, music and the arts. She has formerly worked for PwC and Delwood Consultancy Services, where she was a curator and event manager
Tara’s work involves a combination of the expressive and therapeutic arts, which aim to engender and facilitate dialogue and healing in various communities. She worked as a freelancer for various organisations and charities, before seting-up Meryna a non-profit organisation, earlier this year, focusing on the concept of social resilience, to work with children and adults in the UK, Middle East and Europe. Her background includes training in classical theatre (MA from Drama Centre), various forms of movement (Grotowski, LeCoq and Corporeal Mime), as well as community-inspired theatre forms such as Playback and Forum theatre. She has just completed a three-month therapeutic pilot project, IamResilience Lebanon based in a Syrian refugee camp in South Lebanon, where she worked directly with camp residents to explore and build on the notion of resilience in these survivors.
Oliver is an actor and director who trained with award winning theatre company, Frantic Assembly for whom he has worked as a performer and Creative Learning Practitioner. He is highly skilled in movement, text, devising and puppetry and is an experienced workshop leader in movement and devising. He is Artistic Director of :DELIRIUM: who use everyday life as inspiration to create characters who tell fast, highly physical, energetic, real and honest stories. Through :DELIRIUM: he continues to work with a variety of artists of all disciplines to develop innovative new work. He was involved with the development and delivery of Home Grown in London and Baltimore earlier this year.
Hassan is an award–winning playwright of Iraqi origin, born in Prague and living in London. His first play, Baghdad Wedding, premiered at Soho Theatre, London. Other productions were at the Belvoir Theatre, Sydney and by Akvarious productions in India. It was also broadcast on BBC Radio 3. His second play, The Prophet was staged at the Gate theatre, London and had a reading by Noor theatre in NYC.
He has written two full-length screenplays, numerous short plays and translated plays for the Royal Court Theatre. His short play, Lost Kingdom was selected for San Francisco’s ReOrient 2015 festival. Hassan received the George Devine, Meyer-Whitworth and Pearson theatre awards as well as the Arab British Centre Award for Culture. He is currently working on a number of theatre, TV and film projects.
Matt trained with Max Stafford-Clark at Out of Joint as Assistant Director and later became an Associate Director. Since then he has worked as Associate Director at the National Theatre (London) and the National Theatre Studio, developing projects with a number of emerging British playwrights and international writers from USA, Hungary and Iran. He has directed productions for Liverpool Everyman, Actors Touring Company, Almeida, The Old Vic and the Royal Court. He has significant experience in outreach and educational programmes including directing the large scale Old Vic New Voices community productions.
He has collaborated with the British Council in Brazil on New Writing and Theatre for Young People and has worked extensively with the NT Education directing newly commissioned work for young audiences and with young performers as well as being a principal facilitator on their innovative NT Connections programme. He also directs and teaches at leading institutions including RADA, Rose Bruford and Goldsmith’s College