The next revolution in theatre won’t come from the West End or Broadway, it will come from the United Arab Emirates. In the cultural emirate of Sharjah, a new performing arts academy opened this year with extraordinary, world-class facilities, and is already training the next generation of the best professional artists.
Sharjah Performing Arts Academy is a magnificent new performing arts school, the first of its kind in the region, created by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, to bring the best of conservatoire-style training to the region.
Executive director Peter Barlow, who was previously director of Guildford School of Acting and chair of the Conference of Drama Schools, has been teaching and training actors, performers and theatre technicians for more than 30 years. He explains: “Our outstanding new academy is a place that will nurture the skills of talented individuals and pave the way for their future on and off the world stage. We have set out to ensure that the most innovative teaching techniques will create Olympians of the performing arts world.”
SPAA offers four-year, full-time BA degree programmes in acting, production, and musical theatre. Its many exceptional facilities include: 12 studios for dance, voice and acting classes; 12 studios dedicated to singing and sound recording; an extensive lending and reference library; a 432-seat main theatre; a 126-seat studio theatre; a backstage rehearsal hall; a green screen TV studio; costume and design spaces; carpentry and set building workshops; as well as a gym, offices, cafes, breakout areas and an exhibition gallery.
Additionally, Barlow is creating a faculty of the best educators, directors, choreographers, designers, stage managers and technicians from around the world.
Using the best facilities, SPAA teachers work intensively with performers and theatre technicians to hone their craft in readiness for the best chance of a successful career in the international performing arts arena.
Importantly, SPAA is breaking down barriers; imagination, creativity and innovation are not bound by borders or cultures, and live and recorded arts can help to share universal themes that concern all humanity.
Professional employment in the performing arts world not only requires talent, but also hard work and dedication. SPAA nurtures the talent and commitment of its students, by using the best to produce the best.
SPAA embraces, celebrates and encourages the creativity, diversity and unique talent of each student. However, it is more than just about the individual: SPAA understands the power that the performing arts can have in galvanising whole communities, creating a sense of connectedness through shared experiences, events and performances.
As the only academy of its kind in the Middle East, SPAA is already creating history. It is leading the way in training the next generation of outstanding professionals in performing arts.
“It is our mission to do as His Highness wished,” says Barlow. “To create a new theatre revolution, find common paths for the development of international theatre and performing arts, and to train and educate the new creative citizens of the world.”