The determination of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, to create a standalone, professional performing arts academy in the Middle East has been fully realized with Sharjah Performing Arts Academy (SPAA) successfully completing its first, full academic year of teaching and learning.
The dedicated performing arts academy in the Middle East welcomed its first cohort of BA students in September 2019 from the UAE, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, and Iraq. Following a conservatoire template, the highly select students were immersed in intensive, practice-based training and performance for the first half of the academic year.
Amidst a backdrop of global uncertainty due to COVID-19, SPAA’s first-ever undergraduate completed their final term of studies through isolated, home-based e-learning. What should have been alive, end-of-year performance to a sell-out theatre of family, friends, and industry professionals, was adapted by SPAA students into an online production showcasing their year’s work.
“Professional performing arts are collaborative and practical,” explained Executive Director of SPAA, Professor Peter Barlow.“While the central component of our Academy is people coming together to create and develop performance, during these unprecedented times that’s just not possible at the moment. That doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t continue to produce art. Our talented students have shown imagination, creativity, and collaboration can happen in any given context.”
Bringing together the training and skills developed throughout their first year under the guidance of highly skilled educators, SPAA’s BA students rehearsed their end-of-year production entirely within a virtual and socially isolated world. Students wrote, directed, and starred in the performance, as well as overseeing visual and audio special effects. The final product was a unique performance that was delivered via Zoom, live-streamed to a smaller, mute, and invisible audience.
Local Emirati student, Ahmed Almaazmi, said of his first year, “The wonderful thing about SPAA is that we study everything that has to do with theatre. I am a Musical Theatre major, but I also take classes in Acting and Production Arts. This is very important for any theatre-maker to know everything that has to do with theatre.”
In keeping with the Academy’s ethos to celebrate, challenge, inform, educate, question, discover, and share diversity, SPAA’s first cohort of talented individuals have made history while convincingly assuming their important roles as torchbearers for the future of performing arts locally and globally.