Four years ago, One World Actors Centre was founded in Kuwait by Alison Shan Price. The company continues to sate the thirst of theater-goers in Kuwait, with productions ranging from Evita to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Last season, OWAC launched The Story of Ibn Haytham – a production in partnership with UNESCO, as part of the 1001 Inventions World Tour – at the Kuwait Scientific Center. Furthermore, with the assistance of TAQA Productions and DAI Cultural Centre Yarmouk, the Centre brought choreographer Adam Darius – an internationally renowned Emmy award-winning performance artist – and choreographer Kazimir Kolesnik to Kuwait to present Masterclasses.
Another show was The Little Princess, directed by Eléni Rebecca, which was performed at Bayt Abdullah – a hospice for terminally ill children. The Centre coordinates closely with Bayt Abdullah and has raised $60,000 (KD 18,000) for the hospice in the last few years alone, through One World Youth Theatre productions. Last month alone, OWAC presented two shows: A Night at the West End at the British Embassy and Blue Box – a collection of stories by 16-year-old Syrian author Emma Abdullah by which all proceeds are donated to Syrian children in need. The latter show was under the patronage of Sheikha Paula and Sheikha Yasmine Al-Sabah and will be premiered in Kuwait this upcoming April, and at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival in August. The Festival is not a new accomplishment for OWAC. This summer, at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival, One World received a 4-star international review for the international debut of an original, English-Arabic spin on a Greek classic – which OWAC titled Antigone: An Arabian Tragedy. The play has been shortlisted for an Amnesty International Award. In addition OWAC’s Educational Division hosts training sessions for actors who wish to qualify for the UK-accredited LAMDA Communication and Performance certification.
All ideas are born inside of us. One World Actors Centre is one heck of a grand idea! How were you certain that you were up to the task at hand?
To be part of a thriving dynamic team with one vision enables the grandest ideas to become reality. We are multi-cultural and bring our individuality to the table. We work as a company, a group of adults who respect one another and recognize each other’s strengths. Once we have agreed on a project, we all work towards its success. It is organic. We listen to each other. We all have our areas of specialization, but support the areas of others. Meetings are never silent! Our team is highly qualified and experienced in each area and age is not in the equation. Our consultants are eminent experts across the world and they regularly contribute to international workshops.
How do you find the space inside to help you choose the shows for each cultural season?
Choosing a show is like a military campaign. Much research and feasibility surveys are undertaken. We have just presented excerpts from many musicals in an original version of Around the World in 80 days-Part I – and were able to determine from our audience feedback as to which musicals would be the most popular to present in Kuwait. Sometimes a concept arises that puts everything on hold. The Blue Box is a clear example of such a production. It is unlike any other production we have ever done.
Most people know you as a producer, actor, director. Not many people know that you have an insatiable passion for physics. When did that start?
When I lived in South Africa, I went to Cape Town High School and had a wonderful teacher called Mr. Bearens who used to walk over the desks to get to students. His lessons were dynamic and involved creativity. Between theatre work – in which I received qualifications from London Academy of Dramatic Art LAMDA – I received a BSc (Hons) in Physics. The scientific processes of realizing a theory and the artistic process of creating a performance are very similar and both utilize the left and right sides of the brain. Both excite my mind.
Last year you managed to merge your love of science and drama with the production of The Story of Ibn Haytham. Can you tell us a little more about the show?
One World Actors Centre – in association with TAQA Productions – was contracted by the 1001 Inventions- World Tour in February 2015 to train presenters in Arabic and English. Dr. Diana Sfeir and I took them through acting and scientific training. The exhibition ran for a month and concluded with a creative performance about the story of Ibn Al Haytham and the history of his development of the camera obscura to music. The movement was choreographed by Eleni Rebecca and Yousef Al-Nasser under the mentorship of choreographer Adam Darius, our physical theatre consultant. We went on to train presenters in Bahrain.
At auditions, it must be very difficult to be a talent scout. What makes an actor stand out, in your opinion?
In every audition a director has a concept of the character role musically, vocally and physically. The radiance of an actor is a vital aspect that all our acting students are trained to achieve. Indeed, over the years many have gone on to be very successful in the theatrical field. Without that quality an actor is not an actor but merely a player. Sometimes a person enters the room with the potential to radiate. We can work with that if there is no ego. Our present company is exceptional with every member able to radiate that special energy. They synergize. See how science relates to theatre! (Laughter) We are mentored by the father of expressive mime – Adam Darius. And I am a student of Graham Dixon, the director of the Chekhov Studio London. We spent many days in private studio work together and Graham relayed Michael Chekhov’s secrets to his great success. Through their mentorship I am able to recognize an actor in the same way that Olwyn McCollin recognizes a singer, Eléni Rebecca a dancer or Yousef Al-Nasser – with pantomime.
Charity and art waltz together beautifully. One World Actors Center has raised money for terminally ill children and Syrian children. In an age of selfies and “look-at-me”, how can we encourage more people in the art scene to highlight causes that require our collective attention?
We have been given so much support that it is vital we pay it forward. It’s not enough to say ‘’I wish I could do something” or ‘”There should be something done”. As artists we only have our art and it can be used as edutainment. The Blue Box was met with an instantaneous, great reception – which was more than we could have wished for. To tell the story of innocents in a war zone is one thing; for it to be received so powerfully and recognized by so many people means that we were able to convey the message of the book across in a gentle and truthful manner. A ripple is created by one stone. Emma Abdullah – a LAMDA Gold Medal holder with distinction – was the stone that quite literally landed in our calm sea when she entered the studio one afternoon. All other projects were put aside and the company immediately (and without discussion) created the production. That is the magic. We have the support of exceptional people. We are sincerely grateful to the wonderful Hooda Shawa of TAQA Productions, Sheikha Paula and Sheikha Yasmine Al Sabah, Hind Al-Ghanim and Al-Ghanim Industries, Sundus Hussein and Al-Abjar Holdings, Sheikha Hussah and Shakir AbelSadeq of DAI Cultural Centre, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Bayt Lothan, Harriet Bushman and, most recently, The American United School for their patronage of our latest production which will enable The Blue Box to be presented in UK.
Finally, we know you have another year of magic ahead for us! Can I say thank you on behalf of all of Kuwait? As a patron of the arts, you are an inspiration to us all. Please tell us how we can hear more about your shows and ways that we can sponsor future productions.
Thank you so much. Our season is completed in August and includes Antigone-in French – with Diana Sfeir, our second Edinburgh show, The Lion in Winter with Brian McLaughlin and One World Shakespeare Company – which is supported by Dame Judi Dench, Around the World in 80 Days Part 2 by our Musical Theatre Company and One World Youth Theatre in June and, finally, accredited LAMDA Examinations in Performance and Communication Training Programs. In addition, we will be supporting director Hamad Al-Jenaie in his new project.
We will be in association with TAQA Productions for exciting projects including IKARA directed by Yousef Al-Hashash and Freya, the story of Freya Stark in Kuwait, to be performed at the DAI in May, written by Hooda Shawa (Akhnaton and Pink Room).
We are very grateful for sponsorship received from companies and Friends of One World. Our contact address is [email protected]