Kevin Spacey Foundation’s way to pay it forward

Oscar-winning actor Spacey's foundation aims to bive a boost to theatre students around the world.

Kevin Spacey during one of the training programmes for The Middle East Theatre Academy. Courtesy Meta
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After supporting more than 2,500 theatre students around the world, the Kevin Spacey Foundation aims to give a similar boost to Middle East talent.

“The foundation has worked in this way across the world, but so far not in the Middle East,” says Roxanne Peak-Payne, a foundation producer.

“To have the chance to do so in such a vibrant part of the world is hugely exciting. We also recognise that some of what we offer is only found in Europe and North America and so we wanted to redress that balance.”

Oscar-winning actor Spacey – star of TV drama House of Cards and until last year the artistic director of The Old Vic, one of London's oldest theatres – began his acting career on stage in the 1980s and attributes his early success to support from the late American actor Jack Lemmon. He set up his foundation in 2010, based on that inspiration from Lemmon, with whom he worked in a stage adaptation of Long Day's Journey Into Night in 1986.

The foundation's mission statement is to "send the elevator back down", a phrase coined by Lemmon and reflected in a 2000 film Spacey starred in, Paying it Forward. "Essentially that means if you have been successful in the profession you have chosen, then it's your obligation to help others as they develop," says Peak-Payne.

The foundation also collaborates with universities in London and New York by offering drama-school scholarships. They also work with youth in Australia, Singapore, Turkey and Spain.

Spacey's interest in the region's theatre culture was piqued in 2011, when he starred in a stage production of Richard III that stopped in Doha on a tour of the region. Spacey also offered a condensed version of the show in Doha for young theatre enthusiasts and ran a masterclass during the tour in Abu Dhabi, in association with the Middle East Theatre Academy.

“The workshops were full of young people with the talent to succeed in the arts but without an outlet to do so,” says Peak-Payne. “The programme that we offer gives them the chance to meet like-minded individuals and to believe in themselves as performers. We help them get their foot through the door.”