Independent Theatre in Dubai: The Foundation of All Drama

Learn how these initiatives supported local acting grassroots throughout the years

Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

The Dubai Folklore Society Performance (2018) by Photographed by Shri Photography;Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

In recent years world-class venues such as Dubai Opera have opened in Dubai, providing excellent facilities for major productions. Non-profit community models are however at the foundation of the independent theatre initiatives that have found success in Dubai.

With a history of oral storytelling, the Emirates were receptive to theatrical performances. The Dubai Folklore Society has been operating from Al Mamzar on the border between Dubai and Sharjah since the late 1970s. 

 
From then onwards, expatriates came together to form amateur dramatic societies. Dubai Drama Group was founded in 1984 and continues to put on four scripted plays a year with monthly play readings and workshops. 

Kids performing at The JunctionTheatreDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Arts for All which currently manages the Theatre at the Mall of the Emirates (formerly DUCTAC) was established in 2002 and maintains a two-strand approach, firstly providing the facilities to present international productions and secondly developing educational initiatives, wo

  The Dubai Festival for Youth Theatre has run for 12 live editions at the Cultural and Scientific Association and held a virtual edition in 2020. 

The Junction theaterDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Organized by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, the event aims to support theatre groups across the UAE, providing a platform for actors and directors and all the disciplines that are required for a production, from sound engineers to costume designers    

Lana Fahmi 'What Modernity' performance (2017) by Courtesy of Daniella BaptistaDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Some spaces have embraced digital developments in performance and have become places for innovative forms of entertainment. The Madinat Theatre has been transformed into the Theatre of Digital Art and Al Habtoor Theatre was purpose built for the dramatic show La Perle by Dragone.

The courtyard playhouseDubai Culture & Arts Authority

More beneficial for the development of local talent was the opening in 2013 of the Courtyard Playhouse in Al Quoz, the UAE’s first small theatre venue.

Courtyard PlayhouseDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Founded by Kemsley Dickinson, an actor who had been leading Desert Monologues acting workshops for adults since 2008, and his wife Tiffany Schultz, it has become a home for the local drama scene.  

Acting SceneDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Dubai’s only KHDA licensed Improvisation Theatre and Training Centre, their focus is very much on improvement and encouraging new writing and developing characters through workshops and performances for adults and children.

Performance at the Junction spaceDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Two years later in 2015, the Junction opened in Alserkal Avenue. A passion project for the Artistic Director Gautam Goenka and his team, its ambition was to be a space that was open to everyone and where work could be created that would be reflective of Dubai and the UAE. 

The Junction’s seasonal programming is selected and scheduled using a variety of criteria, between theatre and other forms of performing arts. 

Acting SceneDubai Culture & Arts Authority

It is very diverse in the languages they present shows – the majority are in English but are also in Arabic, French, Hindi and Russian. 

Their annual Short+Sweet Theatre Festival brings together over 300 actors, directors, writers and crew and is a highlight of their calendar, emphasising the range and number of talents being fostered in the Dubai theatrical community. 

The Junction theaterDubai Culture & Arts Authority

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