Regent's University London puts students centre stage

Kevin Spacey to play a key cameo in new home for fashion, fine art, film and theatre students

February 5, 2015

Source: Simon Armstrong

Strut your stuff: Regent’s students can use the new space for fashion shows

The former Church of the Good Shepherd has led an interesting life since it opened in 1898 just off Marylebone High Street in central London. It passed from the divine sphere to being employed as a Pineapple Dance Studio before falling into disrepair. In the future, it will be used by Regent’s University London drama and fashion students and will welcome Kevin Spacey – a sort of Hollywood divinity.

Regent’s, a charitable private institution, acquired the building in 2013 when it took over the for-profit American InterContinental University London and its site in Paddington Street, Marylebone. Since then, Regent’s has spent £3.2 million on converting the space into a multi-purpose facility that includes a 100-seat theatre.

To be known as the Marylebone Theatre, it will give drama and fashion students a professionally equipped space in which to rehearse and mount productions.

It will also welcome Mr Spacey, who teaches masterclasses to Regent’s drama students and whose Kevin Spacey Foundation provided nine merit-based scholarships of £10,000 each this year to students on the acting and global theatre, and the screenwriting and producing, undergraduate degree programmes.

Mr Spacey has described the motivation behind his foundation as “sending the elevator back down” to help the next generation of talent.

Regent’s is slightly cagey about discussing Mr Spacey’s involvement, as he prefers to keep a low profile when visiting campus. For example, it proved impossible to obtain a photograph of him teaching at the university to accompany this article.

The actor, who won Oscars for his roles in The Usual Suspects and American Beauty, has previously run a five-hour workshop at the university’s main site with first-year students on the acting and global theatre degree, which involved each student performing a prepared monologue before receiving guidance from the actor.

In March, students will visit the Old Vic – the London theatre where Mr Spacey is artistic director – to see him in Clarence Darrow, a one-man performance.

“He [Mr Spacey] hasn’t been [to the Marylebone site] yet, but he will,” said David Hanson, head of the School of Drama, Film and Media at Regent’s. “He’s doing workshops in the spring with our acting students and our screenwriting students.”

Annual tuition fees for the acting degree are £15,350 for 2015-16. Mr Hanson said that of those enrolled on the programme, “about a quarter this year have that £10,000 a year [Kevin Spacey Foundation scholarship] – and that’s guaranteed for three years”.

However, he added: “I think it would be wrong to characterise Regent’s as the school for rich kids of the world. We do have schemes for people who come here on much less.”

Gill Stark, head of the School of Fashion and Design, said she is excited at the prospect of the theatre providing her students with a place to hold fashion shows. Having a dedicated site on campus means that they will be able to prepare and put on the shows in the same space, instead of having to trek to other venues.

The acquisition of the Marylebone site formerly owned by AIUL has brought Regent’s more than just the theatre. A warren of rooms is being used by students from a range of courses across the School of Drama, Film and Media and the School of Fashion and Design, including design studios and a black-painted space for photography.

There is also a fitting location for fine art students to practise their life-drawing skills – a room whose glass ceiling allows natural light to flood in.

Meanwhile, the theatre itself will be used for more than student productions and shows. It will also be employed by professional companies and serve as a “viable commercial theatre”, according to Mr Hanson, a former screenwriter who co-created the 1980s TV character Max Headroom and has written for comedians Lenny Henry and Jasper Carrott.

“What we’d like to do is establish its name on the map as one of the London theatres,” he added.

Of the benefits the new facility will bring to Regent’s students, Mr Hanson observed: “It will give them a public audience. This is a public theatre now. It’s not simply a theatre inside a drama school.”

john.morgan @tesglobal.com

In numbers

100 seats in the Marylebone Theatre on Regent’s University London’s new Paddington Street site

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