At the helm of Bahrain’s first performing arts academy, Ruqaya Aamer harbours dreams of nurturing a vibrant artist community on the island.
Drama and the performing arts have remained a largely neglected discipline in the Kingdom. Twenty-nine-year-old Ruqaya Aamer and Kanwal Hameed established a London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) programme in association with St Christopher’s School, which they’ve since opened up to every child and adult aspirant.
With a pass rate of 100 percent, LAMDA has sent students from Bahrain to the best theatre schools in New York. Ruqaya talks about her aspirations for her school.
Woman This Month (WTM): What was behind your decision to study drama?
Ruqaya Aamer (RA): Drama was my first choice during school years, even for GCSE and A-level exams. I was influenced by Charlotte Leap, our drama teacher at St Christopher’s, who went on to found LAMDA.
It’s perhaps fitting that Kanwal and I later inherited LAMDA from Charlotte and expanded it. It’s as if we inherited her legacy.
WTM: Did you ever envisage yourself as a drama teacher?
RA: I didn’t make that decision consciously. It was only during my degree at the Royal Holloway University that I was introduced to acting in the field of health and for social change.
We’d go to hospitals and refugee centres in London and impart skills to the people there. I saw the change that we brought in their lives and that made me opt for drama in education.
WTM: On the face of it, a degree in drama doesn’t promise great career opportunities. What made you stand firm with your decision?
RA: It may seem like that on the face of it, but drama imparts skills transferable to day- to-day life. It breaks down inhibitions in shy people and builds confidence and esteem.
I’d say the ability of communication and self expression is essential for professionals in every sphere.
WTM: Which is your favourite play?
RA: It’s My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley because that was the first play I directed for my A-levels. It broadened my understanding of drama and afterwards. I knew I would pursue drama as a career.
However, if I were to choose a play to direct on stage now, it’d be one of Shakespeare’s comedies. I believe something like Taming of the Shrew would adapt well to our culture.
WTM: What’s your vision for LAMDA in the long run?
RA: I see LAMDA as a theatre and public speaking school that offers all the disciplines of theatre and art. Starting from playwriting, acting and directing to set design and poetry, we want to create a local drama community that has the ability to write high quality plays based on Bahraini culture. Art shouldn’t be elitist. It should be accessible to all. LAMDA is for everyone from the age of six and above.