New Shanghai Theatre returns
A contemporary art exhibition featuring vintage items and traditional handicrafts by artists from the China Academy of Fine Arts was held at the New Shanghai Theatre on March 10, marking the historical building’s return as a performance venue.
First built in the early 1940s, the New Shanghai Theatre was initially home to the Yihua Company, which presented Chinese plays such as The Wilderness by Cao Yu.
The building was later turned into a cinema before becoming a State- owned establishment managed under the cultural administration of Xuhui district in 1958.
The building went on to serve several other functions — it was even used as a supermarket for some time — before being shut down in 2011 because of concerns with structural safety.
Tong Xin, the theater director of the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center (SDAC), said that the theater was brought back to cater to people’s growing appetite for culture and live performances. The New Shanghai Theatre will be managed by SDAC.
Neri&Hu, the firm that designed the interiors of Pollen Street Social by British chef Jason Atherton as well as those at several high-end dining establishments along the Bund, was later hired to breathe new life into the New Shanghai Theatre.
Impressed with the fast pace of life in downtown Shanghai where the theater is located, Neri&Hu co-founder Lyndon Neri said that he wanted the refurbished premises to “slow people down” and bring a “solemn experience before you experience culture”.
To achieve this, the design firm introduced three roof windows in the lobby area to bathe the area in natural light. Neri said that the entrance of the building has also been retracted several meters in order to leave an open space in front of the building.
Located at the corner of Shaanxi South Road and Fuxing Middle Road, in the heart of the former French Concession, the refurbished theater will have 300 seats, an “ideal size” for theater performances, said Tong.
However, the theater will not be limited to just performances. Rather, the SDAC is aiming to turn it into a vibrant creative space.
“It is not just a theater where we put on shows at night. We will open up the space as much as we can, and host a wide range of activities here. There will be creative markets, a rooftop cafe, and lectures in the main theater too,” said Tong.
The theater’s opening season will start on March 31 with a new rendition of The Wilderness produced by SDAC. Tong said the program will feature a variety of genres, from traditional Chinese operas to contemporary interpretations of classical plays.
The renovated New Shanghai Theatre.