New Shang­hai Theatre re­turns

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHANG KUN in Shang­hai zhangkun@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The ren­o­vated New Shang­hai Theatre.

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