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Dramatic arts center makes a comeback

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-10 09:06

The new Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center that will reopen on Saturday shows off its lighting effects. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center will reopen on Saturday after an 18-month refurbishment project. Tickets for 10 theater productions taking place between June and October in the renovated center are already on sale.

The performances include a contemporary interpretation of the Kunqu Opera classic Peony Pavilion, new plays by Shanghai-based playwrights, and several productions from overseas.

Located in a high-rise building at 288 Anfu Road in the former French Concession, the SDAC has three theater spaces which have been important hubs for theater art and cultural events for almost 20 years.

In 1995, the Shanghai People's Art Theater and the Shanghai Youth Theater Troupe were merged to form the SDAC, the only State-owned theater company in Shanghai. The SDAC building was subsequently constructed in 2000 on a piece of land previously reserved for the construction of residential apartments for the company's staff, according to Zhang Huiqing, the general manager of the SDAC.

The SDAC has since been putting on about 800 performances every year that are watched by up to 300,000 people.

The center led journalists around the building before the renovations were completed in April, highlighting the technical improvements and other changes made to the three theater spaces in the building.

"To the theater workers of Shanghai, this building feels like home," says Zhang. "The place was well-used and well-maintained. We have built strong connections with theater lovers in the city and there are ties that we don't want to sever with the revamp project."

Zhang adds that the center has preserved the two marble columns in the lobby and the mosaic pattern at the revolving door to retain the building's original character. While the main structure has been left unchanged, the open spaces on each floor have been expanded to allow audiences to enjoy views of the city during intermissions in the performances.

There will also be a cafe, a shop and an exhibition space on the sixth floor that will showcase the history and evolution of theater art in Shanghai, says Chen Li, the SDAC's public relations manager.

The three theater spaces in the building - the main theater on the ground floor, the Studio Theater on the third floor and Studio 6 on the sixth floor - have been completely revamped, with new seats added and stage equipment upgraded. In the experimental space Studio 6, the seats can be easily removed for immersive theater productions where actors perform among the audience members.

In the large main theater, the new sound field designed by engineers from Tongji University ensures that a performer's speech can be clearly heard throughout the 500-seat space.

"This theater has the most ideal size for drama performances which are different from musicals because actors don't wear microphones. As such, the voice transmission is of great importance in the technological design," Zhang explains.

"Over the past 20 years we have created a large number of important repertoires in the center. The refurbished new theater will see more quality productions released, and our box office is already open on the ground floor," Zhang adds.

The center will also be announcing the winners of the 22nd and 23rd Zuolin Award for Theater Art on Saturday and Sunday respectively. The award was named after Huang Zuolin (1906-1994), a pioneering theater artist who was a founding member of the Shanghai People's Art Theater.

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