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City booming with suburban performing arts theaters
By Li Anlan

WHEN the new Shanghai Poly Grand Theater, designed by renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando, opens on September 30 in Jiading District, it marks that the city has another comprehensive theater outside the downtown area.


It will join the Daning Theater in Zhabei District, which opened in 2011, and the Shanghai City Theater in Minhang District that opened in 2009.

Traditionally, theaters are built in the heart of a city or town, like Shanghai Grand Theater which sits at People’s Square. Such central locations make for convenient transportation as well as carrying the influence of a cultural landmark.

Since most performances end around 9:30pm or 10pm, downtown areas are better facilitated by public transportation.


In advance of the its opening, Poly has conducted a series of surveys through the Internet, on site and at community centers to listen to the ideas when selecting the program for the premiere season.

“Our projects try to satisfy the needs of different audience groups,” said Qin Tiji, manager of Shanghai Poly Grand Theater, at a press conference announcing the schedule. “We are building a platform friendly to the people.”


It’s not considered just a district theater. The idea is to reach out and attract people from around Shanghai.

“We want to present various programs. Right now we don’t have a specific positioning about what we want to focus on. We will see what the audiences want after the 3-month premiere season,” said Qin.

The opening concert will be South Korean conductor Chung Myung-whun conducting the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra with Chinese pianist Zhang Haochen, performing Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1.”


Some other performances, such as dramas “En Folkefiende” and “Romeo and Juliet,” musical “The Enchanting Shadow” and the Shanghai Hinmory Chinese Traditional Chamber Orchestra concert, are designed to satisfy different audience groups.

The key is to provide great programs within a reasonable price range, according to Qin. An advantage for Shanghai Poly Grand Theater is that it belongs to the Poly franchise and can lower the cost through centralized negotiating with its acts.

To nurture a broader audience group, Poly will host lectures and events.

Transportation to the theater is a bit problematical. Audiences can get there by Metro Line 11 to Baiyin Road Station, then transfer to bus lines Jiading 4 or 14. The last train from Jiading to downtown Shanghai leaves about 10:30pm.

Poly will have shuttle buses going round trip from the theater to Metro Line 11 Baiyin Road Station and Caoyang Road Station (which can transfer to Lines 3 and 4).


Of the city’s other two suburban theaters, Shanghai City Theater was established five years ago for concerts, ballets, dramas, musicals, children’s plays, traditional operas and galas. It is adjacent to the Xinzhuang Station on Metro Line 1, very convenient for people living other areas of the city.

Daning Theater is a district-level facility in northern Zhabei District that opened about three years ago and also offers concerts, ballet and drama.

“Even though we are district level, we do want to leave an impression on a broader range of audiences,” says Liu Dan, deputy general manager of the Daning Theater. “For our children’s plays, sometimes we have audiences coming from other cities just to see the performance.

“We don’t have specific preference when it comes to selecting projects,” he says. “As a base for a capella, we have a regular audience group and for us it’s necessary to have a number of good- quality a capella concerts.”


The primary goal is to provide cultural experiences for residents nearby. Last year, Daning Theater hosted about 150 performances, including a series of art education projects.

“The performances usually start at 7:15pm or 7:30pm and are about two hours. Convenience-wise, we are not the best,” Liu acknowledges. “Located in the north of Shanghai and with only Metro Line 1 nearby. Sometimes we have shuttles, depending on the need.”

The lectures for music and dance events are crucial to draw the distance closer between audience and art.

“It’s not for commercial purposes,” says Liu. “We usually do it on the day of the performance or a day before, and we try to make it more interesting. Sometimes we go outside the theater to business areas and get more interactive with children.”


• Daning Theater

Address: 1222 Pingxingguan Rd

How to get there: Metro Line 1 Shanghai Circus World Station


• Shanghai City Theater

Address: 4889 Dushi Rd

How to get there: Metro Line 1 Xinzhuang Station


• Shanghai Poly Grand Theater

Address: 159 Baiyin Rd

How to get there: Metro Line 11 Baiyin Road Station

Customer Service: (86-21) 52920164