Drama festival reigns majestic in a renovated art-deco theater

"Ordinary World," adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name, opened this year's Modern Drama Valley in Majestic Theater in Jing'an.


Jing’an Landmarks 

Jing’an is a potted history of Shanghai. Century-old villas, well-preserved traditional shikumen neighborhoods with high walls and stone gates, and renovated factories all have a story to tell. Glitzy retail malls, charming boutiques and annual music and arts festivals give the district a distinctive ambience and ever-growing opportunities. We will explore some of the landmarks that have come to characterize the district’s culture and history.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

The Majestic Theater, one of the oldest theaters in Shanghai and the first in the city to screen Western films, reopened to the public in 2016 after a massive renovation. 

Landmark ID: 

Name: Majestic Theater

Address: 66 Jiangning Rd

Renown: one of the oldest theaters in Shanghai and the first in the city to screen Western films.

Current function: cinema and theater 

Modern Drama Valley, the annual theatrical festival held in Jing’an, kicked off at the historic Majestic Theater on May 5. 

Opening this year’s festival was “Ordinary World,” adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name that portrays the lives and struggles of people in rural Shaanxi Province in the 1970s and 1980s.

Huge millstones, dirt mountain passes and cave houses carved into cliffs – common sights in rural Shaanxi – form the stage backdrop. The performers speak in some Shaanxi dialects, adding local flavor and rustic charm to the drama.

The choice of the opening work may appear strange to some people, representing as it does a world far removed from the buzzing modern metropolis of Shanghai. How did that happen?

Li Xuan, director of the Shaanxi People’s Art Theater that produced the drama, said it reflects Shanghai’s spirit of openness, inclusiveness and great theatrical ambience.

“I was worried whether we could resonate with Shanghai audiences,” she said. “But then someone told me that our culture shares so many of the same roots as Shanghai, and that really touched me.”

Ti Gong

“Ordinary World,” adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name, opened this year’s Modern Drama Valley in Jing’an.

The Majestic Theater, built in 1941 in the art deco style, is one of the oldest theaters in Shanghai and was the first in the city to screen Western films.

It underwent massive renovation beginning in 2010 and reopened to the public in April 2016.

Designer Zhang Ming managed to find old drawings from the Shanghai Urban Construction Archives when she was assigned to restore the original look of the theater.

The floors were repaved with terrazzo made by traditional craftsmen. The copper door handles were repaired, and handrails on the second floor were redone in paint made in France. The theater marquees, in red, were inlaid in glass.

“Historical buildings are the city’s memories,” Zhang said. “We have to restore the original look and, at the same time, highlight distinctive features.”

The old blends with the new. The theater is equipped with the latest technologies, including a digital monitoring system. Seating was scaled back from 1,328 to 1,261 to make room for a new ventilation system.

The theater was one of the backdrops used by acclaimed Taiwan director Ang Lee in his 2007 film “Lust, Caution,” which was adapted from the 1979 novel of the same name by Chinese author Eileen Chang. 



Special Reports
Top