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It's not just child's play

By Liu Dong (Global Times)

13:40, January 09, 2013

An artist's impression of the main stage and auditorium of the Shanghai Children's Drama Theatre (Photo: Courtesy of China Welfare Institute Children's Theatre/GT)

Cai Jinping is excited. After 10 years her dream of building a children's theater in Shanghai is coming true. The new theater, the only one of its kind in China, will open its doors and turn on the spotlights on Children's Day, June 1, 2013.

The Shanghai Children's Drama Theatre is in a 15,668-square-meter modern entertainment complex, which was the General Motors Pavilion for World Expo 2010 in Shanghai by the Huangpu River. At present it is under construction and the building should be completed by March.

When it opens it will be a new chapter in a long story. In 1947 Madame Soong Ching Ling, who was to become the vice-chairman of the People's Republic of China, founded the China Welfare Institute Children's Theatre, the first public and educational children's art troupe in China. Later in 1958 Soong established China's first children's theater on today's Yan'an Road Middle in downtown Jing'an district.

Many popular plays for children were performed there and it had a profound influence throughout the country, bringing quality theater to generations of young Chinese. Highlights included productions of Snow White and the musical Malan Flower, alongside The Friendship, Children's Hearts and A Young Soccer Team. They all helped provide rich entertainment for people growing up here through the 1960s and 70s. In those days Shanghai was China's center for children's theater.

Cai Jinping first joined the theater in 1975. She is currently the fifth president and artistic director of the China Welfare Institute Children's Theatre in Shanghai. She saw the great days of children's theater in the city and recalls vividly all the plays and shows she either played in or directed.

The old theater was renovated several times but after a fire nearby in 1996 which affected its structure, it was declared a dangerous building by the government and it was never used again. The institute has had no permanent home since then.

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