Shanghai Guide to Cultural Groups

Shanghai Guide to Cultural Groups
By Susie Gordon ,

If your life in Shanghai consists of working all week, partying on weekends, and spending the rest of your free time nursing a hangover or catching up on sleep, you probably don’t think you have time for anything else. But our city has a huge cultural and creative scene to explore, and getting involved in drama, film, or music can be incredibly rewarding and enriching. You’ll meet new friends, develop as a person, and even find out you have hidden talents. We’ve scoped out some of the most fun, welcoming, and inspiring cultural groups in Shanghai, so all you need to do is pick one (or some) you like the sound of, and turn up. Simple!


When it comes to amateur dramatics, Shanghai is well served. There are three main theatre groups. First there’s Zuloo Productions, which was formed 10 years ago in Scotland. Here in Shanghai, they put on several full-length plays each year, including a winter pantomime and some smaller shows. They also run a weekly improvisation night every Wednesday at 19:00 at Priscilla’s Restaurant, and a comedy night called Zuloo Smack once a month. Their plays this season include a panto version of Aladdin, and a performance of Hamlet. Visit for more details on how to get involved.

East West Theater was founded in 2006 as a community theatre group for local and foreign acting talent, both amateur and professional. East West is partnered with the Shanghai Actors Association, and hold a regular event called Acting Up! which mixes improv, stand up and staged readings. They put on between four and six productions per year. Email for the latest information.

The Shanghai Repertory Theatre was formed by Rosita Janbakhsh, an ex-East West member who wanted a change from community-based theatre. Their last show was “A Christmas Carol”, and they’ll be starting their 2010 season with a production of King Lear. For information on how you can be part of the group, call 136 4170 1170 or email

If you prefer the screen to the stage and want to get behind the camera, Mei Wenti Productions ( can help. Helmed by charismatic Colombian Juan Vargas, Mei Wenti runs the Global Short Film festival, as well as sourcing actors, props, and equipment for people who want to make movies.

On a similar note is the Independent Film Association (IFA) led by Richard Trombly, who is something of a famous face on the expat movie scene. They help new film-making talent to hone their skills and encourage beginners to pick up a camera or a script. Contact Richard on and he’ll tell you what’s going on with IFA at the moment.

Bands and jazz groups are ten a penny in Shanghai, but classical music groups have their place too. Shanghai Voices International Choir is an amateur choral group conducted by a professional. They meet each Wednesday in Hongqiao between 20:00 and 22:00, mainly for the joy of singing, but perform a concert from time to time. Email if you’re interested in adding your voice to the chorus.

The Chamber Music Society is a group for amateur instrumentalists who want to combine their skills with others to make music. Whether you’re a virtuoso or a beginner, you’re welcome to join. Just email or call her on 137 7423 8985.

The International Festival Chorus of Shanghai sounds like a professional choral group, but they are actually open to amateurs. The standard is pretty high and potential new members will be asked to audition for a place. They perform three times a year, and their next piece will be Purcell’s “Fairy Queen” in April. Visit their site ( for information on how to audition.

Whether you want to talk about your own writing or someone else’s, there are some decent book groups in Shanghai that you should check out. City Weekend magazine’s book club meets on the last Sunday of every month at 4pm in various cafés around town to discuss a novel. The books chosen are often, but not exclusively, on Chinese themes; this month’s is Dai Sijie’s “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress”, but previous months have featured works by British, American, and Irish authors. See their FAQ for more info.

For budding writers, a new group called Out Loud will have their first writing salon on April 20th, at Shanghai’s most literary bar, Glamour on the Bund. It kicks off at 4pm and costs 50 RMB to attend (including a drink). Expat writers can share short pieces or read from works in progress.

City WeekendView In Map

Add: Glamour Bar, 6/F, Five on the Bund, 20 Guangdong Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yilu, Shanghai
地址: 上海市广东路20号,外滩五号6楼,近中山东一路
Tel: 021 6329 3751

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Keywords: Shanghai cultural groups guide Cultural groups Shanghai music groups Shanghai film groups Shanghai drama groups Shanghai book groups Shanghai


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