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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Royal Shakespeare Gets A New West End Home? "After almost a year of being just about to settle on a new London home, the Royal Shakespeare Company may have finally found one: the Albery in St Martin's Lane." The Guardian (UK) 07/01/04

Aussie Pro Theatre Needs A Hit "Australia's only show-business company listed on the stock exchange, International Concert Attractions (ICA), is looking to the success of the musical Saturday Night Fever to restore its fortunes following last summer's failure of The Full Monty." Sydney Morning Herald 06/30/04

A Festival That Asks: What Is Theatre? What, exactly is theatre? A festival sets up the question by inviting a diverse bunch of testifiers. "Connected in diverse ways to the performing arts, the Enquirers are an intriguingly mixed bunch, ranging from the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company to a 14-year-old pupil at Holland Park School, and from a Buddhist monk who is the caretaker of the London Peace Pagoda to the chair of the British Council. Groups as well as individuals have been recruited. The liberating twist is that testimony need not be given as a conventional talk. It can be presented as a performance piece, or an installation, or however the testifier sees fit." The Independent (UK) 06/10/04

Philly Stage - It's A Hit! Philadelphia theatres had a good year. "At a time when much of the nonprofits arts community is hurting for support, most producing theaters in the area took the decent business of the season before and, if they didn't build on it, were at least able to match it." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/30/04

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Ott Resignation Surprises Theatre World The sudden resignation of Sharon Ott from Seattle Repertory Theatre has shocked many in the theatre community. "Any time something like this happens, everybody in the field quivers," adds Berkeley Rep managing director Susan Medak, who worked with Ott for seven years. Drawing parallels to Pamela Rosenberg's resignation at the San Francisco Opera, Medak cites the increased difficulties in "running an arts institution now. There's not the general level of support that makes the job easy. The anxiety level has shot up, because you can't afford to make mistakes. " San Francisco Chronicle 06/29/04

Broadway Union Talks Break Off The Actors Equity union and Broadway producers have broken off talks on a new contract. "The two sides couldn't even agree on who ended the talks. Equity said bargaining stalled at 11 pm "when negotiators for producers walked out." The League of American Theatres and Producers issued a statement just after midnight that began, 'Actors' Equity broke off negotiations..."
Backstage 06/28/04

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Story Behind "The Producers" Toronto Flop People are asking why The Producers is closing early in Toronto. Why did the show flop? "Should a show really be considered a flop when it runs for 33 weeks in this town, delighting 400,000 people and pulling in an average of $1 million a week at the box office? Think of this as a tale of great expectations. The New York producers of The Producers were sure they could enjoy a run of more than a year in Toronto, and they did their financial planning based on that assumption. That begins to explain how The Producers could lose money in Toronto." Toronto Star 06/26/04

Musical Theatre Works Folds "Musical Theatre Works, the not-for-profit company devoted to creating and developing new musicals, is out of money and will shutter immediately, the Manhattan company announced June 25." Playbill 06/26/04

Theatre's Facts-On-File, 2003 Edition The American theatre community's annual report on its health makes interesting reading. "In an economy that is seemingly in recovery -- yet one in which the threat of uncertainty seems constant -- the report is a curious mix of good news, not-so-good news, and plenty of well-considered spin. The announcement that the nonprofit theatre industry contributed a total of $1.4 billion to the U.S. economy, in the form of salaries, benefits, and payments for goods and services, is certainly a positive, yet this was also the figure cited in Theatre Facts 2002. Still, that figure is considerably more impressive than the $923 million figure cited in Theatre Facts 2001." Backstage 06/26/04

Friday, June 25, 2004

Study: Theatre Productions, Attendance Up, Money Down "Attendance is up and the number of productions has risen by 15 percent at nonprofit theaters nationwide over the past three years. At the same time, more than half of the country's noncommercial theater companies have been operating in the red, according to a Theatre Communications Group study." Boston Globe 06/25/04

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A $250,000 Two-Night Hamlet how does a man with no stage training and a poor command of the English language wind up playing Hamlet in the middle of Hollywood? And what marketing genius suggested $35,000 billboards to advertise an 85-seat theater production? Yet, given such extravagant publicity, why didn’t Hamlet learn his lines? What were they thinking? All of them?" LA Weekly 06/24/04

25 Playwrights, 1 Play The Provincetown Repertory Theater finally has a home of its own at the tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and artistic director Lynda Sturner wanted to create something "spectacular" to celebrate its opening. So she signed on 25 playwrights to write a "chain" play. Each writer wrote a scene, evolving the stories and characters as they went along. Christian Science Monitor 06/25/04

"Action-Musical" Pulls In An Ethnic Audience A Toronto production of the "Terracotta Warriors", a $3.5-million "action-musical," is packing the theatre with ethnic Chinese patrons. "The production is "part of a new push by theatre producers to target niche ethnic markets in cities (Toronto, London, New York) where culturally diverse populations abound but theatrical representations of them remain scarce. Ethnic marketing is not a new concept itself but its application to theatre is. To put it bluntly: Blacks are a desired and untapped demographic. So are the Chinese and the South Asians." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/24/04

Which Shakespeare Is Shakespeare? The De Vere Society is marking the 400th anniversary of the death of Elizabethan nobleman Edward de Vere. Who was de Vere? The group claims he was the "real" Shakespeare, and claims all sorts of evidence. But other Shakespeare experts dismiss the claims: "They have quite a large following. Like every organisation of this kind, they ignore the basic evidence and construct conspiracy theories." BBC 06/24/04

Hall: West End Requires US Actors? Director Peter Hall says that plays are now so difficult to produce in London's West End, that producers are afraid to mount new plays without a big-name US star to goose the box office. He said "plays, rather than musicals, were proving increasingly uneconomic for West End theatres. But he denied the theatres were in terminal decline, saying early summer was traditionally a difficult time." BBC 06/24/04

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Doing It Old School There are certain classical musicians who spend their lives attempting to play old music in precisely the way that the original musicians would have played it. So why shouldn't there be period theater as well? Maybe because we won't have any hope of understanding the accent... The Telegraph (UK) 06/23/04

Is Chicago The New Theater Capital of America? New York's theater scene is in an undeniable slump, and Michael Billington thinks that it may be time to acknowledge that America's best theater is no longer centered in the Big Apple, but on the shores of Lake Michigan. "No fewer than 156 theatre companies, predominantly non-profit, operate in the city. And while New York, with its suffocating commercialism, seems increasingly hidebound, it is to Chicago that the true theatregoer now avidly looks." The Guardian (UK) 06/23/04

Denver's Longest-Running Show To Close The longest-running production in Colorado history - I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change - is closing. "The musical relationship comedy, which celebrates its fourth anniversary June 29, will have played 1,731 performances at the Galleria Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex." Denver Post 06/23/04

Goodspeed To Middletown Connecticut's Goodspeed Theatre has been talking about relocation. Now it looks like a decision has been made. Goodspeed will build a new theatre complex in Middletown. "The final version of a plan that has been in the works since November and was approved Saturday by Goodspeed's board of directors has the city taking the lead in pursuing financing for the new satellite theater with 700 or 800 seats and a Broadway-sized stage. Goodspeed would retain ownership of the theater and raise funds for support services, such as actors' housing." Hartford Courant 06/23/04

  • Previously: Luring Musicals To Town Connecticut's Goodspeed Musicals has a $45 million theatre it wants to build. Now the theatre is being enticed to Middletown with a package of incentives. "If accepted, the Goodspeed offer would be the cultural crown jewel Middletown is seeking for its downtown development, which includes a newly built hotel, restaurants and cinemas and a tourist-friendly link to its proposed South Cove riverfront development." Hartford Courant 11/25/03
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Theatrical Cry For American Morality The Bush Administration's war on terror may not have uncovered any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or succeeded in wiping out Al Qaeda, but it does seem to have galvanized the British theater scene. From companies which already skewed political to national theaters which are more familiar with King Lear than Kushner, American foreign policy is now the topic of choice. "Theatre has put the war on terror on stage not only because it can but because it must. It is the closest we have to a moral medium." The Telegraph (UK) 06/22/04

Apres Ott: New Direction For Seattle Rep? What's behind Sharon Ott's sudden resignation as head of Seattle Repertory Theatre? "Was Ott too steeped in the "new and controversial" for Seattle? Or did audiences simply not warm to her particular programming choices, in an increasingly competitive arts environment? One thing is clear. Since taking the helm at the Rep from her respected 17-year predecessor, Daniel Sullivan, Ott has shaken up Seattle's flagship playhouse and steered it in a new direction. Now the question arises: Will the Rep stay the course Ott charted? Or is a different course needed in these uncertain waters?" Seattle Times 06/22/04

Toronto Theatre Doldrums Ticket sales at Toronto theatres are soft, and producers are worried that the summer tourist season will be a disappointment. "Although theatres everywhere are reporting a dramatic shift in the buying habits of consumers -- instead of booking seats two or three months in advance, they now order weeks or even days ahead of time -- the Toronto situation is exacerbated by several other factors. Local officials are loath to concede the point, but the reality is that the city is still suffering the aftershocks of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which drove a sharp spike into tourism revenues." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/22/04

Monday, June 21, 2004

Broadway's Post-Tony Bounce Broadway saw a little bounce at the box office in the week after the Tony awards. "Paid-attendance numbers came to 239,489, which was one of Broadway's better mid-June perfs -- down only 5,000 from 2000." Yahoo! (Variety) 06/21/04

The Theatre That Came To Town (And Never Went Away) The Adirondack Theatre in upstate New York began as a summer operation renting space in an old Woolworth's store (the owners of the store were trying to lease it as a mini-mall). The theatre kept coming back to town for the next several summers until the town realized a theatre was just what it needed. The New York Times 06/21/04

Sunday, June 20, 2004

State Largesse For Long Wharf New Haven Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre got a stunning surprise from the state, in the form of major capital funding for a new home. The "$30 million to Long Wharf on the day of its 40th anniversary gala stunned even the most seasoned arts leader. It's not just that the figure is the largest singular grant to a capital arts project in state history (as best that anyone can determine anyway). It's that the state subsidy is expected to make up about two-thirds of the capital project. Estimates for the new theater has it costing anywhere from $35 million to $45 million, depending on the year the question was asked. The final price is yet to be determined." Hartford Courant 06/20/04

In Praise Of Intermission "Theatre is a social contract between actors and audience, the interval an essential point of meltdown in the stalls, a respite from the artistic effort where those addressed shuffle about among themselves and consider the effect. This process, unconsciously undertaken, surely completes the essential circle of the theatre experience. We get to know each other." The Guardian (UK) 06/19/04

Always A Workshop, Never A Bride Workshop Hell is "an all-too-crowded netherworld where shows are not quite produced but also not quite forgotten. Pretty much any playwright or composer trying to make a living in the American theater knows about the labyrinthine system of table readings, staged readings and fully rehearsed workshops by which scripts can bounce from theater to theater, spending years being rewritten and pruned and focus-grouped and test-marketed and audience-critiqued — all without ever getting performed as they were meant to be." The New York Times 06/20/04

Ott Resigns Seattle Rep Seattle Repertory Theatre director Sharon Ott surprised the Seattle theatre world this week by resigning. "She said it's been difficult running a theater in the current economy and that the past theater season has been entirely draining, both emotionally and physically." Seattle Times 06/15/04

Puppet Regime Puppetry is getting a lot of fresh attention. "For decades puppetry was learned by way of most traditional crafts through master and apprenticeship. Now, there are a handful of university programs offering degrees in puppet arts. Meanwhile, the industry has continued to garner more attention from high-profile productions." The New York Times 06/19/04

Friday, June 18, 2004

Did Avenue Q Producers Dupe Tour Presenters? National tour presenters are feeling betrayed by producers of Avenue Q. They feel that they were "duped" into voting a Tony for the show thinking that it would help the tour business. Instead,"the news that the show would skip a national tour and instead run, in the fall of 2005, in a $40 million, 1,200-seat theatrical venue being built by Steve Wynn in his new $2.5 billion casino, the Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Country Club, snapped the business (and those who cover it) to attention. For road presenters, it caused a reaction as close to a paroxysm as the theatre ever sees." Backstage 06/18/04

Thursday, June 17, 2004

West End Blues (Chapter XXX) Six London plays have closed less than a month after opening this season. Two 'blockbuster' musicals are also about to "expire." All of which has West End producers fretting about the state of their business. The Observer (UK) 06/13/04

Call: A Theatre In Every Town "In 1988, Nigeria published a well-articulated Cultural Policy which promises to mobilise and motivate the people by disseminating and propagating ideas which promote national pride, solidarity and consciousness." And how best to do that? Theatre. "One of the important steps is to build an average size theatre auditorium in every local government area. A 2000-seater auditorium in every local government area, will give great social service to this nation, especially because it is situated in the metropolis of Lagos, the city that inhabits people from every part of the country." AllAfrica.com

Actors Authorize Strike Members of the Actors' Equity union have voted 98 percent to authorize a strike if negotiations on a new contract are stalled. Backstage 06/16/04

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Library Gets A Chunk Of Broadway History "The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has received a gift of thousands of pages of scripts, songs and other pieces of stage memorabilia from two of Broadway's best-known musical teams: Kander and Ebb, and Bock and Harnick. The donation, ranging from scraps of pure inspiration to less successful discards, gives a glimpse of the sometimes delightful, sometimes devilish backstage grind that went into making classic musicals like Cabaret and Fiddler on the Roof." The New York Times 06/16/04

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Troubled Or Not, That's A Great Name For a Theatre Company "The Soulpepper Theatre Company broke ground yesterday morning for a new $12-million theatre and school in Toronto's Distillery District... The 13-acre site of the historic Gooderham's Distillery has been made over as an arts and entertainment district, which opened a year ago. But the project has been troubled, with disappointing public attendance and financial conflict among its developers." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/15/04

Getting Their Day In Court, Sort Of The Bush Administration has been adamant in its claims that the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba do not have a legal right to trial, or even a right to have a lawyer question the circumstances of their confinement. But on a stage in London, the issue is being hashed out nightly before sold-out crowds. Guantánamo: 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom', which pits U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld against detainees, judges, and lawyers arguing for due process, is drawn directly from actual statements made by the principals in the debate, and it is intensifying the political debate in the UK. The New York Times 06/15/04

Monday, June 14, 2004

Move On - Channeling Martha Graham Richard Move is back with his Martha Graham show in which he plays the great dance diva. "Barring the occasional benefit, it has been more than three years since Mr. Move's poignant, meticulously researched and hilarious interpretation of Ms. Graham has graced a New York stage." The New York Times 06/13/04

Why Avenue Q Cleaned Up At The Tonys Why did "Avenue Q" win at last week's Tony Awards? Lots of reasons, really, writes Frank Rizzo. But perhaps the main one was that the show calculatingly positioned itself as a worthy underdog... Hartford Courant 06/13/04

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Legally Bland? The Blonde Movie To Become A Stage Musical The latest movie to be turned into a Broadway musical? Legally Blonde, which is due to hit stages in 2005. "It will join a string of hit movies to make it to the stage, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Full Monty. Tony award-nominated Jerry Mitchell will direct and choreograph the stage version, film studio MGM said." BBC 06/14/04

Friday, June 11, 2004

Did Avenue Q Put One Over On Tony Voters? A controversy is brewing over the tactics employed by the producers of Avenue Q, which won the Tony award for best musical, and then promptly announced that it would forgo a national tour in favor of an exclusive (and lucrative) deal to mount the show in Las Vegas. At issue is whether the Avenue Q crew misled road producers, who make up a sizable chunk of Tony voters, telling them that a national tour was a foregone conclusion, even as they were negotiating a secret deal with Vegas promoter Steve Wynn. New York Post 06/11/04

  • Previously: Avenue Q, Direct To Vegas Avenue Q, which cleaned up at this year's Tonys, is bypassing the typically lucrative national tours that follow Broadway success, and taking up residence in Las Vegas. "Working with the Las Vegas impressario Steve Wynn, the producers of "Q" plan to open around Labor Day 2005 in a new $40-million theater built especially for the show. The production had planned to follow the lucrative tradition of touring nationally, hitting major markets like Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles." The New York Times 06/10/04
Thursday, June 10, 2004

Fundamental Questions The London International Festival of Theatre is taking an interesting angle this season, conducting a citywide Enquiry on the very nature of theatre. Among the questions to be answered: What is theatre? What is it for? And why should we care, anyway? The Independent (UK) 06/10/04

Avenue Q, Direct To Vegas Avenue Q, which cleaned up at this year's Tonys, is buying the typically lucrative national tours that follow Broadway success, and taking up residence in Las Vegas. "Working with the Las Vegas impressario Steve Wynn, the producers of "Q" plan to open around Labor Day 2005 in a new $40-million theater built especially for the show. The production had planned to follow the lucrative tradition of touring nationally, hitting major markets like Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles." The New York Times 06/10/04

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Reed: The Decline And Fall Of Broadway Rex Reed pines for the old days of Broadway. "To see how much it’s changed (mostly for the worst) or to experience how little wit, originality, intelligence and quality remains, all you had to do was watch this year’s Tony awards. Whatever happened to the Golden Age of Broadway? When did the miracles end and the ticket prices become prohibitive? Why did the inspiration and sweat and creative genius dry up and get replaced by helicopters and chandeliers and naked, cussing puppets? Does anybody care?" New York Observer 06/09/04

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

The 24-Hour Play "Furthering its interest in new writing, the Old Vic theatre in London has just staged Britain's first 24-hour plays. Six playwrights, six directors and 24 actors wrote, cast, rehearsed and performed six new 10-minute plays in one day and night." The Telegraph (UK) 06/09/04

No Tony Winners For Republicans Republicans won't be seeing Broadway's Tony winners at the convention this summer. "With thousands of Republicans set to descend on the Big Apple to nominate President Bush for re-election, convention organizers decided to treat delegates to the glitz of Broadway before they knuckled down to the business of politics. But Republican organizers, selling themselves as the family-values party, decided to buy tickets to tame shows like "42nd Street" and Disney productions like "Aida" and "The Lion King," avoiding more offbeat fare." Backstage (Reuters) 06/08/04

Rating The Tony Show "What started off as an embarrassment turned into a classy Tony Awards, which rewarded devoted theater fans while remaining lively and unstuffy." Rocky Mountain News 06/08/04

Puppet Time (Endangered) "While the puppeteers behind the Tony-winning Avenue Q have won over Broadway, their success comes at a time when many puppeteers -- and puppets -- find themselves being replaced by pixels." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/08/04

Monday, June 7, 2004

Is The Broadway Musical Dead? "The Broadway musical is dead. Such, at any rate, is the conventional wisdom, echoed by everyone from aging theatergoers who saw Ethel Merman in Gypsy to youthful academics who write about popular culture as if it were Finnegans Wake. Perhaps. And yet no other genre remains so central to American theatrical life. Most of the best musicals of the 20th century continue to be revived regularly, on Broadway and elsewhere, just as their songs continue to be sung and recorded. Still, it is evident that the demand for first-rate new musicals greatly outstrips the supply." Commentary 06/04

Why Avenue Q Cleaned Up How is it that "Avenue Q" won the big awards at Sunday's Tonys? The wins were a big surpirse to everyone. "Avenue Q," a modest musical with singing puppets playing in a small Broadway theater, had pulled off what many in the business were calling one of the biggest upsets in Tony history. There even seemed to be a sense of shock inside the producing office for "Avenue Q," where some were nursing hangovers yesterday from a long night celebrating the show's three victories, which included awards for best score (the show's music and lyrics) and best book (its dialogue and structure)." The New York Times 06/08/04

Rashad Makes Tony History "One year after Hollywood broke its colour barrier in the leading actress Oscar category, the Broadway theatre made its own history last night, giving three of four female acting Tony awards to black actresses in two plays set during the U.S. civil-rights movement." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/07/04

Sunday, June 6, 2004

"Avenue Q" Night At Tony Awards "Avenue Q," the offbeat show about a band of furry-headed slacker puppets and their equally fuzzy human cohorts, pulled a stunning upset last night at the 58th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall, winning best musical, the evening's top prize, as well as prizes for best book and best score." The New York Times 06/07/04

What Mean The Tonys? So what do the Tonys mean for American theatre? "While the Tonys celebrate some of the best work on commercially focused Broadway, they're hardly an indication of what's best in American theater." Miami Herald 06/06/04

Broadway's Mixed Year What kind of season was it on Broadway? Mixed. "It's been a tough season, with so many flops and shows that are struggling. The stuff just hasn't been compelling. The new plays, in particular, haven't done well, and I think it just has to do with their quality. I don't think it's a case of resistance to serious drama from the audience. Give them an established drama like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and they come." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/06/04

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Cool: The Shows The Republicans Love To Hate "The New York City Republican Convention Host Committee recently designated eight Broadway shows as fit to ply convention delegates with free tickets. There is barely a Tony nominee in the bunch. All are nice, safe musicals guaranteed not to offend mainstream American tastes or, for that matter, provoke much thought. The title song of "42nd Street" is about as risqué as it gets, with its reference to "sexy ladies from the Eighties who are indiscreet. Isn't there marketing gold to be mined, especially in Democratic New York, by advertising these plays as shows Republicans love to hate?" The New York Times 06/04/04

Handicapping The Tonys "While it is easy to dismiss the Tonys as a crass Broadway publicity device or a ridiculously exclusive talent contest (only Broadway shows need apply, thank you very much), there are always a couple of genuine reasons to watch the show. It offers some competitive drama, of course, especially for avid Broadway fans, people who actually know what orchestrations are and what a musical's book is. (Hint: it's not a novel.) And sure enough, this year such fans can anticipate several close races, including those for best actress in a play and best actress in a musical." The New York Times 06/04/04

Kushner Blasts Theatre Critic's Attack Theatre critic Hedy Weiss didn't much like Tony Kushner's "Caroline, or Change." In her review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Weiss wrote: "Unfortunately, Kushner, in the classic style of a self-loathing Jew, has little but revulsion for his own roots." Kushner demanded an apology: "It is appalling that a playwright can be flatly accused of hating his own people without a single word cited from the play in question." Chicago Reader 06/03/04

New Haven's Long Wharf Gets New Home Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre is getting a new home. It will be in a long-neglected area of New Haven, and the $230 million project will include a home for "Gateway Community College, and a new hotel and conference center and parking." This will be "the largest development project in New Haven in 30 years, will be built through state and city funds and from private donors." Newsday (AP) 06/03/04

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Those Lazy, Lazy Voters "One press agent calls it 'votergate.' A veteran producer says it's 'a problem that has been going on for years.' And a former drama critic says it's a scandal people 'bitch and moan about' but one that the theater industry does 'absolutely nothing to police.' They are talking about Tony voters who do not bother to see all the nominated shows but vote for candidates in all the categories nonetheless." New York Post 06/02/04

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Theatre Critics meet This week 100 members of the American Theatre Critics Association converge on San Francisco for their annual meeting. This year's conference features new plays... San Francisco Chronicle 06/01/04

In Search Of Shakespeare's Music Where is the music that originally accompanied Shakespeare's plays? "Many scholars believe that the music that originally accompanied Shakespeare's plays has been lost. But perhaps it was so much a part of the popular culture of Shakespeare's time that we simply haven't been able to sort it out from all the surviving examples in library archives. Enter Canadian musicologist Ross W. Duffin, who has not only collated and reorganized all previous known studies on this subject but used computer-matching techniques to supply appropriate period music for songs that have come down to us with Shakespearean lyrics but no known melodies." Miami Herald (LAT) 06/01/04

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