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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Broadway Box Office Takes A Dive "Broadway's biz went into the Dumper on the eve of the Republican National Convention. Twenty-six shows brought in a trampled $12,595,294, down $1,751,057, 12.21%, from the previous lackluster session. Paid attendance came to 190,370, which is off about 35,000 from the bumper August of 2002." Yahoo! 08/31/04

Edinburgh's Record Fringe Year The edinburgh Fringe has another record year. But is the festival getting too big? "Fringe officials said that for the second time in a row, ticket sales had exceeded £1m and were 13% up on last year. For the first time in its history every one of the 1,695 fringe shows had sold a ticket before the festival began on August 8. Some venues saw ticket sales jump by almost 40%. With 1.25m tickets sold for 25,326 performances, the 2004 fringe exceeded last year's record takings, but many venues reported business tailing off sharply in the last week." The Guardian (UK) 08/31/04

Monday, August 30, 2004

Demonstrators Protest Republican Broadway Theatre-goers In New York, protesters clashed with police outside Broadway shows. "As convention delegates emerged from theaters last night, they were greeted by hundreds of protesters booing and chanting 'RNC go home!' In front of the New Amsterdam Theater, where delegates attended "The Lion King," and at the Ford Center, where they watched '42nd Street,' police cleared paths for the visitors to rush to waiting buses." New York Daily News 08/30/04

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Political Charge - Chicago Theatre Gets Active Chicago stages are filling up with political commentary. "Not since the Vietnam War has the local artistic community been able to galvanize its forces to produce such a wide array of politically charged programming. In the decades that followed Vietnam, much of the local theater community was slow in creating memorable responses to current events. Now it seems things have reached a political boiling point once again, with playwrights and theaters intent on sending a message." Chicago Sun-Times 08/29/04

The World's A Clown Slava Polunin is one of the world's busiest clowns, although, he protests, 'There are no competitors among clowns'." The New York Times 08/29/04

Of Playwrights And Politics In the UK, playwrights have been energized by politics. "It is a remarkable moment for political theatre. Not only have 9/11, the Iraq war and the Bush administration energised playwrights, the acoustic has never been so good. People want from political theatre a clarity they are not getting from politicians. Harold Pinter claims: 'We live in a country the government of which is totally discredited, in a poisonous atmosphere in which everyone is under the weather'." The Guardian (UK) 08/28/04

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Broadway Goes Single Last season only two one-person shows made an impression on Broadway. But this season "no fewer than six one-person shows -- some of which may be termed special events or plays, depending on the administration committee's frame of mind -- have been announced." Back Stage 08/27/04

Ticket Buyers Prefer Nude Before Frank Wildhorn's Dracula opened on Broadway, producers announced that a "G"-rated version would be shown at matinees (omitting a nude scene). Evidently audiences have voted with their ticket purchases, and the cleaned up matinees are being discontinued. Back Stage 08/27/04

In Praise Of Musicals (Even Movies) "If musicals amused people in the 1930s, hypnotised them in the 40s and 50s and more or less died out in the 1970s, they have, despite their recycled storylines and arch dialogue, never really wanted for fond audiences. After a long, slow decline, the film musical appears to be coming back. There are at least five in production at the moment, among them Rent and The Producers, and one soon to be released, De-Lovely, a biopic of Cole Porter in which Kevin Kline plays the lead and the songs are performed by pop stars." The Guardian (UK) 08/27/04

The Next Big Thing In Chicago Theatre Chicago's House Theatre is the latest of the city's "generation-defining ensembles that includes Steppenwolf and Lookingglass. With 26-year-old Nathan Allen as head carpenter, the House -- with its boyishly playful, highly physical shows that keep a steady finger on the pop-cultural pulse as they win mostly rave reviews -- has quickly become the theater for the under-35 crowd, a demographic that few other companies seem able to pry away from their date movies and 'Friends' reruns." Chicago Sun-Times 08/26/04

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

More Variety At The Times Charles Isherwood, the chief theater critic for Variety since 1998, will become The New York Times' second-string theater critic Sept 8. He replaces Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Times veteran whose six-month tenure was remarkable for the ire it inspired in the theater community. Playbill 08/24/04

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Abbey At 100 Dublin's Abbey Theatre has a legendary past and, under Artistic Director Ben Barnes, a stable present. But as it stands on the brink of its second century, what lies ahead is less than certain. Financial Times (UK) 08/23/04

On Singapore Stages, Attack Of The Clones As the number of Singapore's arts organizations rises, so does competition for government funding. Many theater groups are opting for safe programming that poses little risk at the box office, but the shift toward proven titles and sexy plays is edging out new and experimental work. "Once-diverse groups are in danger of becoming market-driven clones." The Straits Times (Singapore) 08/24/04

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Airing The Shakespeare Debate The debate on who wrote the Shakespeare plays has erupted at London's Globe Theatre, where all theories are getting an airing. "For a long time, over on this side of the Atlantic at all events, to doubt that William, the man of Stratford, wrote the plays, was for a person who hoped to have a literary career in the university a very dangerous view to entertain," he said. "It was not popular, to put it very bluntly. Very unpopular. It was felt to sort of suggest you were, to use a word, 'unsound.' We merely say that in the present state of knowledge, we certainly don't think that the Stratfordians have made out their case, but we equally don't believe that the Oxfordians have either." The New York Times 08/21/04

Taking A Look At The Fall Broadway Broadway's new season is about to open. "Unlike in previous years, there's no potential blockbuster in the wings, no "Hairspray," "Wicked" or "The Producers" that has the town buzzing with anticipation and hope. One could say that so far it appears it may be a rather ho-hum season, but it's still early, and over the next few months some shows will drop off, some will be deferred and, more important, others will emerge and be added to the menu." Hartford Courant 08/22/04

Of Theatre, Film, And Reality Many people find film easier to relate to than theatre. Theatre, for many, is too unrealistic, too tied up in its unnatural conventions. But what about a film that takes theatre at its core? The Observer (UK) 08/22/04

Rewriting The Book On Kids Plays At the recent Playwrights Showcase of the Western Region at the Arvada Center in Denver, Steven Fendrich took issue with the kinds of plays considered for young people. "At the showcase, which included four new works for young audiences, Fendrich championed age 6 as the baseline for material to be considered publishable. He admonished several authors for using sophisticated language and references to historic figures children 'could not possibly be expected to understand'." Denver Post 08/22/04

Friday, August 20, 2004

Broadway's Golden Age? Was there really such a thing as a Golden Age of Broadway? A filmmaker goes in search of the answer. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/20/04

Zagat On Broadway, 2004 "Perhaps there are no earth-shattering revelations in the recently released summer edition of the 2004 Zagat Survey New York City Theater Guide, covering 62 Broadway and Off-Broadway productions as reviewed by 15,760 theatregoers. Still, the public opinion poll, conceived as a consumer guide to theatre, does offer some interesting insights about the habits of audience members besides their ratings of plays and musicals." Back Stage 08/20/04

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Has Cell Phone Ban Had Impact On NY Theatres? More than a year ago, New York City passed a law banning cell phone use in theatres. Many thought the ban was unenforceable. "Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway house managers asking audience members to turn off their cell phones before a performance begins is now a completely common practice. But has there been 100% compliance? (Anyone who attends the theatre today might suspect otherwise.) Has anyone paid the fine? Has anyone been physically removed for defying the law?" Back Stage 08/19/04

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

In Sydney - Just Put On A Show "Sydney's independent theatre scene is thriving. Whether or not it's a by-product of the lack of work available, it's a sign that certain practitioners aren't content to leave their unemployed fate in the hands of others. Actors, directors, writers and designers are joining forces to produce their own stories, show their work and hone their craft." Sydney Morning Herald 08/19/04

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Eleven Hours Long (And With Surtitles!) More than 1,000 people bought tickets for "Le Soulier de Satin," an 11-hour-long French play that has been promoted as a dramatic highlight of the Edinburgh International Festival. Actually making it through the performance, however, was another matter. The Scotsman 08/17/04

Monday, August 16, 2004

Playing Now - Hadrian's Wall A new play about Hadrian's Wll is being performed... along Hadrian's Wall. "They will step out along 84 miles of the Hadrian's Wall path, a national trail opened last year, while the lucky stage manager will ride the route in comfort with the baggage in the company van. The day after each show in communities along the wall, the six actors plus the playwright will don boots and waterproofs and give another kind of blistering performance, striding 10 miles to the next venue." The Guardian (UK) 08/17/04

Shoot The (Journalist) Comic. Please! Guardian journalist Paul MacInes figured he'd seen enough bad stand-up comedians do their thing. So he decided to give it a try himself at the Edinburgh Fringe. "As it turns out, few of them are as rubbish as me. Fired into the bearpit of Edinburgh's most notorious stand-up spot, I was to leave clawed, gouged and with a tenderised groin. I wasn't expecting the mauling I got. Indeed, I may never get over it." The Guardian (UK) 08/17/04

Sunday, August 15, 2004

A Coconut Plan Miami's Coconut Grove Theatre hosted the first American production of Waiting for Godot. Now it looks like some major changes may come to the historic building. "In recent years, the operative plan was to renovate the existing building and add a third theater and a parking garage. Then came a newer scheme suggested tearing down all but the façade and building anew. Now there are other options that have enormous implications for history and preservation and the community at large." Miami Herald 08/15/04

Backstage O'Neill The O'Neill Theatre Center has had a tumultuous year. "This summer's off-stage labor is as riveting as what was happening in the center's amphitheater. And last year's backstage drama was also quite a show." Hartford Courant 08/15/04

Edinburgh Fringe Wants More Support The director of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival blasts the Scottish Arts Council for not supporting the Fringe. "There are practical ways things that can be done. We have performers from all over the world here and the SAC should be getting them to Dundee and Aberdeen. Equally, they should be encouraging Scottish audiences to the Fringe from a slightly wider area." The Guardian (UK) 08/14/04

West End Theatre Gets Political "Thoughtful social comedies and gentle farces are being upstaged by a blast of radical writing. Not since the socialist agit-prop shows staged in Russia early last century, or the satirical cabaret in Berlin during the Thirties, have audiences been challenged by so many overtly ideological plays. The renewed demand is all the more remarkable since at least six West End plays with more conventional appeal have closed this summer." The Observer (UK) 08/15/04

Shakespeare & Company Regroups The 27-year-old Massachusetts theatre Shakespeare & Company is trying to regroup. "In the wake of the shake-up, the company is undergoing major changes. The budget was reduced from $4.5 million to $4 million, the season shortened, and the staff trimmed. Shakespeare & Company is selling off a chunk of the 63-acre property, purchased just four years ago, that has largely caused the financial troubles." Boston Globe 08/15/04

Critic-Proof Theatre The critics are scathing, and Frank Wildhorn's musicals have failed to turn a profit on Broadway. (Newsday's Linda Winer says that Wildhorn writes "dunderheaded musicals for people who find Andrew Lloyd Webber too difficult.") But "even without making a profit on Broadway, and without critical approbation — but on the strength of his devoted fans — these shows can still earn money in international, regional, stock and amateur productions, as well as through recordings." So Wildhorn keeps cranking them out. The New York Times 08/15/04

Can An Actor Make A Living Even In A Good Theatre Town? "Seattle is often ranked in the top 10 U.S. cities for quality live theater, offering up everything from Shakespeare dramas to mega-musicals like "Hairspray" for the area's thousands of theater-savvy patrons. And local actors, agents, arts educators and theater directors often say Seattle is a mecca for budding performers looking to hone their craft. But can they make a living? That's a challenge few can meet." Seattle Times 08/15/04

Friday, August 13, 2004

Why Idol Works As Theatre Theatre critic Richard Ouzounian wonders why, when "all of our playhouses — in Toronto, Stratford and Niagara — have lots of empty seats, waiting to be filled" that tapings for Canadian Idol pack a theatre every Wednesday and Thursday night. The answers are instructive... Toronto Star 08/13/04

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Broadway In Vegas - A Trend? Following Avenue Q's booking in Vegas, a number of other Broadway shows are eying the gambling Mecca as a potential market. "It makes perfect sense that the hotels in Las Vegas, which need to differentiate themselves on a basis other than gambling, should turn to the biggest live entertainment pastime there is [behind] Major League Baseball. The more exposure Broadway shows get, the better it is for the industry as a whole." New York Daily News 08/12/04

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Actors Unions: Another Try At Merger? Are the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) talking merger again? Last year a proposal to merge the two actors unions failed in a vote. "Some 75% of AFTRA members voted for the AIMA proposal. But SAG needed a supermajority -- 60% of voting guild members -- to approve the merger, and received only 58%." Backstage 08/11/04

Zimbabwe - Little Theatre, Big Role Zimbabwe has little theatre, but what theatre it has is making an impact. "Since the Zimbabwean government introduced tough media laws in 2002, theatre has taken on a new and edgy role. It is a place where entertainment can express, yet mask, deep-rooted anger; where in the face of a dying culture, humour and humanity can be tended like glowing coals, ready for igniting in the future. And since the media crackdown, audiences have started to grow exponentially." BBC 08/11/04

Even Regional Theatre Shuns Playwrights "It's bad enough that some of the best and brightest theater talents are fleeing to television and the movies. But when the regional theater - where you felt you always had a home - blocks their main stages to you, you might as well start packing your sunscreen for the West Coast. And many already have." Hartford Courant 08/08/04

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

An Off-Broadway Theatre's Artistic Implosion For more than 30 years the Cocteau Theatre, a small Off-Broadway company presenting classics in the 140-seat Bouwerie Lane Theater in the East Village, has been a valuable asset of New York theater. Then last week, a sizeable number of the organization's board (and several actors) resigned in a dispute... The New York Times 08/11/04

More Pop - Now A Beach Boys Musical For Broadway In the latest pop-music-comes-to-Broadway deal, a musical featuring songs by the Beach Boys - Surf's up! "Good Vibrations," a new musical using more than 30 Beach Boys songs - will open on Broadway in January. Backstage 08/10/04

Closed Captioned Shakespeare A new concept is being tested in a few North American theaters: closed captioning. The idea is simple - patrons whose hearing loss makes it difficult to hear the voices coming from the stage can read the full text of the play in real time on a small screen placed near the stage. The captions are smaller than the surtitles used at many opera houses, and can be read easily from roughly the first ten rows of the theater. The hope is that the new technology will bring older audiences back to the theater. Canada East 08/10/04

Monday, August 9, 2004

Independence Pays Off A year ago, Detroit's Meadow Brook Theatre severed its ties with Oakland University after the university tried to shut it down, determined to make it as an independent company. Not many observers gave the perennially money-losing troupe much of a chance. But "under its new management, [Meadow Brook] stopped losing money... [and] the organization finished in the black for the first time in seven years." Detroit Free Press 08/09/04

Tired Of Playing Second Fiddle The Boston Theatre Conference, going on in the Hub this week, is partly a chance for the theater crowd to reassure each other that their medium is still relevant. But more importantly, it's the first time that so many in the local scene have gathered to assess their position in Boston. "Noting that theater has often been the "stepchild" in the Boston arts scene, taking a back seat to such renowned institutions as the Boston Symphony Orchestra or the Museum of Fine Arts, [one moderator] asked the six panelists from a range of local companies to look at Boston's current position in the theater world and to talk about how it might develop." Boston Globe 08/09/04

Looking For The Next Generation of Writers Australia's theater scene is thriving in many cities, but at least one veteran of the industry says that the country is lagging far behind in the art of creating new plays. What would help is some sort of national program to encourage and instruct young playwrights... The Age (Melbourne) 08/09/04

Sunday, August 8, 2004

The Controversy That Just Won't Die The old debate over who wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare is the theatrical controversy that seems only to grow in intensity with every passing year. But a new seminar at the UK's recreation of the Bard's own Globe Theater has upped the ante once again "with the introduction of the first woman suspect — Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke." Toronto Star (AP) 08/08/04

Is The Fringe Edinburgh's Main Festival? The direcctor of one of Edinburgh's most high-profile venues says that the city's Fringe Festival should be designated the main Edinburgh Festival. This is "the latest round in a lengthy pitched battle between the fringe and the official festival; the relationship between the two seems marked by mutual incomprehension and a distinct lack of cross-festival collaboration or cooperative programming. And whereas the international festival receives £2.5m in public money, the fact that the fringe gets just £65,000 has always rankled." The Guardian (UK) 08/07/04

In Edinburgh: The Fringe That Needs A Fringe Maybe the Edinburgh Fringe Festival isn't as cool as it once was? Some artists seem to think so. "As a booming fringe kicks off this weekend and finally threatens to overtake completely the official annual arts festival, there are signs of a dangerous split. Prompted by a dislike of the slick public relations operations, bureaucracy and high admission prices, many influential performers are striking out to create a radical, cool 'fringe of the fringe'." The Observer (UK) 08/08/04

Theatre Of The New West The first Playwrights Showcase of the Western Region opens this week in Denver. "It will be by far the largest and most significant gathering of playwrights ever held in this part of the country. The three-day, nine-session festival represents 18 states - virtually the entire country west of the Mississippi. Despite a paltry budget and little marketing support," the event will feature some of the American West's biggest names in theatre. Denver Post 08/08/04

Keeping Theatre Alive When Things Are Tough A panel of theatre professionals gathers in Dallas to discuss the state of theatre. There was lots of gloom, with warnings that new ideas to revitalize have to be found. "We're sadly mistaken if we think we'll recover with the economy. ... A lot of this is going to be about finding a different path." Dallas Morning News 08/08/04

When A Critic Is Also The Playwright... Ontario's Stratford Festival is due to announce its new season soon. One of the plays under strong consideration was written by the theatre critic at Canada's National Post newspaper. So what will this mean for critic/playwright Robert Cushman? "It's an answered prayer for any dramatist, of course. Lights! Attention! Semi-fame! But if so, will the National Post ask Cushman to step aside as the newspaper's Stratford critic for the 2005 season? That's an onerous demand for a freelance writer with family to support and whose income comes story by story, but it's one the Post and its scribe likely will have to consider." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/07/04

Friday, August 6, 2004

Hey, It's Not Quite As Geeky As Chess Camp So your teenager wants to be a Broadway star, but you're going nuts listening to him belting out Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes up in his room? Pack him off to Camp Broadway! The teen-oriented summer program began as an informal seminar created by a theater vet to entertain her nieces, and "has grown into a national organization, working year-round in cities across the country, including Tempe, Ariz.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Detroit. For the price of admission... the campers get classes in singing, dancing and acting; workshops with Broadway professionals... a ticket to a Broadway show and a private discussion after the show with its stars." The New York Times 08/06/04

Republicans Are Apparently Bad For Ticket Sales "Citing poor ticket sales during the week of the Republican National Convention, two more Broadway shows have announced that they will close to avoid a dismal week of business. 'Caroline, or Change,' the new musical by Tony Kushner, which was nominated for six Tony Awards this year, will close on Aug. 29, the day before the start of the convention, and 'Frozen,' a play by Bryony Lavery that was nominated for four Tonys, will end its run on Aug. 22, the shows' producers said yesterday." The New York Times 08/06/04

Minnesota Fringe Continues Explosive Growth "As it begins its second decade, the Minnesota Fringe Festival finds itself in fine financial fettle, bigger than ever, a popular launching pad for new shows and an institutional fixture in the Twin Cities theater scene. It might be difficult to recall that in 1994, 4,630 tickets were sold to 315 performances. That meant an average show was attended by barely 15 people. The 10-day event was put on for $35,000. Last year, the Fringe sold 40,500 seats to 783 performances, an average of about 52 people per show. Debt-free, the organization operates on an annual budget of $550,000, including an anticipated box office this year of $250,000." Minneapolis Star Tribune 08/06/04

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Flapping Desperately Over The Cuckoo's Nest The hottest ticket at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a new stage adaptation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The show is already set to move to London's West End once the Fringe run is over. But the production has been in trouble from the start: director Guy Masterson quit three weeks into rehearsals, headliner Christian Slater came down with a nasty case of chicken pox, and opening night has already been delayed. The Telegraph (UK) 08/05/04

The Great Pink Way A stage version of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" may be headed for Broadway. Roger Waters is currently working on the book, and will arrange and orchestrate the music for the show, which will be produced by Harvey and Bob Weinstein of Miramax. The Guardian (UK) 08/06/04

New Foote Play Gets A Look A recently unearthed play by Horton Foote has been hauled out of a desk drawer and thrust onto a New York stage this summer for its first "major commercial production." But unlike many unpublished works by well-known playwrights, which tend to be underdeveloped and youthfully insecure, Foote's work, which received its premiere at Whittier College in 2000, is a mature play, written when the author had already achieved a great deal of critical acclaim. "The reason it has not been staged before has more to do with his gentlemanly sense of propriety than any reluctance by a producer to stage it." The New York Times 08/05/04

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Hitting Too Close To Home A devastating indictment of race relations in the Upper Midwest is currently playing at a theater in the Twin Cities. "The Last Minstrel Show," which details (and satirizes in explicit form) the lynching of three black men in Duluth, is hard to watch and even harder to analyze, and apparently, Minnesotans don't want to hear it. The show is closing after only two weeks, due to abysmal ticket sales in a city that normally embraces theater of all types. "If virtually no one attends a play about an event virtually no one wants to talk about, then, as the show's final production number asserts with nonchalant gaiety, 'Nothing happened.' Right? Isn't that where we're at societywise on the whole race issue?" St. Paul Pioneer Press 08/05/04

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Light As A Featherstone It's an amazing thing, Vicky Featherstone being named to head the new Scottish National Theatre. "The names being touted for the job were all Scotsmen. For an Englishwoman placed at the helm of a body which it is hoped can inspire a Scottish theatre revival, Featherstone has faced remarkably little grumbling from the old guard, not much beyond the odd letter to a newspaper." The Scotsman 08/03/04

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Edinburgh Fringe Play Upsets Gay Community A play at the Edinburgh Fringe has the gay community upset. It portrays "hidden violence and cruelty inside gay relationships. " But the playwright defends the work: "The message we usually give out is that we are a happy community, and some think that if we do anything to alter that picture we will alienate ourselves further from the rest of society. I think the time is right to make it clear we are exactly the same as heterosexuals when it comes to these problems." The Observer (UK) 08/01/04

Cirque du Soleil - Canadian Ambassadors "Cirque Du Soleil is perhaps the best international ambassador in Canada's history. This entertainment giant has thrilled more than 40 million spectators since it began two decades ago, growing out of a small festival in the Quebec town of Baie-Saint-Paul. Cirque brought a new kind of circus into existence, made up of dazzling acrobatics and gymnastics, rather than animal acts and tawdry sideshow displays." Toronto Sun 08/01/04

Saving A (Decrepit) Landmark "Eighteen years after [Denver's] Bonfils Theater was shuttered, it no longer matters who was the bad guy responsible for the decay of the once-great venue. The important question is whether anyone will take responsibility for the building's reclamation before it's too late... In the past two decades, many plans have been put forward to save the theater. Most were done in not by the modest purchase price but the daunting task of rehabilitating a theater that has grown decrepit from lack of use and maintenance." Denver Post 08/01/04

The Impossible Life Of A Working Actor Steven Barkhimer is one of Boston's busiest actors, a man beloved by critics and audiences alike. And yet, he hasn't been able to pay his own rent in more than a year, and barely manages to scrape by financially. He's not an anomaly, he's the poster boy for the life of the Boston actor. And that's a big problem for the city's theater scene. Boston Globe 08/01/04

Is Broadway Choking On Talentless Celebrity? Broadway's obsession with big-name pop culture stars and washed-up blips on the cultural radar is getting out of hand. "Just a quick gaze at today's theater listings can give a person the distinct sensation of watching a particularly poignant episode of 'I Love the 90's.'" Worse, previous experience and actual talent or ability seem to have next to nothing to do with these casting decisions. The New York Times 07/31/04

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