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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Theatre Of Politics "No doubt that may be the feeling of some people who believe theater should be uplifting and inspiring rather than critical and political. They may believe theaters should focus on uncontroversial classics by dead playwrights rather than rabble-rousing by decidedly live and lively ones. But in this election season, there are some who like their theater on the hot side." Hartford Courant 10/31/04

Your Flop Of Flops "While a West End contract would once have come with a steady pay cheque, those job-secure days have long gone. London has never suffered from the same "smash or flop" psychosis that drives Broadway (where stories abound of actors celebrating first nights at fashionable restaurants, only to have their champagne glasses wrestled from their grasp by waiters just seconds after a duff review has appeared in the first edition of The New York Times), but the indications are that we are rapidly heading down the same road. With rare exceptions, shows today are often either enormous hits or 'snigger-at-it-while-it-lasts' shockers." The Telegraph (UK) 10/31/04

George W., Theatrical Muse You can't turn around in the theatre world today without bumping into an on-stage characterization of the President of the United States. Ben Brantley has watched a wide array of the Bush portrayals, and is amazed at the passion the man seems to have inspired in actors and playwrights. "This wide-ranging theatrical Bush garden is the more remarkable considering that in the 1990's, I never reviewed a work in which William Jefferson Clinton was the leading character." The New York Times 10/31/04

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Bricklayers And The Shakespeare Washington's Shakespeare Theatre has joined forces with the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers to build and a new building that will house a theater and offices for the union.
Washington Post 10/29/04

Eustis To Lead Public Theatre? Who will be the next director of New York's Public Theatre? "Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, R.I., is the leading candidate after an eight-month search, a process that included nearly 100 candidates and eventually involved interviews with about a dozen finalists." The New York Times 10/29/04

Thursday, October 28, 2004

O'Neill Center Postpones Director Search The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut has temporarily suspended its search for a new director and will concentrate for now on hiring someone to run its annual National Play Conference, "one of the most esteemed professional development programs in the nation." Backstage 10/28/04

Glimmer Of Hope For Endangered Gem "A group of top Broad way producers, who have backed some of the most important American plays of the last several years, may throw a lifeline to Gem of the Ocean. The producers — Elizabeth I. McCann, Roger Berlind and Scott Rudin — were trying yesterday to figure out a way to get the acclaimed August Wilson play to Broadway this season. Gem of the Ocean is on the brink of collapse because its lead producer, Ben Mordecai, has failed to raise the $2.3 million needed to bring it to the stage." Still, the trio of producers has no intenion of bailing Mordecai out of his existing debts, so the production must still be considered a long shot. New York Post 10/28/04

  • Previously: Two Broadway Shows In Danger Of Closing The opening of "Gem of the Ocean," the new August Wilson play set to open in November, is in danger after a major investor pulled out. Meanwhile, "Brooklyn the Musical," the new $7 million show that opened to mediocre reviews on Thursday and has relatively small advance sales of $1.5 million, is also in danger of closing... The New York Times 10/27/04
Wednesday, October 27, 2004

For Sale: Broadway Dress-up Broadway's Theater Development Fund "began selling 20,000 costumes from its collection of nearly 85,000 in preparation for a move to a smaller space. The nonprofit Theater Development Fund, perhaps best known for its low-cost TKTS booth at Times Square, runs arts education programs and rents professional costumes at discounts to nonprofit theater groups and schools nationwide. Much of the development fund's inventory comprises donations from the Metropolitan Opera, Broadway and private collections." The New York Times 10/28/04

Newfoundland Director Snags Coveted Prize "Canada's richest theatre award has gone to an artist from one of its poorest provinces. Jillian Keiley, 34, the founding artistic director of the St. John's-based Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, was named the recipient of the 2004 Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre. The prize comes with a $100,000 cheque, of which the winner keeps $75,000 and gives the remainder to a protégé of her choice: in this case, fellow Newfoundland director Danielle Irvine." The Globe and Mail (Canada) 10/27/04

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Two Broadway Shows In Danger Of Closing The opening of "Gem of the Ocean," the new August Wilson play set to open in November, is in danger after a major investor pulled out. Meanwhile, "Brooklyn the Musical," the new $7 million show that opened to mediocre reviews on Thursday and has relatively small advance sales of $1.5 million, is also in danger of closing... The New York Times 10/27/04

West End Waits For Three In London's West End, theatre-watchers are waiting for three big landmarks in the season - the return of two titans of the industry with new high-profile projects, and the opening of a sure-to-be mega-hit - The Producers... Backstage 10/26/04

Will Mary Poppins Be Mackintosh's Ticket Back? Producer Cameron Mackintosh is trying to hit another home run with a production of "Mary Poppins". It contains songs from the old Disney movie plus some new music. "The oft-predicted demise of the blockbuster musical is still a long way off, the impresario, unsurprisingly, believes. 'The only thing that really changes is the writers. The profession can often be wrong about what the audience wants, but then someone will come up with something different'." Glasgow Herald 10/26/04

Monday, October 25, 2004

Slipping Ticket Sales At Glaggow Theatre Has Arts Council Asking Questions When the success of your theatre is based on how many tickets you sold, it can be bad when attendance declines. Glasgow's Citizens Theatre has a new director, and ticket sales are down 4,000 over the previous season. So now the Scottish Arts Council is "eyeing falling audience figures at Glasgow’s Citizens’ Theatre, amid concerns over whether the company is delivering value for money." The Citizen receives an arts council grant of £910,000 a year, more than any other theatre in Scotland. It pulls in another £425,000 from Glasgow City Council. The Scotsman 10/25/04

One Night Wonder: "Wilde" Flops With some of the worst reviews ever received in London, a musical about Oscar Wilde opened and closed on the same night last week. "Oscar Wilde" opened Tuesday at the 500-seat Shaw Theatre. It closed the next day after receiving excoriating reviews and selling just five tickets for its second performance." CNN (AP) 10/22/04

Sunday, October 24, 2004

A Suffi Shakespeare? Was Shakespeare a member of a mystic Muslim sect? "While it has been suggested that Shakespeare dabbled with espionage and Catholic political activism, the new theory will attempt to persuade Shakespeare scholars that the playwright was a member of a religious or spiritual order which can best be compared to the philosophy of Sufism." The Observer (UK) 10/24/04

It's All Politics...But Is It Good Theatre? This is the year of political theatre; it's everywhere. But is it effective as theatre? "Much recent political theatre is informed by the desire to be either a report or an essay. Getting the facts out there is good - putting them on stage gives them electricity they would otherwise lack - but it is not the same as a play." The Guardian (UK) 10/24/04

Are Young Adults Exiting Stage Left? "Is theater failing to attract a new generation of enthusiasts to replace those who, on the opposite end of the chronological scale, die off or become too frail to go out at night?" There's certainly no question that the predominant audience at your average mainstream theater is decidedly, um, mature, but some in the industry insist that the overall audience has expanded, regardless of demographic shifts. Still, "in the decade between 1992 and 2002, the percentage of young people in the overall theater audience shrank significantly." Chicago Sun-Times 10/24/04

This Might Be A Record A new West End musical about Oscar Wilde has closed ahead of schedule. Okay, that might be understating it a bit. The show, which debuted to scathing reviews and public indifference, was yanked from the Shaw Theatre's schedule after exactly one performance. BBC 10/22/04

Can Fame And Street Cred Coexist? The new partnership between the UK's National Theatre and the small, scrappy Shunt Theatre is raising eyebrows within the industry, and in fact, the Shunt originally passed up a chance to perform one of its shows at the National, for fear that it would be attracting the wrong crowd. But when the head of the National offered to help the Shunt acquire its dream theater, the temptation was too great to ignore. "By acquiring this striking new space and allying itself with the National Theatre, Shunt significantly increases its profile and ability to attract new fans. But it also risks undermining its underground credibility and alienating core fans." The New York Times 10/23/04

Loitering With Style The art of human sculpture is a corner of the world of mime about which few people have much knowledge. And yet, for the dedicated individuals who make their living by covering themselves in metallic paint and standing still on street corners and in subway stations for hours at a time, it's both an art and a sport, requiring the utmost in both creativity and physical conditioning. The New York Times 10/23/04

Friday, October 22, 2004

A Handful Of New Theatres For NY New York gets five new Off-Broadway theatres, carved out of a former movie multiplex. Ambitious, but how do they work for the live stage? The New York Times 10/22/04

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Scottish Theatres Offer Money-Back Guarantee Two Edinburgh theatres have begun offering a money-back guarantee: buy a ticket to a show, and, when it's over, if you didn't like it you get your money back. "We’re always trying to do something a bit innovative when it comes to attracting audiences and this one is really aimed at people who are a bit nervous about going to the theatre." The Scotsman 10/21/04

Cariou, Others Inducted In Theatre Hall Of Fame Actors Len Cariou, Gregory Hines, Ian McKellen, Brian Murray and Estelle Parsons, playwright A.R. Gurney, designer Santo Loquasto and producer Elizabeth Ireland McCann will be inducted into The Theater Hall of Fame on Jan. 24, 2005. Playbill 10/21/04

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Far Leaving Bristol Old Vic "David Farr is leaving the Bristol Old Vic to take over the Lyric Hammersmith in London. He joins the theatre next June, replacing current artistic director Neil Bartlett, who steps down at the end of this month." The Guardian (UK) 10/21/04

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Dreyfus Cancellation Could Be A Hit So Richard Dreyfus is unable to go on in "The Producers" when it opens in London in a few days. But wait - it's not a disaster. Indeed, it could make the show a bigger hit, as Nathan Lane steps in to fill the role. "Whether or not Dreyfuss is a victim of the role, or the demands of the backers, or just bad luck - one thing's clear: for those in possession of a ticket, it's the equivalent of getting an unexpected upgrade from economy to club class. And, in many ways, the moment of panic couldn't have arrived at a better time - everyone will now be pulling together harder than ever to ensure that it's all right on the night." The Telegraph (UK) 10/20/04

Greeks In New York This season's big new thing in New York theatre? It's Greeks. New York is awash in Greek revival plays. "Between the threat of terrorism and the war in Iraq, we're all apparently in desperate need of a whopping catharsis—or at least a few old-comedy laughs at the rulers driving us to the brink of catastrophe." Village Voice 10/19/04

That Broadway Melody (A History) A three-part TV series on the history of the Broadway musical runs on PBS this week. "If the series has one major theme, it's that the Broadway musical has always been subversive, ahead of its time in form and subject matter." The New York Times 10/19/04

Monday, October 18, 2004

Dreyfuss Quits The Producers Richard Dreyfuss has abruptly pulled out of the London production of The Producers only days before opening night, citing the toll the physical aspects of the role was taking on his body. Another possible explanation for his departure may be that Dreyfuss had drawn the ire of his co-stars when, in a recent interview, he "[joked] that the lavish production of Mel Brooks' Broadway smash hit was not yet fit for public consumption." Nathan Lane, who played the role to great acclaim on Broadway, will step in until January. The Guardian (UK) 10/19/04

'Subversive' Theater On The Rise In Britain "While the RSC looks for a West End home in London and the cult of deadly dull celebrity theatre continues to bore and fleece, there's an exciting subversiveness going on in anti-theatreland. It threatens to rip up the pretentious splendour of red-padded fold-down seats, jam the 20p slots of those opera-glass dispensers and slash the suffocating, red-tasselled curtain that falls between the acts." All of which is to say, there's some seriously exciting theater going on in the UK, if you know where to look. The Guardian (UK) 10/19/04

Major Upheaval At Adelaide Fringe The entire board of Australia's Adelaide Fringe Festival has been replaced, following a legal dispute with the organization's members. The board had called off its annual general meeting, but "29 of the Fringe's 41 members still turned up, decided there was insufficient reason to cancel the AGM and voted to appoint a new board. The former board disputed the constitutional legitimacy of the election and sought legal advice. However, it announced its resignation yesterday through its lawyer" Adelaide Advertiser 10/16/04

Is Theater Finally Embracing Diversity? Historically, plays focusing on racial themes or African-American issues have been a tough sell with the largely white, largely affluent theater-going public. But the tide may be turning: "The biggest nonmusical hit of last Broadway season was the revival of the 45-year-old play A Raisin in the Sun... And it's not the only production dealing with black themes resonating in theaters around the country." Hartford Courant 10/17/04

New York Gets Current The best theater in New York these days isn't on Broadway, says Barbara Stewart. And it isn't exactly traditional fare, either. Think less Shakespeare, and more Rumsfeld. "Everybody I spoke to - with the exception of agents pushing their Broadway clients - agreed that the interesting new shows are on off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway. Forget musicals, almost. And gird yourself for stories apparently spun directly from World News Tonight." The Observer (UK) 10/17/04

What, No Tote Bags? No Mugs? Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater is in the final stages of its fundraising push to finance its huge new home on the banks of the Mississippi River, and that means that it's time to involve the general public. Of course, the general public doesn't like to shell out its hard-earned cash without getting a trinket in return, so the Guthrie is offering a range of options for lower-end givers. $100 will get you a refrigerator magnet, $1000 equals a set of new Guthrie notecards, and for $5000, your name gets nailed to a seat in the new $125 million theater. St. Paul Pioneer Press 10/18/04

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Music's Okay, But Is This Really Theater? You can't turn around these days without bumping into a theatrical production that is little more than an excuse to showcase music that was wildly popular a few decades ago. From Mama Mia to Movin' Out, Broadway is rife with such shows, and the new season will include new revues featuring the work of The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash. "A quick look at the demographic of the theatre-going public reveals that once again — as in so many other places — the dreaded boomers have a stranglehold. It's no wonder, then, that producers will try to woo them with material from their happily remembered youth." Toronto Star 10/16/04

Friday, October 15, 2004

Maybe They Didn't Factor In The Exchange Rate "A Toronto production company has failed to come up with the mil lions of dollars it had planned to in vest in several of this season's new Broadway musicals, leaving the producers of those shows scrambling to fill significant last-minute gaps in their budgets." Affected shows include a revival of La Cage Aux Folles, and the new musicals Brooklyn and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. New York Post 10/15/04

Puppetry Getting Over The 'Kids Only' Hump Puppetry is suddenly hot again, with marionettes playing leading roles at the movies, on Broadway, and even at the Metropolitan Opera. These days, students at the University of Connecticut can even major in puppetry. "But all this sophistication can be a bit jarring for some audiences. For many, 'puppet show' doesn't suggest existential crises - just something fun for their kids. And when they get something else, there can be problems." Hartford Courant 10/15/04

Shrek Moving To Broadway The director behind the runaway Broadway hit, Avenue Q, has been tapped to produce a stage version of the Dreamworks movie Shrek. The production will begin with a non-New York run in 2006, and then move to Broadway shortly thereafter. Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire will write the stage play, and theater and film veteran Sam Mendes will produce. The New York Times 10/15/04

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Reports Of Our Demise... Is the Broadway musical dead, or just hibernating while the theater world decides on the best way to revive the form? After all, in the 500-channel world, it's difficult to determine whether an art form as broadly based as the musical should be trying to find its niche market, or still seek to appeal to all corners of an increasingly fractured audience. But even if the musical does make a comeback, it's unlikely that Broadway's melodies will ever again be recognized as "America's soundtrack." The Christian Science Monitor 10/15/04

The O'Neill Changes Course (Again) The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's shift to having a single artistic director oversee all of its programs was a factor in the sudden departure last year of James Houghton, the head of the prestigious O'Neill Playwrights Conference. Following the abrupt resignation last summer of J Ranelli, the center's first overall artistic director, the O'Neill is now looking not for someone to fill that spot but simply for an artistic director for the playwrights conference. (Second item.) Hartford Courant 10/14/04

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Public Nears A Choice On New Chief The Public Theater may announce the successor to its artistic director, George C. Wolfe, as soon as next week. Doug Hughes ("Frozen"), who spent four years as artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., and Mark Russell, the former artistic director of P.S. 122, are said to be the favorites. New York Post 10/13/04

Selling Broadway With Graphic Design "Good play posters do more than just give theater lovers, collectors and local luncheonettes artwork to display on their walls. They sell a show. To do that, they must catch your eye and hold it long enough for you to see who’s in a show and what it’s about. In those few seconds, you can get psyched about seeing the show. Simple, right? Anything but." New York Daily News 10/12/04

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Now, That's Government Support For The Arts "Denmark's Queen Margrethe will design the costumes and scenery for an upcoming play based on the fairy tale 'Thumbelina,' written by Hans Christian Andersen." The Globe and Mail (Canada) (AP) 10/12/04

Monday, October 11, 2004

Will Jelinek Get Her Due On UK Stages? Nobel prizewinner Elfriede Jelinek's work has always been confrontational and decidedly political. What it has not always been is commercially viable. But now that her name is everywhere, at least temporarily, English-language theaters may well decide to take another look at Jelinek's work, especially in this season of ultra-political productions. Financial Times (UK) 10/11/04

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Names Matter, Even On Broadway "The news that the Shubert Organization will rename two of its Broadway theaters after two of its executives - one living, one dead - is not likely to cause major confusion, or even consternation, among theatergoers... But the city's and the country's theater lovers can only be dismayed. For them - for us - the lexicon of Broadway, including the names of specific playhouses, conjures not just a street or a business but also a history, a cultural tradition and even an ideal. The word Broadway may now be used chiefly as a marketing tool for producers, but it still has historical resonance for many theatergoers." The New York Times 10/09/04

  • Previously: Broadway Theaters To Be Renamed For Bean-Counters The Shubert Organization has announced that it will be renaming two of its Broadway theaters after the company's own executives. "The Royale will become the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, and the Plymouth will be renamed the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater." Theaters have traditionally been named after those who impact theater on the artistic side of things, and the reaction to the announcement has been mainly in the realm of disbelief. "Several prominent producers and publicity agents, all of whom refused to be identified for fear of angering the powerful Shubert Organization, responded with disbelief, laughter or both." The New York Times 10/08/04
Friday, October 8, 2004

Who's Afraid of Edward Albee? The Box Office, Apparently. Edward Albee apparently isn't the box office draw he once was, according to the producers who have abruptly canceled the playwright's new off-Broadway production before it began. Albee is reportedly more than a little bit annoyed with the decision, reportedly asking, "Since when is anyone supposed to make money on an Edward Albee play?" New York Post 10/08/04

Broadway Theaters To Be Renamed For Bean-Counters The Shubert Organization has announced that it will be renaming two of its Broadway theaters after the company's own executives. "The Royale will become the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, and the Plymouth will be renamed the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater." Theaters have traditionally been named after those who impact theater on the artistic side of things, and the reaction to the announcement has been mainly in the realm of disbelief. "Several prominent producers and publicity agents, all of whom refused to be identified for fear of angering the powerful Shubert Organization, responded with disbelief, laughter or both." The New York Times 10/08/04

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Standing Room's Looking Like A Pretty Good Deal Movie theaters figured out years ago that patrons like to be able to watch a film without requiring major physical rehabilitation when they pry themselves out of their seats at the end of the evening. So why are so many newly refurbished Broadway theaters still sporting totally substandard seating with zero leg room? The answer is a combination of historic preservation restrictions and profit-driven decision making. The New York Times 10/08/04

Desperately Seeking Playwrights The UK's largest theater companies are openly soliciting the younger generation of playwrights to write the next generation of great British plays. "We are, it seems, witnessing a shift in the theatre culture, an explosion of energy not witnessed since the emergence of Joe Penhall, Mark Ravenhill, Sarah Kane, Conor McPherson et al through the Royal Court a decade ago. That energy has, however, long since dissipated," and the best young writers tend to be found working in the television world, making for a work experience which doesn't necessarily translate well to the stage. The Guardian (UK) 10/07/04

Off Off Broadway Missing From Revamped Times "The redesign of the Arts & Leisure section at the Sunday New York Times won no raves from Off Off Broadway. The small-print column known as the Guide used to provide a comprehensive listing of all legit shows, even those playing the tiniest venues. But as of Oct. 3, the Guide is gone." Yahoo! (Variety) 10/05/04

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

London Playhouse To Close "London's Bridewell Theatre is to close in January after failing to secure sufficient funding from the Arts Council. Over the past 11 years the theatre has won itself an international reputation for music theatre and become a powerhouse in the development of new British musical talent." The Guardian (UK) 10/07/04

Maybe They Could Get Bill O'Reilly To Play Rumsfeld? The new off-Broadway political docudrama, Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, featured an unexpected cameo this past week by an actor known the world over for his activist tendencies and opposition to the Bush Administration's policies at home and abroad. And no, it wasn't Alec Baldwin. The graying eminence presiding on stage as Lord Justice Steyn was, in fact, none other than Bishop Desmond Tutu, who, having wrapped up his engagement in New York, says that he is now awaiting his Tony nominations. The Guardian (UK) 10/07/04

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Remote Controlled Orchestra As Broadway pits have shrunk to make room for theater seating, musicians (especially those who play bulky instruments) have increasingly found themselves consigned to remote locations, following a conductor on a monitor and playing into a microphone. Not that they're complaining - not being in the pit means wearing whatever you want to work and getting to read or talk to friends between cues. Besides, as one Broadway music director points out, "Once you're hearing an orchestra solely through a sound system instead of hearing them acoustically, then it doesn't really matter where they are." The New York Times 10/05/04

Monday, October 4, 2004

Who Knew New York Was A Swing State? Actor and playwright Sam Shepard is the latest in the ever-extending line of theater types who would like a piece of President Bush, and he'd like it before November 2, if possible. That's awfully short notice in the New York theatre world, but Shepard's new play found a willing short-order team at Manhattan's New School University. Performances of The God of Hell, which Shepard describes as "a takeoff on Republican fascism, in a way," begin four days before the presidential election. The New York Times 10/04/04

London Revival London's new fall theatre season is going a long way towards making everyone forget about last year's dismal crop of plays, and the only major flop so far is the high-profile production shepharded by Hollywood's Kevin Spacey. David Hare's anti-Bush/Blair dramedy Stuff Happens is the runaway hit of the season, of course, but overall, London stages are featuring productions heavy on substance and long on buzz. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/04/04

The National Goes Outside Its Comfort Zone "It's easy to forget that it's only 18 months since Nicholas Hytner took over the [UK's] National Theatre. The territory he's opened up has been extensive and the dividends tremendous, in financial as well as artistic terms: record ticket sales; a steady stream of first-time attenders (encouraged by the cheap seats policy); audience numbers which rose by 150,000 to 750,000... Now Hytner is taking one step further. For the first time, the National has set out to develop a relationship with one of the young independent companies which has been revolutionising the idea of what the theatre can be." The Observer (UK) 10/03/04

The Death of the Impresario? With the death of Joseph Papp in 1991, there was much hand-wringing over where the next great impresario would come from. But given the current climate of arts support in the U.S., individuals who can be artistic leader, political mastermind, and money magnet all at the same time are seeming like an outdated pipe dream to many theatres. "For whomever's sake, art is expensive and (according to most artists) radically undersupported. This has only worsened in recent years. 'The bedrock of municipal and civic responsibility' on which Papp (sometimes just hopefully) based his enterprise has largely eroded... Given the difficult climate, search committees at some cultural institutions have begun to feel they may be better off with skilled managers instead of star impresarios." The New York Times 10/03/04

Friday, October 1, 2004

Applause Founder Departs Applause Theatre and Cinema Books has filled a unique niche in the publishing world for two decades, boasting a catalog of 400 titles and releasing an average of 20 new books per year. For its entire existence, Applause has been under the care of one man - Glenn Young - for whom the business was always more about love of theatre than making a profit. But it's tough staying afloat in today's publishing world, and Young was forced to sell out to the Hal Leonard Corporation a couple of years back. Now, the only boss Applause has ever had is exiting stage left. Backstage 09/30/04

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