SebastianI once heard life described as a series of circuits. I don’t recall the exact wording and won’t pretend to be an expert on circuits, so work with me here, I’m aiming for a general understanding. We are all individual lights on a circuit, shining brightly in the darkness, forming one giant light from a distance. When we work together in this life, to grow and love through communication and shared experience, our connections stay strong and our lights shine at their brightest. It’s as though each of us adds something to the power that comes in our direction and sends it off to the next person to benefit from. When we close ourselves off to others, we deny others the energy they need to shine their brightest and limit the energy we, ourselves, receive, thereby, dimming both our individual and collective lights. Yes?
As much as I enjoy my time alone to reflect and grow, I enjoy learning and sharing with others. Especially those I feel a sense of instant recognition with. Living in Philadelphia, I’ve had the privilege to meet many an artist, but occasionally, there’s a person you know of, share friends with, and see out in the world, but somehow have yet to manage to get to know. For me, this is Peter Andrew Danzig. Yes, I understand he is handsome and talented, but I wanted to know more, so I spent hours gazing a his shirtless pictures decided to sit down and speak with him… Inside The Green Room.

Peter
How did you first realize your interest in performance?

PAD: It’s funny, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t an essence of performance in my life. It’s always existed for me; play is important to me and fantastical worlds were so much a part of my childhood, maybe I just never grew up. I think I just discovered the term ‘actor’ meant I could play/perform and be paid to do what I love. Jest aside, music, voice and singing were actually my introduction to performance, and in high school In learned the power of how music and theater could move people, around 16 I knew it would be the leading driver for the rest of my life. I had a moment during a state choir competition when the choir finished the song and whole audience was stark quiet, and it was one of those magic moments when you know you had them. you connected and you both cathartically shared something beautiful; that was it. I never looked back after that, I still relish in those moments we are one with an audience.

When you initially decided to study Theatre on a collegiate level, how did you see your future in your mind’s eye?

PAD: It’s funny you should ask that question; I am one who has always lived fairly in the present. I always had a hard time seeing myself in any future capacity. I was simply always happy with the ability to do what I loved and to keep learning. Constant education is really important to me. But in all seriousness, if you had told me at 18 or 20 what I’d be doing with my life now, I’d be flabbergasted. How’d I get here? Who knows, passion? I’m incredibly driven to challenge myself constantly, so I think I always knew I’d be moving towards something, but the strategic planning part of that was always a rather large void for me. I tend to think that the Universe puts us exactly where we are meant to be with just enough to handle, and I think that is where I’m at. I always did have a love for the body on stage and the ways in which people and characters became one in the same and lived the same body. The dramaturgy of the body always fascinated me, and I was always drawn to it, so I think subconsciously I knew there would be some way I’d engage with that. Much of my future was influenced by what I learned in undergrad from Donna Snow, Dan Kern and David Ingram. They really inspired me and I felt like I understood from them by the time I left that a life in the theatre, and my future is what you make of it. It’s no one’s job to take care of us and we are owed nothing, so hard work and patience are some of the things they taught me are most important.

By the time you started graduate school, had that vision changed? If so, how?

PAD: Yes, when I went to graduate school I was accepted as an Acting Scholar at Villanova, and my original intent was to solely focus becoming a more grounded actor, but the experience left me open to so much more. It was there that I really started to think about and link kinesiology and acting and found that there are methods, so many, so creating characters on stage. I was also able to do some movement coaching and directing in grad school that really opened me up to what I feel is my life purpose, to help actors condition, create and find strength in their own bodies on stage; to allow their natural gifts and quirks, physically, to blend with the text to create something, someone. The vision became more of a humbling realization. I adore being an actor, there is nothing like it, but I also come alive when I watch the actors I’ve worked with or choreographed moving on stage. I get so nervous! It’s a sign to me that I’m meant to do this and I can’t begin to tell you the rush I get from moving bodies in space and creating pictures; it’s my favorite part of my job.

As a theatrical trainer, what kind of work most excites you? (movement, fight choreography, tumbling)

PAD: I’d say movement coaching, and the blend of exercise science and creating worlds on stage with large casts. I like the challenge of moving part, the machine that is the production. I love, love, love helping actors work from obscure body centers and seeing how that informs their choices. There is nothing like it when an actor discovers their instrument in a whole new light. I also love the blending of genres and types of work, for example, in It Girl with Simpatico, we blended the world of dance and fight choreography for the Apache dance and it was invigorating for me every time we played with the notions of what was dance and what was fight combat, because in the end, the body is delivering movement, always, and sometimes there is no reason to strictly classify movement in rigid boxes. It’s beautiful when it’s free from that, when we can find movement as a means of creating lines and shapes, and through intensity and motion we can either dance or fight, or so both simultaneously.

What are some of your greatest challenges?

PAD: I’d say finding my little place in the world; sometimes I’m my hardest critic and don’t know when to let myself off the hook. I think it’s important to know when to rest and allow yourself to just be in life, but I have a hard time doing that. I feel like the challenge for me is to just allow myself to let go, surrender control. Also, the balance of making our art and living our own life so that we can create life on stage. A great mentor of mine once told me that the only way to survive a life in the theatre is to know when to step away for a time and live your own. I think about that often.

Yes, surrender control… so difficult to do sometimes.
How was the process of starting your own company? Any warnings or advice you would give to someone thinking of doing the same thing?

PAD: I think you need to love what you do off-stage as much as loving what you do on-stage. I think that balance and happiness is important and comes across in the work. As for starting a company, it’s a beast, and I’m still learning each and every day but one bit of advice I would share is to know when to allow yourself to ask for help, to not always have the answers and be okay with taking risks. In the end, you’re taking a risk by trying to create something, so you may as well make it worth while and allow yourself to be human enough to know when you need to rely on the education and experiences of your peers to help you shape your vision.

Are there any major obstacles you had to overcome in your career as a theatre artist?

PAD: Yes, and still working on it. Not measuring your success against the success of others. It took me a long time to understand that lesson, and maybe it comes with age and experience, but I measure my success now by small milestones. I measure it against myself and in the end. I discovered how much to appreciate the small victories. You live one life right, so it’s all those small moments that lead us to larger revelations and more experiences. One obstacle I still fight is judging my own work; I often have a hard time of knowing when to trust my intuition.

I don’t know why we compare our success with that of others. All of us. Maybe because we’ve grown up in a competition based society with winners and losers, only honoring “the best”. I hope we can all overcome that one.
How do you fight procrastination and fear? What keeps you motivated?

PAD: Every day I read a book of inspirational quotes; just one page and then I try to find a moment in my day to make that quote happen to further along my life in a positive way. It may sound quirky but it works for me. I don’t procrastinate, I’m a really direct person, I hate the feeling of leaving things undone. Call me a work-a-holic.

What would you most like to accomplish in your career?

PAD: My dream is to get my PHD in kinesiology and prove a new method for character creation and movement as my thesis based on the dramaturgy of the actor’s actual body. So much of the dreams I have for myself are influenced by people like Anne Bogart and Martha Graham. I want to accomplish creativity impacting and contributing to the theatre a pathway for actors and a method. I’ve already begun researching it and decided it would be a life practice. After all, Grahman once said “The body says what words cannot.”  I want to find a new way for the body to speak!

Peter

What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in your life?

PAD: Such large questions! Wow, this one is hard. Loving myself, exactly as I am. I think that is one for many of us.

I agree, for so many years, I loved the idea of what i hoped to be as opposed to the growing person I was.
What is love?

PAD: I think that love is compassion and understanding. Whether it be familial or romantic, there is a sense of compassion, the ability to have that is what makes us human. For me, love is being able to put other’s needs before your own. Right now I’m discovering that love is something we know nothing about, because we can never know it till it hits us, in all it’s forms.

What do you most enjoy about this thing called life?

PAD: The unpredictability. After all, that is what stasis actually is. Stability is the rare occurrence in life, it’s the instability of life, the cracks and turns that I think are what makes it worth living.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

PAD: Funny, I still stand by what I said before, I can’t really find an answer to that. I’m just so happy and humbled by where I am now. In ten years though, I’d love to be able to come home and say “honey, I created movement today with my method and hey, it works”. That would be really something for me! Now to just  make that happen.

We hope you achieve all that and more!
Keep up with Mr. Danzig at PeterAndrewDanzig.com

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Sebastian in Philadelphia
Sebastian Cummings

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Off the wall. Queer. Out the box. Wacky. Wild. Raw. That’s The Dumpsta Players. Since the 90’s, this company has been producing monthly theatre experiences that feel a lot like a genderfucked sketch comedy show on acid. They’ve got their own style; Dumpsta. They reach in their bag and recycle costumes,actors, and characters every month to lampoon the shit out of pop culture and society, leaving you laughing, disturbed, and quite often sexually aroused (this isn’t just colorful writing, I mean it when i say sexually aroused). The shows feature dancing- big choreographed numbers, some of which feature the entire cast, live mic’d acting, and some of the best, funniest, wonkiest, lipsynching numbers. This group has a style; Dumpsta. This group has a feel: throwback. This group has an attitude: Queer. When I found out The Dumpsta Players had given their last scripted live performance, I was in shock and I felt sympathy for all the souls just moving to Philadelphia who never got a chance to witness the company and the Queer Royalty that rolled through over the years. I must be noted that Ricky Paul, John Donges, Chatty Catty, Freddy, Franco, Nathan, Kevin Jordan, Sara Sherr, and the gorgeous, Messapotamia Lafae are the wonderful performs I had the privilege to witness on stage, but there were many more amazing company members over the years. So, I got to thinking I needed to talk to Ricky Paul, one of the founders and scratch his brain for info. I knew there was one place he was sure to be… The Green Room

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When I came to Philadelphia as a young queer looking for hope of similar life forms, The Dumpsta Players were a lighthouse, helping to steer me in the right direction. When did you all first get started and what were you aiming to accomplish? How did the show end up being at B&B?

Ricky Paul
Ricky Paul
I began my relationship with Bob and Barbara’s in 1996 DJing retro 70s and 80s. Having worked as an actor and activist, the event attracted peoples from those communities. We were a motley crew that shared one common goal-accentuate the alternative. After a few months, performers started appearing in wild costumes ready to lip synch their fav retro hits. The Dumpsta Players organically grew out of this.

Tell us about the early days, what was it like when the show was in a state of obscurity? Was there more artistic freedom?
Firstly, South Street was still a middle class neighborhood with artists and students starting to creep in.

It was a bit rough and somewhat derelict. After the excesses of big 90s circuit parties, the dive bar was an oasis and people loved the buttoned-down style. We were a perfect match! Much of our random audiences in the early days were made up of working class folks just finishing their shifts mixed with poor, queer West Philly types and dandies out for a few laughs. This unlikely combination made for great fun. Artistically, improvisation was much more in the mix. Often, drunken strangers would wind up onstage playing along for all to see. Audiences ate it up.

How was the show initially received by audiences?

The Dumpsta Players were a relief for audiences tired of the same old Liza/Barbra style sing-song drag. Lisa Thompson and her drag show were already pleasing crowds with r n b hits and we occasionally would join forces which made for great audience crossover. Lisa used to say that, “The Dumpsta Players were the clamor and they were the glamour”.

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The Dumpsta Players reminds me of Monty Python or a queer SNL. In the early days, was there a natural leader that emerged among the performers or someone who unexpectedly found their wings and took off?
John had never done any acting at all and was a bit terrified of performing. He built up slowly, took acting classes and eventually turned in a fantastic performance as Petula Clark. Through it all, I continued to direct and lead the troupe relying on my years of professional experience, training and activist roots to guide me.

I’ve often been surprised by the storylines, what is the writing process like for the show?
The group would meet after a show to watch the video and that naturally led to discussions of future shows. I encouraged people to “babysit” their ideas and worked with them until they were full show scripts and ready for production. Everyone contributed, in some way, to the process.

Run us through the rehearsal process, how hectic was it?

It was quite hectic. In the early years, we produced 11 shows per year! The morning after a performance, I was already shoring up the next script and cast. It had to be written with all songs edited for rehearsal the following Wednesday. We would typically rehearse 4 times and then perform the show once, then, start the process all over again.

The entire company seems like one big family to me, what’s it been like working with so many of the same wonderful people each year?

It’s really a wonderful experience and I am quite grateful. I love working in an ensemble. Of course there are personalities that don’t always mix, and people do go their own way, but love is at the heart of it all.

In the nearly 20 years we’ve worked together, members have died, partnered with one another and had second generation Dumpsta babies!

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Were there any major struggles the company had to overcome?
Hmmm…..major struggles…..keeping costs down. Part of The Dumpsta Players modus operandi is recycling props, costumes, wigs and even lines. It’s an artistic choice as well as a pragmatic one. Still, I have been presented with more than one $89 receipt for reimbursement on a new wig. It’s challenging.

How did Prom Trash get started? How did it become a recurring thing?
“PromTrash” was the first show we ever performed. It is at the crux of all things Dumpsta.

As young high school queers, many of us had horrible, sometimes scarring, Prom experiences.

“PromTrash” was created as the first alternative Prom. It’s a chance to take back your lousy memory and remake it into something more fitting. The first Prom was such a sensational hit it seemed only fitting to crown a new queen each spring. We are presenting our 20th PromTrash competition on April 20th, 2016, “PromTrash All-Stars”!


Can you entertain us with one of your favorite stories from the glory days?
Oh, Lord, well, after the 2002 performance of “Prankstas’ Paradise”, we were loading out the costumes and props around 2AM, lining up bags along the curb. Well, one or two performers who were assisting with the load out may have imbibed one too many spirits, ahem. I realized a bag of wigs was left behind on the curb. Unfortunately, it was trash night, and the bag blended in with the rubbish. We walked over the next day to search around for the missing stuff and found Dumpsta wigs strewn all over the street. Classic Dumpsta 😉

What do you think The Dumpsta Players meant to the city? to the people?

The Dumpsta Players are at the cross section of chic and realness. We are absolutely fashion forward while maintaining a distinctly Philly vibe-stripped down, scrappy while presenting cutting edge, topical humor in a classless style. In a John Waters’ tradition, we are truly an original creation.

What”s next for The Dumpsta Players?
The Dumpsta Players will continue our mission in a studio setting. Through our parent non-profit org, DP Arts Consortium, (www.dpartsconsortium.org), we are partnering with PhillyCAM (www.phillycam.org)

to produce raucous sketch comedy and other parody performances. Just completed-“Razzle Dazzle” featuring old skool stars of the screen and radio, Charles Nelson Reilly and Peggy Lee, coming to PhillyCAM Comcast channel 66 in April!

Can you share one of your favorite ensemble videos with us?
Sure! There are sooo many, but I will go with one featuring the music of eternal icon, David Bowie with a hot rap by Queen Latifah. Enjoy and thanks for your interest!!!

Description of video clip:
In the exciting conclusion of the fashion show, Kim Katrashian, Miss Philippines, Lance Armstrong, Miss Kosovo and Honey Poo Poo all claw and scratch for the title of most attention-seeking celebrity! Find out the winner of this pathetic attempt at tabloid domination! From The Dumpsta Players, “Honey Poo Poo’s Chic-Fill-A Fashion Show”!

If I were you, I would get my ass to Prom Trash All Stars on April 20, 2016 and catch the last live show!!…AAAAnd follow The Dumpsta Players on Facebook to learn all about their future endeavors.

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Inside The Green Room
Sean Green

Sebastian in Philadelphia
Sebastian Cummings

Mary Vice

In Fall of 2014, if you were to walk down 13th street, between Locust and Walnut, on the right night of the week, you’d hear echos of cheers and screams coming from Tabu… No one was getting killed, no there wasn’t a giant orgy… although I know of a very popular, weekly circle jerk that takes place a block and a half away. No, you would be hearing the cheers coming from a burlesque competition, one where Mary Vice made quite a number of fans… Most notably the judges, as Ms. Vice won that competition. Mary has done a lot of performing since then; The Philadelphia Burlesque Festival (2015), Burlypicks (2015), and International Queer Burlesque Festival (2015), to name a few. She seems to have, what I refer to as, The Jennifer Lawrence Effect on middle class white people a lot of the public. People can’t get enough of her and that’s not a bad problem to have when you’re a stage performer earning tips. And I’m sure she’ll capitalize on that, although, she’s so punk, I’m sure that’s not her goal. She’s pretty, she’s talented, and she’s a good friend of mine, much like Jennifer Lawrence. I’ve seen Mary’s work ethic and determination and am very proud of the work she’s done, specifically on herself. The life of an artist is like diving into a lake and trying to find a hole at the dark lake-floor to let you out the other side… and Mary’s a pretty good swimmer. Since Mary Vice will be revisiting the East Coast some time this year, i decided I should grab a dirty gin martini and see if I can get Ms. Vice to share a bit about her journey thus far… and I knew there’s one place she was sure to be found… The Green Room.


Mary Vice, how’d you earn that name?

I named myself after Mary Weiss, the lead singer of the Shangri-las. A lot of my early numbers and looks were inspired by 60’s girl groups. So Mary Vice is like a mashup of something sweet and innocent with something dirty and dangerous.

Danger… Oooh, I like danger- a little too much, so my therapist says. So, you’re a burlesque performer? I think the public has a very general idea of what burlesque means, what does it mean to you? for you?
For me, burlesque is about sexual and artistic expression. When I’m working on a new act, what excites me is an idea, a character, a story, a new twist on a song. I get to share something original and creative with the audience, and hopefully give people a few boners in the process.

Remarkable. That is word for word, how I describe my sexual encounters… I’m not even kidding… Walk us through your first experience as a burlesque performer.
My first burlesque number was at a drag show in a church basement in West Philly with like, 5 people in the audience. It was very… DIY… I didn’t have a top that I could take off easily, so I just wore this piece of fabric taped to my chest (I think it fell off halfway through the number). I didn’t know how to make pasties, so I painted them on. I went on stage with wet nail polish. And I was pretty new to walking in heels, so I was about as graceful as a baby giraffe. It wasn’t the best thing ever, but I think it was kind of punk. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing but I did it anyway and fucking loved it.

Mary Vice - Kelly Burkhardt

So, the people want to know, do you make your own props, build your own costumes, make your own pasties?
I’m not much of a seamstress, but I’m great with a hot glue gun. I’ve made some pretty crazy shit out of cardboard. I make puppets, props and some costume pieces. Most clothing is scavenged from vintage shops, thrift stores, hand-me-downs, the sketchy outlet store behind Target in South Philly, a dumpster… anywhere.

I’ve seen you perform many a time and like most burlesque performers, you end up… pretty much naked. Do you still get nervous about that before performing? Do audience members ever cross the line?
I’m way too concerned with having a good performance to worry about being naked. It’s funny, whenever I watch videos of myself I suddenly turn in to this prude like “wow… I didn’t realize I get so naked…” But when I’m performing, even though I’m not wearing any clothes, I still feel in costume. I’m another person, this character, and I don’t feel personally exposed. I did do one number where I stripped as a male character and I felt way more nervous and self-conscious about my body. That was interesting.
As for worrying about audience members, I’ve been lucky enough to perform in spaces where the producers were very serious about safety. The MC will often remind the audience about consent, and there are sometimes even designated security people standing by.

Listen to the new album Bastian, by Sebastian

Where is “the line?
Definitely never touch a performer without permission, or better yet an invitation. Otherwise, just generally don’t be an asshole. Remember you’re talking to a human being, however sexy and naked they are. Don’t be a creep.

Luckily (and I think this has to do with not being a cis female performer) I haven’t had to deal with harassment/inappropriate touching from guys, but I have had to deal with other behavior that’s more annoying than threatening. It’s people feeling like they have to be all “yas queen” with me when that just isn’t how they talk. People have this idea of what it means to be a drag queen because they watched Drag Race a couple of times. And I don’t mean to say straight people shouldn’t enjoy drag. It’s just, don’t come to me feeling like you have to talk to me a certain way.

I think that is the experience of many a gay, burlesque or nah… Well feel your pain. What do you love about the Philly performance scene? What would you change?
I love that there are so. many. performers. And there’s always people trying new things, new shows popping up every other week, as well as the shows that have been going on for years and years. There’s a lot of history in Philly and a lot of promising new talent.
If I could change something, it would be to have fewer competitions. I get that it’s a fun formula to work with, but it just feels a little over done, and I don’t think it’s the best environment for new performers. On one hand, going through a 10 week show is like boot camp. It’s really challenging and pushes you to try new things. But then I think there is also the danger of lower standards for polished work. Almost no one can create a new act (including costume) AND actually rehearse it to a point where it’s fully realized in a week. I think I did well in Battle Royale because I had really solid ideas for numbers, but when I watch videos of those performances, I see myself really unprepared to actually perform. I think, especially for new performers, succeeding in that setting creates an inflated sense of where you are as a performer that isn’t totally realistic… maybe that sounds shady… But for me, when I won that show, I felt like I was the shit and deserved every booking in the world. But I really needed a lot more time, a lot more rehearsal, and a lot higher standards.

I’m saying though…. It’s like ANTM around here, we on cycle 356 of this shit and I’m like, damn, I didn’t do that many cycles of laundry this year, tho. So, we want the goods, what would the general public be most surprised to learn about the life of a burlesquer?
We’re broke! It’s all feathers and rhinestones onstage, but it’s EBT at Wawa on the way home…

When you’re on stage, do you ever feel objectified or do you feel empowered… or are there 50 shades of grey in between?
I totally feel empowered. It’s about sharing something I’ve created with the audience.

I’ve heard some say burlesque reinforces a misogynistic way of thinking, what’s your response to that?
I have heard some stories about male burlesque producers who are total creeps. But most of the burlesque world from is run by women. People might argue that it’s just the same old objectification under the guise of female empowerment, but I don’t think that’s right. Humans are pervs. We like sex. We like to be turned on. I think the world of burlesque is a really positive place to play with that.

Do you ever feel unfairly scrutinized because your sex and the gender of your stage persona?
I’m assigned male and identify as genderqueer or just fluid in every day life. Then Mary is this high femme fantasy persona. I started in Philly, where there’s a lot of crossover between drag and burlesque, but that really isn’t the case everywhere. I don’t know that I’m treated unfairly, but I do think I need to find the best way to market myself. I don’t want to make a joke of it, but I need to address it or people are just like oh… you’re a drag queen? I guess I’m still figuring out how to present myself and finding my place in the burlesque world. But the idea is, be so good that they don’t care whether or not I have boobs.

Mary Vice

You spent some time doing theatre in Philly, how does your life as an actor compare with that of a burlesquer?
I had a terrible time as an actor. Not that I never got any work or only did bad shows, but I was bad at auditioning, I felt really insecure, and I ended up taking whatever work was the easiest to find. I felt really unfulfilled. In drag and burlesque I feel really in charge. I’m not waiting for someone to give me a role. I make the role! Of course there’s still submitting to shows, there’s wanting to be in this festival or win that award, but I’m always in control because I create my own material.

As an artist, how do you fight procrastination and fear?
I have to keep moving. I’ve learned that I totally crash after a big show if I give myself room to stop and think for too long. Some reflection is good, but I have to keep myself moving one way or another. If I’m feeling down and know I’m not in the right mindset to rehearse or whatever, I’ll at least try to go take care of the “office work” – research festivals, fill out applications, contact producers, etc.


What do you feel is the greatest struggle in your life that you’ve overcome?

Getting past my own doubts and just doing the damn thing! My latest mantra is “Confidence will come. Work on determination.” I might not always feel like I’m that great, I might think I’m a really mediocre performer sometimes, but I’m learning to just keep working anyway. You can’t force yourself to feel confident, but you can decide to be determined and keep going. Confidence will come (and go). Keep moving either way.

What is love?
Love is the initial feeling of attraction to a person and the decision to continue being there for them when the feeling fades. Love is a feeling but it’s also something you have to do.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I left my 9-5 job last Fall and I really don’t see myself going back. I see myself doing whatever I have to do to avoid a humdrum working life. I’ll still be performing, and I think I’ll be doing some writing and directing as well.

What do you most enjoy about this thing we call life?
I like being on the move. I like new places, new people, new experiences. Food and sex are pretty cool too.

Well, keep on moving. You can follow Mary Vice on the gram and keep an eye on her. (@itsmaryvice)

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