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BmoreArt News: Center Stage Cutbacks, Mayor’s Portrait Competition, A Play About Fat Women

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This week’s news includes:  Center Stage cutting back on salaries, ‘I Will Eat You Alive’ theater production at The Voxel, David Smith supports Shiela Dixon’s Mayoral compaign, a new ‘YNot’ lot, Mayor’s office seeking visual artists for funded projects, remembering philanthropist and arts advocate Nancy Dormand, searching for graffiti artist RLong, The American Prison Writing Archive Moves to Baltimore, Baltimore Old Time Music Fest returns, Black History Month at Rehoboth Art League, Baltimore’s house music scene, and Port Discovery’s 25th anniversary plan–with reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, The Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image:  From left, Meghan Taylor, Vicky Graham and Betse Lyons are the stars of “I Will Eat You Alive.” (Kiirstn Pagan, The Baltimore Banner)

 

Steve Keeley was Nearly Killed By a Snow Plow on Live TV - Crossing Broad

 

Betse Lyons rehearses for “I Will Eat You Alive.” (Christopher Ashworth)

In new play ‘I Will Eat You Alive,’ fat women reclaim their right to take up space
by Courtney Proctor
Published January 24 in The Baltimore Banner

Katie Hileman is fat.

She is also a writer, director, actor, intimacy choreographer, teacher and the founding artistic director of Interrobang Productions. In her play “I Will Eat You Alive,” three characters — each simply named “Fat Woman” — commune around a dining table to rage against, reclaim and revel in the experience of being fat.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve learned is that we don’t talk about our bodies on our own terms very often,” Hileman said. “We grow up with a narrative that you’re fat and it’s your fault and you’re not fixing it so sorry your life just sucks. Why does it have to be like that?”

Hileman’s debut work, opening Jan. 25 at The Voxel, is her primal response to that narrative.

In 2019, Hileman was pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at Towson University and going through eating disorder treatment for bulimia, an experience that left her feeling radical. During a playwriting class, “I Will Eat You Alive” came to fruition as her thesis project, sparked by her treatment and the theatrical world that Hileman had been navigating for years.

“[In treatment], you are the fat girl in the place where no one wants to be fat,” Hileman said. “So once I got out of that I was feeling very energized. I had never had anyone tell me that you don’t have to be on a diet. I’ve been on a diet my whole life. I felt inspired to spread that message.”

Hileman soon put out a call on social media to talk to other fat people and spent that summer interviewing volunteers to inform her writing process. But ultimately, the play is her story, based on experiences from her own life.

After 12 drafts, Hileman’s playwriting professor Juanita Rockwell offered the key that unlocked the current iteration of “I Will Eat You Alive”: setting the play around the dining table. The suggestion brought all Hileman’s ideas together, and the first performance took place at Towson in 2020.

The play is structured as a dinner party, featuring a massive dining table set with empty serving dishes that offer nothing. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” one of the Fat Women insists repeatedly throughout the meal, with courses that include heaping helpings of diet culture and Ozempic.

The three actresses playing the Fat Women in the Voxel production of “I Will Eat You Alive” are Vicky Graham, Betse Lyons and Meghan Taylor — the latter two of whom were in the workshop production at Towson.

“We have created a culture where food is the enemy for so many people, and such a source of stress and contempt, that it’s hard for everyone to come to the table as equals,” Taylor said. “By setting the play at a dinner party, we are inviting the audience to create community with us in a way that feels universally familiar, but we’re highlighting the things that might make it different for someone who’s fat to feel safe at that same table.”

The shorthand of shared experience, as well as having worked together before, eases communication between director and cast. During the recent rehearsal of a particularly traumatic monologue about sexual assault, decisions were made quickly between Hileman and her actors, showcasing their collaborative process. Someone stops and asks, “Does this work?” Should we link the Ozempic shots to the shots being taken at the bar?” and consensus is easily achieved. Another pause as someone declares that something doesn’t feel right for them. Hileman asks a question and nods — “Yeah, I get that” — and a new choice is made.

“Every person in the room is considerate and genuinely wants to honor everyone’s boundaries, which makes the process feel like real theater instead of therapy,” Graham said.

“It’s really special to work in a room with three fat actors,” Hileman said. “I am used to being the biggest person in the room, particularly in a theater space, but with these three people we don’t have that separation, and we can all feel a little more free to talk about how the content of the play aligns with what we’re going through in real life.”

Hileman used to be a working actress herself for many years but has since given up her time on the stage, now focusing more on writing, teaching and directing.

“We don’t see fat bodies anywhere and when we do, they’re usually being ridiculed or laughed at,” Hileman said. “That was why I stopped acting, because I was sick of trying to compete for these roles written for a skinny person. I would love to act again but I would only do it if it was written for someone of my size but that doesn’t happen. That’s another reason I felt compelled to do this.”

Hileman’s rejection of traditional theatrical paradigms has helped her create inclusive work that is more meaningful to her. And Interrobang Theatre Company, which she formed 10 years ago with a handful of her fellow University of Maryland, Baltimore County, undergraduates, has also kept up to date with the changing theater world. Now known as Interrobang Productions, it has adapted its production archetype to fit a post-pandemic world by “working in a project-based production format, foregoing a traditional season model,” according to its website. The elimination of that model is a way for theaters to survive and be flexible in an era with a scarcity of funding and the continued threat of COVID canceling a production.

As an artist in residence at The Voxel, Interrobang is also able to have free use of the space and the equipment in the historic Baltimore theater that was restored and reopened in 2020. “We give artists time, equipment, and keys to the building, and after that we mostly just get out of the way,” said Artistic Director Chris Ashworth.

During the run of “I Will Eat You Alive,” which closes on Feb. 10, Interrobang will host a series of fat-positive events. A plus-size clothing swap will take place on Feb. 3 in partnership with the Skylight Boutique. Following the matinee performance on Feb. 4, @FatPositiveTherapist Kayla Stansberry will join Hileman and the cast for a post-show conversation. And on Feb. 10, Two Strikes Theatre Collective will curate an hour featuring Black and brown storytellers reading and performing poems, essays and more about body image.

“The pressure of being perfect or the best is a heavy weight on the industry as a whole,” Graham said.

Her co-star Lyons added that, “On top of being expected to take up as little space as possible, there are ‘better’ and ‘worse’ ways to be fat. Let’s not even get started on the only personalities fat women are allowed to have.”

But Hileman’s characters claim their rightful space and invite audiences to laugh with them at the ridiculousness of diet culture. Ultimately, the Fat Women take back their bodies and their power at the dinner table and in the theater.

“These are experiences and thoughts that are pretty universal to fat people, and I want the fat people who see this to feel like they can sort of project themselves onto these women and move through these experiences with them,” Hileman said.

“As we as a society are becoming more conscientious about representation in general, it would be nice to see fat people included in that as well.”

Courtney Proctor is a Baltimore-based freelancer who covers the theater industry in the region.

This story was republished with permission from The Baltimore Banner. Visit www.thebaltimorebanner.com for more.

 

 

Baltimore Sun’s new owner David Smith gave $100,000 to a PAC supporting Sheila Dixon
by Mark Reutter
Published January 18 in the Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: David D. Smith, chairman of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, who personally purchased the Baltimore Sun this week, funneled $100,000 to a political action committee set up to support the mayoral bid of Sheila Dixon.

His contribution to the Better Baltimore PAC was publicly revealed shortly before the 11:59 p.m. deadline for filing 2023 campaign finance reports.

The contribution – more than 15 times the $6,000 limit for contributions made directly to a candidate’s committee – came through the PAC set up last July by aides to Sophia Silbergeld, a top Democratic Party fundraiser.

PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and others to spend on independent “advocacy” – such as TV advertising, polling and direct mailers – for or against political candidates.

Papers filed at the State Board of Elections say the purpose of the Better Baltimore PAC is “to support” Sheila Dixon.

Yesterday The Brew wrote about an understanding between Dixon and Smith in which the Hunt Valley mogul and a small circle of friends would raise money for Dixon’s mayoral campaign in return for her support of Smith’s conservative agenda, which includes dismantling Baltimore’s Safe Streets program, pushing out Schools Chief Sonja Santelises and other priorities.

 

 

(Left) Four portraits of former Baltimore mayors; (Right) An example of an electrical box wrapped in colorful art created by artist Saba Hamidi. Photos courtesy of the Mayor's Office.

Scott administration launches competitions to identify artists to paint portraits of city mayors, wrap electrical boxes on Pratt Street with images of city ‘heroes and icons’
by Ed Gunts
Published January 22 in the Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Mayor Brandon Scott has launched a competition to identity five artists to paint portraits of Baltimore mayors for permanent display in City Hall and is offering a prize of $20,000 per portrait.

The Mayor’s Office and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore are holding a second competition to find artists to “wrap” electrical boxes along Pratt Street with vinyl artwork that honors the city’s “heroes and icons,” as part of Scott’s Downtown RISE Action Plan.

The city’s website, baltimorecity.gov, posted information about the two artist opportunities this month.

 

 

Baltimore Center Stage (Courtesy photo)

Baltimore Center Stage cuts pay for entire staff, eliminates positions
by John-John Williams, IV
Published January 19 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: The entire staff at Baltimore Center Stage will take a pay cut and 8% of the theater company’s positions will be eliminated, its managing director and artistic director told The Baltimore Banner.

For 87% of staffers, the pay cuts are up to 3% of their salary. The other 13% of staff, which account for upper administrative positions, had deeper cuts.

Current programming or the coming season will not be affected, they added.

“Anytime you are making decisions of this nature, it’s obviously very hard. It’s not something that I take lightly,” said artistic director Stevie Walker-Webb, who has been with the company since October 2023. “I understand the impact of it. It was very difficult.”

 

 

Vesla Mae Weaver at her desk at Johns Hopkins University, Photography by Mike Morgan

The American Prison Writing Archive Moves to Baltimore
by Amy Scattergood
Published January 2024 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Deep in the labyrinth of Johns Hopkins’ sprawling Homewood campus, Vesla Mae Weaver sits at a desk that is as stacked with mail as a village postmaster’s—piles of essays, all handwritten, from across the country. Because Weaver, 44, is not only Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Johns Hopkins but also, as of 2022, the co-director of the American Prison Writing Archive, the country’s largest digital collection of writings by incarcerated people, all accessible to the public.

There are now almost 5,000 first-person accounts—essays, diaries, poetry—each addressing the experience of incarceration from over 400 facilities across 48 states, with more coming in, essay by longhand essay, hundreds of pieces of mail every month.

The APWA was founded in 2012 at Hamilton College, a small private college in upstate New York, by Doran Larson. Larson, 66, a Hamilton literature and creative writing professor, was teaching a writing class at Attica Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison infamous for its deadly 1971 revolt. Larson, who still teaches at Hamilton and is the APWA’s co-director with Weaver, had put out a call for submissions for a book—Fourth City: Essays from the Prison in America, published in 2014—and was astonished at the amount of writing he received from incarcerated people across the country. The writings also gave him a rare window into America’s massive, dysfunctional, impossibly overloaded prison system. While Larson continued teaching and writing, the submissions also continued and the archive grew, as incarcerated writers sent essay after essay, like messages in paper bottles.

 

 

A public notice of demolition is posted on the KAGRO Building on North Avenue. Photo by Ed Gunts.

MCB Real Estate plans to demolish former bank to make way for new ‘Ynot Lot’ outdoor events venue in Station North Arts District
by Ed Gunts
Published January 23 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: MCB Real Estate, the owner of Harborplace, has added the Station North Arts District to the list of Baltimore communities where it’s investing in real estate.

The company has acquired a former bank at the southwest corner of North and Maryland avenues. Working with the Central Baltimore Partnership (CBP), MCB intends to demolish the building starting next month and redevelop the site. Its initial plans call for the land to become the area’s new Ynot Lot, replacing an outdoor events venue at the northwest corner of Charles Street and North Avenue.

The building that MCB acquired, at 101 W. North Ave., opened in 1961 as a branch of Maryland National Bank. From 1995 to 2015, it housed the Korean-American Grocers & Licensed Beverage Association of Maryland and was known as the KAGRO Building.

 

 

Nancy Lee Dorman, Baltimore philanthropist and museum trustee, dies
by Jacques Kelley
Published January 18, 2024 in The Baltimore Sun

Excerpt: Nancy Lee Dorman, a Baltimore Museum of Art trustee and philanthropist who also funded Enoch Pratt Free Library neighborhood branches, died of cancer Friday at Mercy Medical Center. The Bolton Hill resident was 76.

“There was no one in the world like Nancy Dorman,” BMA Director Asma Naeem and Chief Curator Kevin Tervala said in a joint statement. “She believed in this city and the power of art and education. Humanity, a willingness to roll up her sleeves, and an unshakeable commitment to civic betterment, Nancy embodied these ideals like no other.”

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Chevy Chase, she was the daughter of Wayne Elliott Dorman, an insurance executive and World War II veteran, and Nancy Carl Robinson, a community charity volunteer.

“Our mother and father were politically aware and sensitive to equity and justice issues,” said her brother, Ray Dorman.

 

 

 

Various examples of the ubiquitous “RLong” graffiti tag found across Baltimore. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

Will the real ‘RLong’ please stand up?
by Brenna Smith and Tramon Lucas
Published January 23 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: From East to West Baltimore, you’ll see it sprawled across buildings, street signs, and even car windows. Sometimes it’s as small as a signature, other times it spans several feet.

RLong.

The graffiti tag itself has taken on a life of its own, capturing the eyes and curiosity of those online and off.

One day while traveling across the city, Baltimore rap artist Turk P. Diddy said he clocked at least 20 RLongs on his route, leading him to pose the question on everyone’s lips: “Who the fuck is ‘RLong’?” He posted the query to Instagram reels and it went viral, joining an already growing list of posts about the elusive tagger.

 

 

Baltimore Old Time Music Festival – Year 5 at BMI!
Press Release :: January 8

Tickets are on sale now for the 5th Annual Baltimore Old Time Music Festival on April 19-20, 2024 – a joyous, interactive, and inspiring celebration of the music rooted in the fiddle and banjo traditions of the region.

The sounds of the fiddle and banjo, along with ballad singing, country song, flatfoot dance, and social square dancing are sewn into the fabric of Baltimore and the surrounding communities. This music, often called Old Time, is experiencing a renaissance in Baltimore, with a community of younger players creating new takes on these old styles. The Baltimore Old Time Music Festival is at the helm of this resurgence and is a gathering for the best and the brightest performers from around the country. Now in its 5th year, the festival is moving to a new, more spacious home to accommodate the continued, expanding enthusiasm for these sounds.

The festival is hosted by the father-son musical duo of Ken & Brad Kolodner. “We’re proud of how this festival has evolved over the years and this new chapter is a thrilling development for the community,” says Brad Kolodner. “It’s shaping up to be a tremendous celebration of a wonderfully vibrant style of music. With jamming, concerts, dancing, workshops, kids programs, and more, it’s an interactive experience fun for all. Imagine a sea of fiddles, banjos, and guitars, swelling together in a chorus of joyous tunes. It’s a sight to behold.”

After four sold-out festivals, the event will move to its new home at the beautiful Baltimore Museum of Industry (BMI) April 19-20, 2024 for a musical celebration fun for all ages! Concerts, hands-on workshops, square dancing, jamming, kids programming, maker’s market, local eats, and more on the gorgeous waterfront campus of the Baltimore Museum of Industry with stunning views of the Baltimore skyline. […]

 

 

Celebrate Black History Month with Exhibitions from Black Delaware-based Artists
Press Release :: January 23

This Black History Month, the Rehoboth Art League showcases inspiring and unique work from past and present Black Delaware-based artists. The league’s exhibition spaces will be packed with beautiful paintings you won’t want to miss. On display through March 5 will be “Tidal Wave: In Partnership with Good Aesthetic Gallery” and “To the Water’s Edge and Back,” featuring paintings from the late Edward Loper, Jr.

On the evening of February 9th from 5-7 pm, the art league will be hosting an opening reception for “Tidal Wave,” inviting anyone interested to visit the Corkran, Tubbs, and Ventures galleries to see the displayed work. At this reception, the art league will welcome local mixologist, Sean Norris, who will be pouring two special cocktails. 

From February 9 to March 10, the Corkran Gallery will be displaying “Tidal Wave,” an exhibition curated by Shameka Jones, Founder and Director of Good Aesthetic Gallery. This group show is a sweet thank you and an ode to the golden memory of Delaware’s Black Beaches during the 19th and 20th centuries. In tandem with “Edward Loper Jr.: To Water’s Edge and Back,” this showcase signifies a manifestation of an incessant dream of those who came before us – the freedom to take up space. While honoring the past, “Tidal Wave” grounds us in the present and propels us into the future. Through the lens of black artists, the audience will explore the relationship between aesthetics and the senses. The exhibit features work from Jefiah Bordley, Tanya Bracey, Sheila Exum, Charlese Phillips, Dakeim Tolson, and Shameka Jones.

Continuing through March 10 is “Edward Loper Jr.: To Water’s Edge and Back” in the Tubbs Gallery. This show features work that represents the most complete display of Loper, Jr.’s paintings and captures the artist’s journeys along the East Coast. Mr. Loper’s exhibiting artworks harness the subdued nature of large bodies of water and their surrounding areas. Soft blues and quiet reds accompanied by strong angular shapes mirror the meditative force near any shore. He also draws our attention to the stark contrast of living further inland. Paintings of bold outlines, complex structures, and even characters appear. It is a vivid reminder that life is a journey of ebbs and flows between self and the greater collective.

On Saturday, February 10 at 10 am, Jamie Loper, son of Edward Loper, Jr., will give a gallery talk on his father’s career and artistic vision. Jamie, who manages his father’s collection of artwork, will be speaking about his father’s legacy as an artist and the curation of this show’s maritime paintings. Many of the paintings included have personal stories, which will be shared, as well as Mr. Loper’s development as an artist–from his time teaching at Wilmington High School and West End Neighborhood House to his studies at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Gallery Talks are free and are open to the public.

The Ventures Gallery will become an extension of the Members’ Sales Gallery, showcasing an eclectic collection of fine art and crafts by RAL Member Artists. Browse everything from watercolor paintings to wearable fiber art, ceramics, and fine art photography. Each purchase supports a practicing artist, as well as the mission of the Rehoboth Art League.

We invite the public to an artist reception for these two shows on Friday, February 9, from 5-7 pm. The exhibitions are free and open to everyone during the regular gallery hours of Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday, noon to 4 pm.

The Rehoboth Art League is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com.

The Rehoboth Art League is a membership-based non-profit arts organization dedicated to teaching, preserving and inspiring the arts in the region. For additional information about this exhibit, the Art League, its classes, memberships, events and exhibitions, please visit the website at RehobothArtLeague.org or call 302.227.8408. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram @RehobothArtLeague.

 

 

Local DJs Francisco Vidales, left, and Matt Warner perform for a crowd. (Felicia Budny)

Offstage Sessions is helping reignite young people’s passion for house music in Baltimore
by Taji Burris
Published January 19 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Philadelphia’s Made in America Festival and Wolfgang Gartner are indirectly responsible for Baltimore’s house music scene gaining traction with the younger generation.

Despite Charm City being the home of Baltimore club music, a genre that was influenced by U.K. breakbeat and house music, two local 25-year-old DJs didn’t see it as a hopping place for people in their age range to enjoy the popular house music culture.

Their solution? Create a scene of their own.

Matt Warner and Francisco Vidales partnered to form Offstage Sessions, a recurring concert series, for people like them — clamoring for new artists to put on electronic dance music shows in Baltimore.

 

 

A rendering depicts a low sensory area planned as part of the Port Discovery Children's Museum's expansion and renovation. Rendering courtesy of Port Discovery Children's Museum.

Port Discovery Children’s Museum Celebrates 25th Anniversary with
Ambitious $17.5M Exhibition Master Plan and a Year of Engaging Events
Press Release :: January 18

Today, Port Discovery Children’s Museum announced a transformative five-year, $17.5 million exhibition master plan at a kickoff event for its 25th anniversary celebration at the museum. This announcement was one of several new initiatives launched as part of Port Discovery’s next chapter of redefining the landscape of interactive learning and play.

The extensive renovation plan expands the Museum’s range, with each new exhibit carefully designed to cater to various ages, abilities, and developmental stages to ensure inclusive activities for learning. Visitors can anticipate an imaginative local food market and teaching kitchen, designed to fuse culinary education with interactive play, and a space-themed STEM exhibit featuring a rover-building station set to spark curiosity in science and technology. The plan’s centerpiece is a multi-story “sky garden” climber in the Museum’s Atrium that will merge physical activity with environmental learning.

“The master plan is not just an expansion; it’s a reimagining of how we engage young minds,” said Port Discovery Board Chairman and former State Senator and Baltimore County Executive, Dennis Rasmussen. “It’s about creating spaces that foster curiosity, collaboration, and real-world learning.”

Building upon the success of the Museum’s Fathers at Play and Parents at Play initiatives, Port Discovery also introduced the launch of the At Play Early Learning Institute. The Institute will be a resource to strengthen the state’s early childhood workforce and provide educators and care providers throughout the state with the opportunity to strengthen their practice and play engagement in an immersive museum setting.

The institute will offer training, workshops, and service hours for the early education workforce and serve as an internship and practicum site for early childhood degree and certificate students. It will also provide professional workshops and trainings focused on the science of play within educational practice, continue ongoing research partnerships with local universities, and host seminars and lecture series focusing on the science of play.

Initial development activities of the At Play Early Learning Institute will include several focus groups that bring together early childhood thought leaders and institutions of higher education that prepare early childhood educators, practitioners, and parents. Input from these gatherings will be synthesized to conceptualize the internship, practicum, and training components that will make up the At Play Early Learning Institute’s offerings.

“The At Play Early Learning Institute positions Port Discovery as a vital community resource, strengthening our partnerships with higher learning institutions while supporting daycare providers and those who provide homeschool experiences offering an enriching environment that complements their efforts in early childhood development,” added Rasmussen.

Port Discovery closed the event by welcoming its inaugural members of its Discovery Crew. This dynamic group of young ambassadors, ages 5 to 11, will offer their insights on museum exhibits and participate in special events and outreach campaigns over the year. Their involvement exemplifies the museum’s commitment to empowering the voices of children and reinforcing the significance of play in learning and development.

“Our mission is to provide unique opportunities and high-quality experiences that make play accessible, educational, and fun for all, and what better way to achieve this than by listening to the kids themselves!” said Carter Arnot Polakoff, Port Discovery’s President and CEO. “We are dedicated to uplifting both young children and the adults in their lives, significantly contributing to family and community wellbeing. By valuing the voices of children in our decision-making, we ensure our museum remains a dynamic, inclusive, and engaging space for all families.”

25th anniversary celebrations will unfold throughout 2024 with thematic educational weekends, outreach campaigns, and special events. Highlights include the Museum’s annual fundraising gala, Play it Forward on April 12, and a free Community Birthday Bash on June 2.

“Children’s museums play a unique role in character development through intentional and meaningful programming and exhibits and safe, supportive environments,” said Arthur Affleck, Executive Director of the Association of Children’s Museums, in a special message he recorded congratulating Port Discovery on its anniversary. “Port Discovery has been that safe constant for the Baltimore City community, schools, parents, and of course the children for 25 years.”

For more details on Port Discovery’s 25th anniversary, please visit www.portdiscovery.org/25anniversary/.

See also:

Port Discovery unveils $17.5M expansion plan, including new exhibits and play learning institute for early childhood professionals
by Marcus Deiterle
Published January 18 in Baltimore Fishbowl

 

 

header image: From left, Meghan Taylor, Vicky Graham and Betse Lyons are the stars of “I Will Eat You Alive.” (Kiirstn Pagan, The Baltimore Banner)

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