Stepping into Giuliana’s Shoes: My Night Interviewing Tomorrow’s Broadway Stars

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Being a broadcast journalism major has opened several doors for me over the past few years. What started as shadowing reporters in the field during a local news internship quickly evolved into flagging down Laura Osnes and Patina Miller on … Continue reading

From Screen to Stage, and That’s About It

Over two-dozen Broadway shows premiere during the 2013-2014 season. Among them are The Bridges of Madison County, Rocky, Aladdin and Big Fish. Sound familiar? Out of nearly twenty-five new musicals, over a fourth have been seen before, in the movie theatre. Translating a Hollywood script onto the stage is risky. Some musicals prove extremely successful; The Lion King stands as the fourth longest-running Broadway musical. Others, however, close in as little as three weeks. As more Broadway marquees display familiar, well-known titles, theatregoers wonder if the Great White Way will stay a haven for creative, new work, or simply copy and paste entertaining, yet recycled, favorites.

Though imitative, familiar stories sell tickets. An inexperienced theatregoer is more likely to buy tickets to The Lion King than to If/Then. The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, and Cinderella get a reluctant foot in the door. The shows are great, don’t get me wrong. Cinderella‘s score is classic, The Lion King is brought to life in an incredible manner, and Mamma Mia! is a fun, laugh out loud musical that has audiences singing along and on their feet night after night. But the best part about these musicals? That patron, who would otherwise not even attend a Broadway show, is now a theatre fan. Consequently, he or she may reach out of his or her comfort zone and see If/Then, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, or Lady Day next time. Headlining superstars such as Idina Menzel, Neil Patrick Harris, and Audra McDonald don’t hurt, either. Returning patrons keep the often- struggling Broadway economy thriving, and make it possible for producers to stage original shows.

Musicals inspired by books, plays, and films are not uncommon. Seeing a wave of films on the stage does not necessarily mean the beginning of the end for vibrant Broadway theatre. Kiss Me Kate, Hands on a Hardbody, and 42nd Street are just some of hundreds of shows with unoriginal beginnings. A Broadway production inspired by a little-known documentary, however, vastly differs from Legally Blonde: The Musical, nearly a carbon copy of the Hollywood script, with new songs inserted to appeal to the Broadway stage. While it gets patrons in seats, it also stomps on unprecedented future hits. A big-budget show based on the Hollywood smash, Rocky, is much more likely to receive backers than a brand new, completely innovative show. Unfortunately, the novelty also suffers when a movie repackages itself and presents itself as new, for nearly $85 a ticket.

Whether audiences better receive musical movies remains a toss up. Newsies- one of my favorite musicals- and Once emerged as box office successes, and continue to sell out. Sometimes, however, stories become lost in translation. Catch Me if You Can and Ghost: The Musical closed after five months. The highly anticipated Big Fish closed in under four weeks. Despite these responses, however, the bright lights of Broadway have always encouraged expression. Whether from a familiar movie plot, or a never-before-seen production, it is important to keep live theatre alive and audiences in seats- no matter the origin of the script.

How ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Met its Demise

I’ve seen every episode of Friends. Twice. Three times. I can quote each episode backwards and forwards, name an episode from overhearing it in the next room, and still laugh-out-loud at jokes I’ve heard way too many times…

…but I never watched one single episode live during its 10-year-run.

Thanks to Nick at Nite and TBS, odds are that when I turn on my television, Friends is playing. If an episode ended with a gasp-worthy cliffhanger, it didn’t matter- the next episode would play after the commercial break. I watched the episodes out of order, several times, and never had to wait for a storyline to tie up or to find out the fate of a character.

For better or for worse, this has not been the case with the 9 season long How I Met Your Mother.

How I Met Your Mother changed the rules of the average sitcom. First off, it’s a love story told in reverse. Technically, we never had to wonder if Ted was going to end up OK. We knew- from literally the first second of the pilot- that Ted would be fine. We saw his kids, we heard his voice, and we heard him begin to tell the story of how he found his true love.

Did we still worry? Yes. Did we still think, in the back of our minds that he would end up with Robin? Yes. Did we curse when he broke up or got back together with certain characters, even though we knew all of those women were simply red herrings? Definitely.

Which is why this show is amazing. Despite knowing the ending, we still got so wrapped up in the present, that we totally forgot we already knew (some of) the future.

HIMYM changed the rules in other ways, too. Despite its alleged “racy” references (which I found not only hilarious but genius), the show remained a “family” comedy. Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily and Barney aren’t just characters on a run-of-the-mill weekly sitcom; they’re real people. They make mistakes, they openly discuss smoking “sandwiches,” they sing catchy songs about hooking up, and they engage in silly, meaningless fights. They drunk call their exes, lose their jobs, and face the consequences. Find me one avid HIMYM fan that doesn’t want a spot at the booth in MacClaren’s.

And despite its billing as a “comedy,” many episodes were anything but. Parents were lost; significant others were cheated on; a potential terminal illness was alluded to (more on that later). It took the element of surprise and milked it. And when the element of surprise reeled its ugly head, I had to wait. Wait to see what would happen, wait to laugh or cry, and test my patience each and every (well, some more than others) week. Even though we may have shed a tear or two or even yelled at our television sets, we remembered those episodes, didn’t we?

All good things must come to an end, and in HIMYM’s case, it comes about a season too late. Dragging an entire season out over the course of one week, well, failed. What I hoped would be several flashbacks and even more flash forwards turned out to be nothing but somewhat stupid, time-filling plot lines with the occasional revelation or clue that would keep me hooked.

So tonight, the game-changing comedy comes to an end. Whether it’s an epic, smart end like its previous seasons, or a cop-out, unfunny mess like its current season has been the question of the hour.

*Spoiler Alert*

And, Craig Thomas and Carter Bays finally gave us the flash-forwards we’ve been not so patiently waiting for all season long. The first half presented the biggest potential red herring. A few episodes back, it was subtly hinted at that the Mother suffered from a tragic, terminal illness that has Ted in tears. It was placed there, no warning or explanation, for fans to run wild. Tonight, halfway through the episode, we learned Barney and Robin had divorced. The kicker? We spent an entire season dragging out a wedding weekend that would ultimately end in failure. Hmmm. Now, with a Mother potentially dying in the near future, leaving Ted single, and Robin single and regretfully wishing she’d end up with Ted- the theory we’ve been promised would never happen from episode one may very well end the series.

I mean, HIMYM has been subject to many fan theories. This one, however, was nipped in the bud in the pilot. Robin is Aunt Robin. She’s not mom, she’s not stepmom, she’s Aunt Robin.

And Ted, who has talked about true love and marriage the entire series, makes it to 2019, with two kids, still not married. This guy has been the advocate of marriage for 9 seasons. Robin and Barney, two perpetually single people, tied the not (albeit unsuccessfully, but still). Now we learn that the hopeless romantic of the group can’t find time for the one thing he’s been waiting for his entire life? Okay, that’s believable.

One thing that is believable? Barney Stinson, after sleeping with who knows how many women, got one pregnant. Good job, Craig and Carter, one thing you made realistic.

49 minutes in and we haven’t found out much. Well, that’s not necessarily true. Barney has a child, Marshall got his judgeship, and Ted is about to get married after 7 years (not getting over that one). Robin is completely detached from the group and a very young Penny doesn’t even know her (so how we get from that to Aunt Robin has to be a pretty interesting- and fast at this point- story). Am I completely impressed yet? No. Am I hoping this episode presses fast forward and gets to the good parts stat? Hell yes.

Had the episode ended at 55 minutes, I would have been okay, I could have been happy. Ted and the Mother (Tracy, we finally learned) shared an amazing moment in the rain, under the iconic yellow umbrella. They’re funny, charming, cute together, and we see Ted finally getting the ending we’ve wanted him to have since 2005. But then, Ted made the reference to the Mother getting sick, and I began to feel sick as well. As the final scene played out, and Ted broke the fourth wall to conclude his story, a small part of me wanted Tracy to appear behind him and give us all a reassuring glimpse into the future.

The alternative? The Mother is dead. The theory at the back of my mind that I hoped and prayed was just a red herring wasn’t, and the previous red herring of Aunt Robin wasn’t either. The worst part is that the creators filmed the children’s reaction during season two. They’ve known this ending for 7 years (as long as it took for Ted to get married, mind you), and I’m so disappointed. Because Craig Thomas and Carter Bays don’t know their fans as well as they think we do. The love story we’ve been rooting for nine years is no more, and the love story we put to rest in the pilot is just beginning. Smart and funny? Not so much. A complete cop-out? Absolutely.

At least we have old season reruns. And at least I didn’t have to sit through Two Broke Girls afterwards.

 

VIDEO: Sunday Morning Lineup

Today marks my mom’s 52nd birthday (Happy birthday, Mom!), and, knowing me, I couldn’t let it pass without a birthday video. After both my dad’s and sister’s videos back in November, I wanted to do something different and unique, and found it with the Susan Birthday Network. Sit back, relax, and turn on the television for some favorite TV hits featuring my mother (and, subsequently, the rest of my family).

-Wendi

VIDEO: Jimmy Kimmel: The Alleged Cure for Senioritus

It’s mid-February of my senior year and the inevitable has happened: senioritis has kicked in, and in full force. Instead of catching up on assigned readings, I’m applying for jobs. When there’s a project I really need to get started on, there’s also a movie on television that my friends and I just have to watch. And when I have a test Thursday, I’m sitting here updating my blog. But, if procrastinating and finding anything and everything to do but my homework keeps me from dwelling on the scary and unknown future (which my mother kindly reminded me is about 90 days away- not even touching that one), I’ll take it.

The one place my enthusiasm has skyrocketed has been at my internship. As a marketing intern for the Long Center for the Performing Arts, I’m once again thrust into the world of both journalism and theatre, and I absolutely love it. Writing press releases and updating social media pales to what I also get to do; let my creativity and imagination run wild. I’m taking my video editing skills and my love of performing arts to market shows and sell events- a complete 180 of my Broadway.com internship (day-to-day job wise, definitely love both). While the broadcast journalism major in me knows how to report on a story, gather interviews, and produce news worthy content, I’m now taking the knowledge of a reporter to experience the other side…public relations.

Oh, and I also get to meet celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel. Did I forget to mention that?

The late night comedian will broadcast his show from Austin’s very own Long Center during South by Southwest. To promote his show, he visited the Long Center to do a press junket- and I was part of the action. Check out the promotional video I created- and be on the look out for more videos as I milk every second of my awesome (and last!) internship.

-Wendi

VIDEO: London Baby!

I couldn’t let my family travel to Europe without documenting it to have forever and ever, right? Enjoy my newest video blog(s)!

-Wendi

It Starts at Midnight (or, you know, 9:00)

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Do not read if you have not a) read The Hunger Games books and/or b) seen the Catching Fire movie.

As far as Twilight (no shame) and The Hunger Games are concerned (and soon Divergent, as well), I am the screenwriter’s worst enemy. I’m the huge fangirl that rereads the book a couple weeks before the movie, eagerly awaiting its premiere at midnight (side note: midnight premieres are not really a thing anymore. There were 10:00, 9:00, and even 8:00 showings, all packed). While this is usually just to refresh my memory and get myself even more excited, I end up putting my foot in my mouth as I then notice every single omission, combination, and addition the movie makes that differs from its paperback counterpart. This is a lovely perception to have when the movie does things right (and yes, I realize cuts and changes must be made otherwise there’d be six hour movies…not that I’d necessarily mind that), but when something I am arbitrarily attached to gets cut or brushed over, I obviously have every right to be personally offended, yes? And so begins the epic, exhausting, amazing adventure that was Catching Fire.

What I have been most excited for since before the first movie was the on-screen appearance of Finnick Odair. I realize there is only Team Peeta and Team Gale (not that there’s competition…Team Peeta), but secretly I’m on Team Finnick. Remember that really obnoxious squeal girls would make in movie theaters when Edward or Jacob appeared onscreen? Yeah, that was me when Finnick Odair appeared for the first time, and Sam Claflin was perfect. His boyish charm and sarcastic wit thankfully savored the victor I know and love from the pages onto the screen, fortunately and unfortunately making movie #3 (and #4) equally exciting and devastating to watch. In the meantime, I have absolutely no problem seeing Catching Fire again, 60% for him.

As excited as I was for Finnick Odair, nothing could have prepared me for the awe that was Jena Malone. Yes, I was eager to see Johanna Mason in the flesh, but I didn’t expect to see exactly Johanna Mason in the flesh. Never have I seen a movie where a character from the book is completely, from head to toe, every tidbit of his or her personality, entirely the same as I imagined whilst reading. Are there Oscars for Best Adaption of a Character from Page to Screen? Because Jena Malone deserves like ten of those. Seriously, I cannot express just how perfect she was. Overall the two very important newcomers did anything but disappoint…but of course I can’t forget about our favorite (well, my favorite…and yes I stole that from a line in the movie) victors.

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were once again fabulous. Jennifer was her extremely talented little self, while Josh made me fall even more in love with Peeta (and, well, Josh) than I already was. Seriously, looking at those two, how anybody can be Team Gale is beyond me. Though I’m no fan of Gale, it was nice to see more of his character in this film (not to mention see him deliver the infamous closing lines of the movie/book), and I’ll never complain about staring at Liam Hemsworth.

The inevitable changes were, thankfully, kept to a minimum, and yes, the things I did notice are probably very nit-picky, but as a diehard and not at all embarrassing fan, I feel the need to ask the important questions. For example, where were the rolls? In the book, Finnick, Johanna, Katniss and Peets (and their allies) receive gifts of twenty-four rolls three time in the arena, which is later explained as a sort of signal from the outside as to when the break-in would occur. Is it essential to the plot? No. Did I notice they weren’t there and think they would be a cool addition? Yes. Secondly (and most importantly), in the beginning of the movie, why on earth is Katniss just making out with Gale every chance she gets? In the books, they kiss twice. Once he kisses her, and later, when he is on the table recovering from the whipping. She kisses him. Twice. They kisses like four times in this movie, one closely resembling a makeout which I can assure you never appeared in the books. Do I sound biased enough yet? Unfortunately I can see the reason behind doing this. I’m sure the very smart creators want to at least pretend to depict some sort of love triangle that is hinted at in the books but never fully established. I wonder why they would want this, seeing as how Twilight was a huge box office failure and all…

Plutarch Heavensbee, I think, was portrayed slightly wrong. I mean, this man turns out to be one of the leaders of the rebellion, working undercover as Head Gamemaker in the Capitol to gain access to tools and information and who knows what else in order to strike against them. And at this point in the series (I’m talking page 1 of Catching Fire, Katniss is already the mockingjay. The districts have already started revolting, and she is their heroine (whether or not she knows this or not, Plutarch does). The scene during the victory tour in which he attempts to give her clues about the arena with his watch that projects a mockingjay needed to be there, if only to slightly foreshadow his role later on. His infamous phrase “it starts at midnight,” was missing from this scene, as well. In the book, Heavensbee later tells Katniss he was trying to tip her off as a mentor, never imagining at that time she would be inside as a tribute. The idea that putting her back in the arena is his idea was ridiculous. He leads the plan to get her out of the arena, knowing her influence on the districts and putting her survival at the top of his list. Why on earth would he suggest she be put back into the arena, where her death was imminent? Yes, there was an arrangement with other tributes to keep her alive, but this wasn’t guaranteed. His character needed to stick to the pages of the book, as I was not a fan of the character change and do not think it helped the plot, especially for people who never read the books.

Finally, the appearance of the two hitchhikers on their way to an alleged District 13 was a scene I think as wrongfully taken out. The scene is very important in that it hints at a possible rebellion and shows Katniss that her mockingjay has become a national symbol, giving the later scene of her in her transformative wedding dress bigger meaning for non book readers and for Katniss herself. This scene is also important in that it first hints that District 13 may still exist, something we don’t hear a word about until the last 3 minutes of the film.

Of course the good in this film outweighs my disappointment. The arena could not have been more perfect, and every terror found in each piece of the clock was more realistic, terrifying, and cringe-worthy than the books ever made them seem. And obviously tears flowed continuously (which is funny considering that before the movie I promised my friend I wouldn’t cry, claiming “nothing is sad about Catching Fire…rookie mistake). When Katniss talked about Rue, I cried. When Effie said goodbye to Katniss and Peeta for presumably the last time, I cried. When Cinna was killed (though I knew this was coming), I cried. When Finnick heard Annie’s voice in the jabberjay portion of the clock, I cried. When Katniss and Peeta were separated and you hear the unkept promise of “I’ll see you at midnight”, I cried. Honestly, you can’t take me anywhere.

I won’t lie, The Hunger Games movie was closer to the book than Catching Fire was. Did I love the sequel any less? No way. Seeing a book you love come to life on screen is one of the most interesting things (except The Host- that movie clearly failed). Meeting characters onscreen you only read about before, seeing things like the intricate arenas come to life, hearing dialogue you only imagined previously, and watching a story you know and love right in front of you, combined with the adrenaline of a midnight premiere and the inevitable shrieking of the fangirls (or you know, me), makes those experiences incredible. Having a truly magical, true (for the most part) to the book, special effects ridden, talent-overflowed film is just the cherry on top of the cake. And I’m not lying when I say the experience is more than half of it, I had major midnight premiere fangirl goggles with the first Twilight. I can say, however, that Catching Fire was everything (cliché alert) I hoped it would be and so much more, and although Mockingjay is my least favorite of the trilogy, I don’t think I have it in me to wait another year or more. But in the meantime, at least I have Divergent.

-Wendi

They Say It’s Your Birthday

November (specifically, mid-November) is always a crazy time in the Reichstein family. My dad (Nov. 19), my sister (Nov. 21), and myself (Nov. 25) all have birthdays in the same week. This year, I put my video editing skills to some fun (and only slightly embarrassing) use, sorted through some very entertaining home videos, and made birthday videos for both my dad and my sister, Samantha. To help spread the joy (and embarrassment), I’ve posted them below. Enjoy! Both were edited using iMovie.

-Wendi

The (Semi) Calm Before the Storm

First off, yes, I realize I’ve been a bit missing in action these past two months or so. Fortunately, I’ve still kept plenty busy between my senior year of school (so sad) and my news internship at KXAN-TV (the NBC news affiliate in Austin, TX). My days, at least Monday through Thursday, are pretty much jam packed, but with graduation slowly looming and it mischievously inches closer and closer (despite my pleas for it to slow down), I’m trying to enjoy my last year before the “real world” (though with my schedule right now it’d seem I’m closer to the real world than I’d like to be) swoops in completely.

After spending my summer interning at my dream job, Broadway.com in New York City, to be honest, going back to the realm of local news was a bit daunting. I love reporting, I consider myself comfortable and charismatic in front of a camera, I know how to successfully write a script and turn a package, but I’m beginning to doubt that local news is what I really want to do with my future. As journalism students, we’re told time and time again that if we don’t absolutely love it, we need to find anything else we’d be good at or enjoy for our careers (ironically, we’re also told this about acting, my other major…). I’m good at reporting, and I assume I could succeed in the local news realm; starting in a small market as a one-man band reporting and slowly moving up. After a summer of interviewing Broadway stars, reporting on camera for a weekly online entertainment show, and pitching and writing features for the leading Broadway news site, the idea that I could still be set on a career in local, or even harder, news seems a bit unrealistic.

When I walk into KXAN, I still feel the excitement or any aspiring journalist. I understand the industry, I possess the skills to succeed, and I have the passion to report and tell stories on camera. Surrounded by resources, experts, and a professional, working environment, I know that this internship will help me decide what to do in less than seven months. An internship is the perfect opportunity to build a resume, reinforce skills, network, and train for a future job, but it’s also the opportunity to truly figure out if this is what you want to pursue for the rest of your life. So with a positive attitude, a desire to learn, and the will to network and grasp as much as I possibly can in these next few (very few) months, this internship will give me that opportunity to explore and finally decide what it is I’m meant to do.

As this isn’t my first internship at a local news station, I know relatively how things work (for the interns at least). Some days are extremely eventful; you go out with a reporter to cover a story on a riveting subject, learn from both the reporter and photographer, film a stand up, and get a very hands-on look at the industry. Some days are extremely uneventful; you sit at the desk, observe the newsroom, help when sporadically needed. Of course, it’s not always so extreme (though sometimes it definitely is), but as an intern, the rule is usually that your experience is what you make of it, something that surprised me in my first internship. You’re not assigned when and where to shadow reporters, you have to approach them and ask if you can come with them. If you sit in a corner and work on homework, nobody will necessarily stop or approach you, or even reprimand you. You worked hard to get this internship, and it’s up to you to make the experience worthwhile. Having completed the broadcast sequence (aka not pitching, shooting, writing and editing a package every two weeks), I want to stay as sharp on my journalism skills as possible. Filming stand ups out the in the field and editing packages at my internship are the perfect way to do that.

With one upcoming semester (and my final registration- which theoretically should be a breeze, but yet is still causing me anxiety anyway), I hope to gain as much experience possible and become a more well-rounded person, as when I graduate, literally anything in the realm of theatre and/or journalism (but preferably both) is possible. I’m planning to take an Introduction to Public Relations course (although it means we’re back to lecture classes surrounded by freshmen) to learn a bit more about that industry, as PR and journalism cross over a lot. I’m also trying to land an internship a little more in the theatre industry- just to gain a handle on any and all directions my future career may take (and to give myself a little theatre indulgence after a semester of hard news). Yes, it’s daunting beyond belief to think I have almost half a year before I’m (supposed to be) a full-functioning, working adult no longer surrounded by the very comfortable gates of college life, but at the same time (and I very well reserve the right to negate this in 4-5 months when I reach full-on freak out mode) it’s exciting to make the most out of the remaining year, try everything I possibly can, live it up with my friends (cliché, yes), and pursue jobs in several different directions, and finding one that’s a perfect fit.

-Wendi

Backstreet’s Back, Alright

There’s always a song that brings back a specific memory. It’s weird the way it works; you’ll be somewhere completely random, hear a certain song, and immediately be transported to a different place. One song that does that for me is Quit Playing Games With My Heart, and for whatever reason, when I hear it I’m in the front seat of my dad’s car, nine years old, listening to the radio while running errands on a Saturday morning. It’s the 90s, the Backstreet Boys are one of the most popular boy bands in the world, and I’m the ultimate little fangirl.

Sunday night, when I heard Quit Playing Games With My Heart, I wasn’t nine years old. I wasn’t listening to the radio. I was (nearly) front row at the Cedar Park Center in Austin, TX, watching a boy band I had idolized for so long during my childhood perform live. Yes, I am 21 years old. Yes, the last Backstreet Boys album I bought was Millennium when I was nine (which I listened to nonstop on my Walkman for at least a year straight). Yes, the arena was not filled with fangirls, but with twenty and thirty-somethings reliving an amazing sliver of their childhood. And yes, it was the greatest concert I’ve ever been to.

The decision to go to the Backstreet Boys concert was a quick one. My friends and I literally bought the tickets on a somewhat whim a week before, after realizing they were coming to Austin and wanting to relive some of our Backstreet Boys glory days. After a party bus ride filled with The Call, Backstreet’s Back, and I Want it That Way, we arrived (somewhat) calm, cool and collected. The minute the Bryan, Nick, Kevin, Howie, and A.J. came onstage (not to mention waved to, blew kisses at, and even adorably mocked us), we all, unashamedly, reverted back to the ultimate 9-year-old fangirl. Imagine a little girl going crazy at a One Direction concert; I’m talking screaming the lyrics to every song, yelling at her favorite band member, dancing uncontrollably, and possibly on the verge of tears. Embarrassing, right? Now imagine nine twenty-one year old girls doing that at a Backstreet Boys concert.

I haven’t been to many concerts; my repertoire mainly consists of Glee, Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift (a not at all embarrassing music taste, right?), but this was by far the best concert I had ever been to. Aside from the nostalgia factor that anybody between the age of twenty and thirty would inevitably experience witnessing one of their favorite boy bands perform live, the energy and passion that all five guys still have for music and performing was incredible. After twenty years together, they were having as much fun on stage as we were in the stands. After eight albums (yes, they just released a new one which they promoted during the concert…not to mention, which wasn’t half bad), their music still remains “classic” (well, to each and every 90s child, at least). Nick is still extremely hot (let’s just say I swooned more than I care to admit), Brian is still adorable, and together, they’re all still fantastic. Call them just another boy band, call them a fad, call them outdated…I’ll still call them my childhood, and revisiting those days for just three hours was one of the best experiences I could’ve asked for. And you know what? I had more fun than nine-year-old Wendi would’ve ever had.

-Wendi

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