We’re Not Playing, and we want YOU to join us!

Last week a lot of us watched in horror as Donald Trump, a misogynistic, xenophobic, and wildly ignorant human (we think…) man, was elected to be President of these United States.

I’ve been spending a lot of time since then working through all my feelings on the subject, and I’ve managed to boil all my rage, disappointment, and shock into two major thinking points:  “We have to do better!” and “Fuck that guy!”

(Obviously the former is a more actionable frame of mind to be in, but I’d be lying if I said the latter thought didn’t help fuel my desire to follow through on the first)

So I’ve been doing a lot of writing… and not in the “Wow, I’m making some great art from this!” kind of writing (yet).  More like, “Umm, I think I’m writing a mission statement” kind of writing, and it’s based on the following:

We need to heal our divided nation and We need to make our objections to Trump’s dangerous policies heard.

I’m working on strategies for the first, but Little Black Dress INK already had a jump start on the second – and we’d like you to you to join us!

not-playing

Little Black Dress INK invites you to take action by participating in the 
We’re Not Playing initiative.  This initiative began as a way for us to support female voices who were speaking out on important issues through their work as playwrights – and now it’s time for these voices be heard!

Theatres and theatre practitioners across the nation are invited to hold readings of these plays, royalty free, Friday, January 20, 2017 – Inauguration Day.  The only caveat is that we ask any/all monies raised be donated to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and/or NRDC – organizations we believe will be integral to fighting the dangerous policies which the incoming administration intends to implement.

Little Black Dress INK will continue to post socially-conscious/politically-inspired plays between now and January for interested theaters to select from – or you can challenge your own circles of fabulous playwrights to write plays that inspire action.  Let’s just do something to help process the rising tides of panic gripping the nation.

Let us make our objections loud and clear, and let us put our humanity center stage on January 20th, 2017.

We can be better.  Let’s be better.  Let’s invite our audiences to be better with us.

Want to get involved?  Sign our pledge at www.LittleBlackDressINK.org  Then start reading and selecting plays from those we’ve published, or invite other awesome female playwrights in your area to contribute work!

And if you’re a female playwright who wants to contribute short plays or monologues to the initiative, please send them, along with a photo and brief paragraph explaining what inspired you to write the piece to Submissions@LittleBlackDressINK.org – make sure your subject line reads: WE’RE NOT PLAYING SUBMISSION.

#WereNotPlaying #WritingForChange #TheaterCanHeal

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Little Black Dress INK is now accepting submissions!

female-playwrights-onstage-cropIt’s that time of year again, time for Little Black Dress INK’s annual Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project to begin!

And that means we are looking for some seriously fabulous female playwrights to participate!

Little Black Dress INK is thrilled to continue creating production opportunities for female playwrights through its Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project; a short-play festival dedicated to producing peer-selected works by women.  In addition to contributing to the selection of plays, participating playwrights are able to review and revise their work during semi-finalist readings, and are encouraged to blog about the process along the way.

Submissions are now being accepted from awesome female playwrights for consideration in this year’s festival!  This festival utilizes a peer-review process for evaluating submissions, so please make sure to read over the following guidelines carefully before submitting.

  • This year’s festival theme is Hot Mess.  Playwrights are invited to submit short plays and/or monologues written on this theme.  In the past we’ve also had great success with short scenelets (10-minute plays comprised of a couple of scenes, which we can sprinkle throughout the line-up)
  • LBDI strongly suggests you do not submit plays or monologues longer than ten minutes. Keep in mind that in all instances, shorter truly is better.  Plays running longer than ten minutes stand very little chance of making it into the festival, as we strive to produce as many playwrights as possible.
  • Little Black Dress INK utilizes a peer review process for evaluating plays.  By submitting to this fest, you agree to participate in this unique opportunity to help select plays for production.
  • Once our submission window is closed, you will receive a selection of plays to read and score using the LBDI online eval form.  You MUST read and submit your evaluations by the required date in order for your play to remain in consideration.
  • Submitted works will be read by other participating playwrights and LBDI artistic personnel.  By submitting to the festival, you agree to share your work for review in this process.
  • Submission materials must be emailed to LBDI by December 10th, 2016 and should include:
    • The following information in the body of your email:
      • Your name
      • The title of your play
      • Your contact information *It is very important that you use a reliable email address as all correspondence will be done via email!
      • A blind PDF of your script – do NOT include your name anywhere on the script!
      • Email materials to submissions@LittleBlackDressINK.org

LBDI will be producing readings of the top scoring plays at locations nation-wide.  The top eight to ten scoring plays will also move on to full production with Little Black Dress INK.

For more information, visit www.LittleBlackDressINK.org  
We look forward to working with you!

And now for something new…

For those who don’t know, I am not only a playwright, but the Artistic Director (slash/Mad Woman) behind Little Black Dress INK – a female playwright producing org that produces an annual peer-reviewed short play fest.  Over the years we’ve grown our fest from a small group of playwrights produced in Prescott, AZ, to a now nation-wide new play reading series with productions slated in both Prescott AND Lafayette, LA in 2016.  I couldn’t be more proud of all the efforts our supporters, artist, and producers have put into this fest—and I am ecstatic that we continue to grow.

This year, we’re adding an online component to the festival—one that will allow us to produce online versions of full-length plays.  It’s called the ONSTAGE: ON-AIR podcast, and our very first one is now live!

ON-AIR poster-new-webSince it’s our inaugural podcast, we chose to focus on interviews with some of our VIP artists, and included excerpts from past ONSTAGE plays.  You should definitely check it out – the women we work with are all kinds of amazing!  And the great thing about podcasts is that you can listen while you’re working out, driving, cooking, and pretty much anything else-ing!

Listen to the first ONSTAGE: ON-AIR podcast HERE

~Tiffany Antone

Politics and playwrights and babies, oh my!

I think we can agree that this year has been a busy one, full of newsworthy events capable of derailing sensitive souls everywhere and sending them into a pit of despair over the current condition of the all-too-human condition.

I’ve had a couple days like that recently.  (It doesn’t help that I’m 7 months pregnant and full of hormones that have turned even the most ridiculous of commercials into automatic tear-jerkers.)

But I realized something in the midst of my most recent news-induced funk: I’m a playwright!

I can write about the stuff that’s wrecking me emotionally.

And that snapped me out of my depressive couch-potato state, and my muse started brainstorming and plot-outlining, and even though I haven’t yet decided if I want to write the play I began crock-potting inside my playwright brain all those weeks ago, it has helped me feel actionable!

And I think that’s important.

As an artist, it feels sometimes like there is just too much suffering to bear — and, as an artist, it also feels like I have very little to contribute in the ways of actually affecting change.

But I can write.

I can try to create pieces of theatre that bring my view of things into focus, and that—if I do my job well—invite others to look closer at these things with me.  To mine them for possible solutions.  To create conversation and empathy, and to MAYBE make things a little better?

At least, I can try!

Because although I very much enjoy entertainment for entertainment’s sake, I also believe in theatre’s power to stir conversation, incite action, and engage an audience’s problem solving skills.  Why then, can’t I create theatre that does something?

So, while there are a lot changes coming my way in 2016 (new baby, probably a move to a new city after my husband finishes his MFA program this Spring) and a lot of changes coming on a bigger scale (US elections and God knows what other crazy world events heading down the pipeline) I’m feeling a sense of optimism and anticipation about it all that was eluding me a few weeks back, as I sat on the couch, and wept for the world (and at those damn holiday commercials).

And so, I leave you with this:  May your seasons also be brightened by the recognition of your own word-smith powers!  Now, get to writing!

~Tiffany Antone

Little Black Dress INK wants your plays!

It’s that time of year again: Time to crack those knuckles and get down to perfecting your submissions for the bevvy of 2016 playwriting fellowships and development conferences whose submission windows are open this month/next!  I’ve been glued to my computer these past few weeks, working on creative, witty, and breath-catching artistic statements/mission statements/biographical statements/and statements about why I deserve an invitation here/there/EVERY-friggin-WHERE…

Yeah, no, actually I’m pulling my hair out like the rest of you, completely unsure if I’m coming across as a desirable candidate or just (heaven forbid)…

Immorten Joe from Mad Max:Fury Road

Well, allow me to throw another submission opportunity your way, intrepid lady playwrights… An opportunity that doesn’t require a statement – just an awesome short script and a willingness to take part in the selection process as a peer reviewer!  Yes, Little Black Dress INK is accepting submissions for its 2016 festival—and here are all the nail-biting details to prepare you for total festival domination!

Be awesome like Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road

LBDI’s Female Playwright ONSTAGE Festival is entering its 5th year, bringing new reading and production opportunities to female playwrights!  Submissions will be accepted (following the criteria outlined below) until November 15th, 2015.  Participating playwrights agree to read and evaluate one another’s scripts in our unique peer-review process.  Semi-finalists will receive readings in various US cities, with winning plays read in both LA and NYC before going on to production in Arizona.

Please read the following submission details before submitting—plays must fit with festival theme and adhere to festival guidelines in order to be considered.

Download (PDF, 191KB)

~Tiffany

Wrapping Up ONSTAGE and (nearly) on to 2016!

By Tiffany Antone

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I used to hate 10-minute plays.

I don’t know why exactly… perhaps it’s because—as a playwright—I found it a real challenge to create a satisfying story in just 10 pages.  My first 10-minute play attempts always seemed to bleed into more pages, and felt unsatisfying in their rapid resolutions.  But as I’ve gone on to do more and more with short plays, I realize that the thing that used to bother me about 10 minute plays was that I just wasn’t very good at them yet.

I’d like to think I’ve gotten better writing short pieces—of conserving space and creating tighter, more exciting worlds—and that by becoming more aware of the real-estate value a blank page actually represents, my longer pieces have become tighter, more exciting, and richer as well.

And as a result, I’ve become a huge fan of these tasty little 10-minute morsels of playwright excellence.  So much so, that I dedicate a sizable portion of my year to supporting and producing other short pieces… and yesterday I saw 15 truly awesome short plays brought to life here in Waco and can’t believe that I have to winnow this list down to just 11 or 12 pieces for production.

I’ve written a lot about producing from a playwright’s perspective this week, and I hope it was helpful to those of you who—like myself—have felt stuck, frustrated, or fed up with the stasis of waiting.  But I also hope that, even if you have no intention of ever donning a producer’s cap, that you feel like you’ve gotten a little insight how/why some of these festivals work the way they do.  We’re all in theatre because we love something about it’s incredible contradictions and magic, but the true power of theatre is the unity of intention it requires on all who come together in order to make it happen.

With that, I’m wrapping up my blogging week in love of writing, writers, and all who take joy from the realization of imagination!  If you want to stay in touch, you can follow me @LadyPlaywright or you can follow Little Black Dress INK @LBlackDressINK – we’ll be posting more updates on this year’s fest as it heads to LA for a reading of our winning plays at Samuel French Book Shop on July 11th, and then production in Prescott, AZ August 6-9.

And then we’ll get started on the 2016 Fest, and do it all over again!

 

On the Fallacy of Space

By Tiffany Antone

Don't Panic

Although I’m a playwright, I’ve been focusing a lot on producing this week in the hopes that what I’ve learned as a producer can be helpful to playwrights who are tired of sitting around waiting for someone to make the production magic happen for them. I’m going to continue on that thread today as I talk about the unfortunate brain melt that so often happens when we talk about space.

When I’m talking to a playwright about the hurdles of producing, unless they have an ‘in’ at a theatre company, the conversation inevitably begins to circle the panic-drain of “BUT I DON’T HAVE A SPACE!”, because when you consider the fact that most theaters/art galleries charge pretty hefty fees to rent their spaces, a lot of aspiring new producers get cut off at the knees before they’ve even started, and head back desk or day job, defeated.

But when the dollar signs start flashing red and you feel the panic rising, just remind yourself of this simple truth: you don’t need a theater space to make theatre happen!

I’m not sure exactly when it occurs, but somewhere along the route to professionalism, many of us begin to adopt this weird attitude that theatre needs to happen in a theatrically appointed space, and anything else is just… unprofessional, and… ewwwww!

When did we turn into such catty teenagers?

I agree, production-wise, a dedicated theater is a much easier place to work: the lights, the sound equipment, the dressing rooms and fixed seats… all of those things make life easier when you’re producing a show.  But they’re not the end all be all to making theatre happen.  I’ve seen vivid and exciting theatre happen in living rooms, in parks, at restaurants, in civic auditoriums, and in old abandoned warehouses – and each time it’s been a unique and awesome experience!

The trick is in knowing your space ahead of time, so that you can match your production goals to your resources and select a play (or collection of short plays) that will work in the space you’re using.  For instance: living room plays are great fun, but they only work if you select small cast pieces that can be put up around a coffee table, TV stand, book shelves, and whatever else homey obstacles your hosts may have present.  It’s also important that they can be performed comfortably for a handful of people sitting within inches of the actors – I saw a very sexually charged piece done this way once and I just couldn’t get over the fact that two strangers were dry humping six-inches away from my face!   And sure, you can’t do a piece with a million different locations/light cues because there’s no light board to play with and you can’t load in flats… but each of those Don’ts is an opportunity to seek out what can and will work.  So you pick something small, something intimate, something that is transportable, engaging, and good in the close-up, and you make it happen.

So what does this have to do with what we do over here at Little Black Dress INK?  Well, for those of you who don’t know, we rely completely on Partner Producers to present readings of our semi-finalists – I wish I could afford to put our female playwrights on tour, but I just can’t (my superstitious side is telling me to include the waiver “yet”).  So instead I rely on these awesome Partner Producers—who are actors, writers, and directors themselves— to bring our festival to their cities in the best way possible for them, which means that each reading is unique and personal to them.

This year our semi-finalist readings took place at an art gallery, a teaching studio, and a university, as well as a few very cool theatre spaces, and our final two readings will happen in “unconventional” locations as well; a public park and at Samuel French’s Los Angeles Bookshop.  I love these unique spaces – they add a flavor all their own to the readings and add to the conversational atmosphere after the readings are over.

And yes, when we get to production in Prescott, we’ll be putting the shows up in an actual theatre – but if we didn’t have one, I’d have still made the fest happen somehow.

The point I’m going for is this: Playwrights are traditionally rich in imagination, but poor in actual cash-money.  Unless you get a theatre to back your production (or find a patron of the arts to fund you), production expenses can add up fast.  Space doesn’t have to be the huge obstacle it so often is! You can make just about any space work if you put your creative juices to work making the most of the resources you have available to you.  And if all you have is the back room at your local bookstore and some gumption, then why not recruit some like-minded folks and create a reading series?  You never know where it could lead, or how good it will feel just to be making something happen.

Creating an Awesome Festival Line-up

By Tiffany Antone

Female-Playwrights-ONSTAGE-cropI got started in theatre as an actress.  I loved being on stage, but I hated auditioning because that very necessary internal confidence that keeps a persom from being a neurotic mess was rarely in full bloom for me.  Instead, I’d pretend I felt confident at auditions and then quietly go home where I could pick apart every choice I’d made and obsess in peace.

Then I directed my first show, which meant I was casting a show for the first time, and in so doing, I had a revelation: for the first time, I understood just how much time I had wasted locked in actor anxiety about things I had very little control over.  After that experience, I auditioned with a lot more boldness, confidence, and less personal worth on the line.  It was freeing.

I woke up this morning reflecting on this, because we at Little Black Dress INK recently announced our ONSTAGE Finalists and I thought it might be interesting to know how I came to narrow down what was a very awesome list of 36 plays to just 15.

First, it’s important to know that we use a peer review process to select our initial semi-finalists, so all of our participating playwrights are responsible for determining the first cut. After that, I consider peer-review scores and Partner Producer nominations along with the points I’m outlining below to create what I hope will be an awesome and successful line-up.

So, in the interest of helping alleviate some writerly anxieties, I’d like to talk today about what I’ve learned—as a playwright—in the five years I’ve been producing new plays:

  1. First, proofing your work is important, but a typo here or there won’t sink the ship!  I can’t believe how many playwrights send in work that just looks like a hot mess.  If you don’t take my time as a reader seriously, why should I take your play seriously?  Make your plays easy to read – format it in a way that is friendly to the eye and go over it for typos and grammar!  BUT, that said, if a play is truly unusual, gripping, or awesome, I’m much more likely to excuse a few formatting hiccups.  That’s just the way it is.  I would never not-produce a piece that I loved just because there were a few misspelled words.  On the other hand, most of the time, the work that is the most compelling is usually also in top readable shape.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just select the “very best” pieces.  If I’m creating a festival line-up, I’ve got to build a satisfying one – and that means a mix of genres and topics and tones… I may have nine FABULOUS dramas, but if I produce an entire evening of dramas, my audience is going to be exhausted.  The same holds true if I have multiple pieces that tackle the same subject: even if they’re fantastic, I’m only going to put one of those in the line-up because including too many similar pieces in one night can feel redundant.
  3. I like to use monologues in my fest, so I do.  Monologues have been a really nice addition to our festivals – they are perfect curtain pieces that keep the audience engaged while we set the stage for the next piece.  So, when I select my final line-up, monologues are something I put a lot of energy into.  The other  fabulous discovery I’ve made as a producer is how incorporating short scenelets (a 10-minute play comprised of several mini-scenes) into our fest between plays can provide a delightful through line in what is usually a fractured event. This is just my own preference – and other producers will have theirs.  The reason I mention it is that if I’m selecting 5 monologues to help cover set changes, I might not be able to include that 9th totally awesome play in the line-up.
  4. “Best” is relative.  This one is a no-brainer, but I still mention it because I think even though we all know it, it helps to be reminded once in a while.  Personally, I like plays that feel like they can only live on the stage.  I like plays that challenge or delight me, plays that feel fresh and unique and unlike anything I’ve seen or read before… But what’s the common thread in all that?  Me, myself, and I.   What’s “fresh” to me isn’t guaranteed to feel fresh to she/he/you – so it’s an unpredictable factor that a playwright can’t control and shouldn’t fret over.  What I like about our peer-review process is that it identifies a broad spectrum of work that is outstanding – not just from my own personal perspective, but from a variety of eyes – but as I winnow that list down to the final selection, my perspective comes back to fore.  You could take our same group of 2015 semi-finalists and create a multitude of awesome festival line-ups, each uniquely reflective of what different producers were looking for… and there’s just nothing a writer can do to change that.  Which is why the best thing a writer can do is write work they believe in, send that work out in the best shape they can get it into, and repeat.  Meanwhile, we’ll be here sifting through the incredible amount of awesome work, trying our best to create a line-up that we feel best matches our mission, our audience, and—sometimes—our own personal aesthetic.

And there it is – my ten cents on festival selection.  I hope it’s of interest and of help to you, my fellow writers!

 

Self-Producing and Investing in Others

By Tiffany Antone

TEAM

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone respond to a playwright bemoaning a lack of productions with a tired “Why don’t you just self-produce?”

As though self-producing is the end-all, be-all to theatrical frustration.

Have a drawer full of unseen scripts? Self Produce!

Tired of slogging along agent-less?  Self Produce!

Wish people were more familiar with your “brand”? Self (you got it) Produce!

But producing takes money.

Sometimes, depending on the types of plays you write, it takes a great deal of money.

And if you do manage to gather the space, creative team, marketing materials, and all-necessary-else to get your production up and running, unless you’re in a major theatrical city, the chances that the production will lead to anyone of consequence seeing it are pretty slim.

Which is why I think we need to stop telling playwrights to simply produce their own work as if it will satisfy the burning desire to speak to the world that compels them to spend countless hours crafting works that can only be realized through the efforts of many.  Instead, let’s look for ways to create a stronger network that leads to continued creative evolution and more production opportunities.

And sure, that sounds lovely, but of course the question will be “But HOW?!”

I think we go back to that initial producing instinct and look at what we can do on the micro level as playwrights that satisfies, strengthens, and propels us forward.

Four years ago I was a relatively new playwright who’d been gaining accolades, but not productions. In engaging my critical self, I came to a few conclusions:

  1. I was a new, unheard of playwright who wrote fantastical plays with big casts
  2. “Fantastical” and “Big Cast” aren’t small-company friendly
  3. Being a new playwright, I needed to write something that would be doable on a smaller budget, in a smaller venue, so that I could build some theatrical street cred and graduate from the Staged Reading Vortex.

So I sat down and began Ana and the Closet – a small cast, abstract (re: no huge set needed!) play that needed projections, and needed a puppet, and needed to rain ash and end on a precipice with a black river… Yeah, my “simple” piece wound up being one of the most visually demanding in my catalog.

(sigh)

I just don’t write “simple” plays.  At their core, my work may be about simple things, but I’m too heavy into visual metaphor and this “crazy” notion that theatre should show me something I can’t see on TV or at the movies…

Ana and the Closet went on to land a number of exciting reading opps and got me within a hair’s breadth of the Jerome Fellowship (damn that hair!) but ultimately I was left feeling unsatisfied because the play, while garnering attention, still wasn’t getting produced.

The lesson, of course, was that you need to write the work you believe in – and I do that, which keeps me sane.  But the challenge still remains, how do I satisfy the burning drive to create if the things I’m creating aren’t being seen through to completion?  A play isn’t a play until it’s breathing on stage!

Being an impatient young artist who was terrified of the long haul, I wanted to get MORE done FASTER!  But I didn’t have any money with which to produce my own work…

So I decided I would wrest control by creating a short play festival and make other playwrights happy by producing their work.  Because short play fests are a lot easier and more affordable to produce.  And because I wanted to know more of my peers, to learn about their work, and to satisfy my own need to see something through to completion while I wait for someone else to bring my work to fruition.

And as a result, the Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project I began 4 years ago is blooming!  We had readings in six cities this year, with two more to come before the fest culminates with a production in AZ.  We’re continuing to grow, and I couldn’t be happier to see our playwrights connecting with one another on social media, cheering one another on, and supporting each other along the way!

I’m still writing my own plays, but I’m also forging ahead on this other exciting project that has legs, has a beating heart, and is creating opportunities for other writers.

So, sure, you can self-produce, but you can also invest in other writers who challenge and inspire you, who cheer you on and whom you applaud and root for.  It’s lonely out here in the writing world, but it doesn’t have to be!  And there are a multitude of ways in which we can be more proactive on our writer’s journey that help satisfy our urge to see things through in a business where it isn’t always possible to do so for ourselves.

Just a few thoughts as I begin this week’s LAFPI blog duty…  I’m sure there will be more!

Write #LikeaGirl

By Tiffany Antone

Oh wow – who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday?  I’ve got to admit, I was less invested this year because the “Defending title team VS a team embroiled in controversy over deflated balls” narrative wasn’t especially gripping.  I did, however, get totally into the commercials (as I usually do), and want to talk for a moment about Always’ #LikeAGirl commercial.

I loved this commercial.  I think Always struck just the right balance between messaging and emotion, on top of totally owning its brand.  Twitter lit up with the #LikeAGirl hashtag afterwards… and then some ass hat self-proclaimed “Meninest” decided that the commercial, by encouraging 50% of the population, was exclusive and unfair to men and started a competing hashtag, #LikeABoy.

Gag.

I mean, let’s ignore for a moment that the entire freaking Super Bowl is basically penis Mecca—what do these people honestly expect from a company that sells feminine products?

And what does it say about them that a commercial encouraging girls to be awesome would be so threatening that they felt the need to immediately attack it…

I just can’t even.

Except, I produce a female playwrights festival called the ONSTAGE Project, and this year – for the first time – I received submissions from men.  At first I thought *maybe* the gents simply hadn’t read the submission details thoroughly enough to understand that by using the words “Female Playwrights Festival” in the event name, we meant this festival is for FEMALE PLAYWRIGHTS.

Until one of them signed his submission email with the following:

P.S. Yes, I am male, but isn’t it about the story and not the gender of the author?

WOW.

I was gobsmacked.  Gobsmacked, I tell you.

And more than a little furious.

Furious because his email not only communicated a total disregard for our company’s mission statement, but a complete disregard for female playwrights’ gender parity struggle at large.  Also, it’s a pretty dick move to tell a female playwright that writing a woman character basically negates the need for female writers.

I’m still feeling incredibly growlsome about it.

But isn’t this why we’re talking about gender parity?  Isn’t this very issue one of the reasons the LAFPI exists?  It’s certainly part of my motivation to increase production opportunities for female playwrights.   So I can sit and stew, or I can turn this particular Twitter turn into further grist for the “Get shit done!” mill…

Because I write #LikeAGirl and I’m not afraid to admit it.

#FemalePlaywrightsROCK!

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