Tag Archives: Drama

Theater Review: MAN of La MANCHA

42703952_1809145059204194_2246938636555649024_oJan Farrington of TheaterJones published her review today of Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre‘s current production of Man of La Mancha and it is quite favorable.  Congratulations to my wonderful cast and incredible crew for a most stellar show!  We reached for that star and it proved reachable after all.

Below are excerpts from the review:

Director [Allen] Walker has collected a strong cast, and music director Kristin Spires pulls fine singing from the mostly-male chorus and some great solo voices in the mix. These are singer/actors who can switch from a passionate song to a bit of goofy comedy in a flash, and dance well enough to Jenny Jermaine’s choreography. A few elements of the production need a kick in the pants (more on that later), but if you’re even half onboard with this musical’s message and charms you’ll end up with a tear in the eye …

When Man of La Mancha opened in Greenwich Village in 1965 (music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion, and a script by Dale Wasserman, whose other ‘60s hit was his stage adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the show’s rag-tag appeal and eccentric hero set it apart—and audiences loved it, keeping the play going downtown and then on Broadway until well into 1968. It’s been revived endless times—sometimes buried in huge sets and special effects—but TART wisely sticks close to the show’s simple roots. Ellen Doyle Mizener’s weathered gray set design—wood railings and platforms hung with draped lengths of burlap—blends with costume designer Autumn Hyun’s rough, muted costumes. The overall effect is enhanced by Holli Price’s atmospheric lighting and Chase York’s projections.

If you don’t know La Mancha by heart, this is a play within a play, a storytelling tour de force tucked into a prison drama. Spanish writer/actor Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), caught up in the net of the Inquisition (Catholic Europe’s attempt to combat the new “Protest-ant” movement by destroying all opposition), is tossed in a crowded cell to await questioning. His life—and the unfinished text of Don Quixote—are in the hands of a scraggly, thuggish-looking band of fellow prisoners. Entertain us, they growl, and we might not tear you and your book to shreds.

Theater dude that he is, Cervantes (Brad Stephens) swings into action—diving into his trunk for fake swords and armor, searching the cell for “found objects” he’ll need (some clever prop choices by Don Gwynne), and giving the surprised prisoners parts to play in the story he’s improvising moment by moment.  And so begins his tale of the old country gentleman Alonso Quixana [sic], who reads novels of knights and ladies all day long—so many that his brains dry up and he imagines himself into the bent, twig-thin body of “Don Quixote de la Mancha,” a knight errant (that means he’s on the move) out to save the world, one damsel and one injustice at a time.

No matter that by Cervantes’ time, knights hadn’t been a thing for centuries: Quixote knows who he is.

Are we to admire his out-there idealism, or not? The world hasn’t always quite approved of the Don. The word “quixotic” means clinging stubbornly to unrealistic goals. “Tilting at windmills” (DQ thinks they’re evil giants) implies a disastrously inflated view of your own strength and abilities.

You don’t do La Mancha without A Voice, and Brad Stephens’ rich baritone and reach-for-the-rafters delivery scores high in the show’s blockbuster numbers, “Man of La Mancha” and “The Impossible Dream.” At the matinee show reviewed (the historically cursed second performance) Stephens struggled throughout with a sizeable moustache that simply refused to stick. Maddening and distracting, of course—and perhaps the reason his portrayal felt a bit flat at times. There’s plenty of urgency in Stephens’ great singing; no reason not to take that into a high-stakes performance as well.

Amanda Williams Ware makes a gutsy, tough-as-nails Aldonza, the kitchen maid (and “whore,” she adds defiantly) who’s re-imagined by the Don as high-born “Dulcinea”—the patron saint of his quests. Ware has a terrific voice and emotional range, whether quietly puzzled in “What Does He Want of Me?” or burning with anger in “It’s All the Same” and “Aldonza.” And she keeps an impressive side-eye trained on the gang of male prisoners who circle her like wolves.

Alex Krus (he directed TART’s 2017 Gutenberg! The Musical!) has a light, pleasantly piercing voice—and is sly and funny as the farmer Sancho Panza, roped in to be the Don’s faithful squire. A practical guy with his feet on the ground, Sancho admits he only stays in this loopy adventure because “I Really Like Him.” When he can, Sancho does his best to get between Quixote and the dangers he doesn’t see coming.

Jason Solis, seen as the Taxi Driver in Artes de la Rosa’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, is a standout among the smaller roles. He sings like an angel, and scores playing both the neighborhood “Padre” and an Alladin-esque gypsy carnival performer. Solis teams with Emma Bruce and Kristal Seid, both marvelous singers, as the niece and housekeeper who assure the priest they’re “only thinking of” the old man’s welfare as they try to stop his wanderings. Their trio has gorgeous harmonies—and at the end of the play Solis also leads a ringing chorus of the old Latin hymn “De Profundis” (“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord”).

Michelle Phillips, playing an innkeeper’s wife, literally jumps on a table to rouse us with “Knight of the Woeful Countenance,” and Kelley Garland is strong and sturdy as the Innkeeper. John Tillman comes on cool, brainy and sharp-edged as the niece’s fiancé Dr. Carrasco and the prison trial’s “prosecutor”—who dislikes Cervantes’ make-believe. Chase York is amusing as the cheerfully confused barber whose shaving basin becomes Quixote’s golden helmet.

The group of male prisoners (and the few women among them) make a good chorus—and what’s more, they’re “all in” for every moment onstage. As the audience for Cervantes’ story, they grin, applaud, lean in, wince in sympathy. And when called on to play a part, transformations are instant. Kirk Corley’s presence and Carlo Aceytuno’s fight moves are notable among the crowd, and Chris D’Auria’s expressive face keeps catching the eye.

At the performance reviewed, there were body-mike issues—most seriously for Amanda Ware as Aldonza/Dulcinea. Ware has a big voice and beautiful control over her singing—but her mike just wasn’t right. (The innkeeper’s wife, similarly equipped, nearly blasted us out of our seats.) The audience struggled to hear some of Ware’s softer, lower passages; that’s a shame, and needs a fix. Also, the prerecorded orchestral track needs to be dialed down at more than a few moments when it overwhelms the good singing onstage. Again, it’s TART’s first time at Scott—no surprise that things need adjusting.

Tilting at windmills? Time will tell. But they, and we, share a grand tradition of imagining a different, better world. And in Cervantes’ bony, brave old knight, we can choose to find a mirror reflecting our own faces—and a challenge to decide who we are, and what we hope for.

The full review can be read here.

Man of La Mancha closes Sunday, October 14th.  Tickets may be purchased at Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre.

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Theater Review: LAURA

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by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN

Reviewed Performance 9/16/2017

Wow. That best sums up the performance I saw this past Sunday afternoon in the Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Wow.

There are shows that are technical wonders and there are some that glorious affairs with actors singing and dancing often at the same time and then there are shows like this. An incredibly written script that relies heavily on the ability of the actors. A show like this, a murder mystery that will surprise you at the end, will only be effective if the actors are fully immersed in the play, the action/reaction and interplay between the characters. And let me tell you buddy, Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre has assembled an A++ ensemble for this production.

I really do not want to give away any spoilers so let me just sum up the plot this way. Set in an upper-class apartment in New York City in 1944, detective Mark McPherson has fallen in love with Laura Hunt. Problem is, Laura is dead, and he’s in charge of her murder investigation. From her portrait, her letters, her personal effects, and from his contacts with the three men who loved her, Mark has created an image of a woman tantalizingly real. As the story progresses, Mark discovers lies, infidelities, and hidden identities, all leading him into a labyrinthine search for Laura’s killer. Laura is a thrilling mystery in the film noir style played out in three acts. Now I pride myself on being able to figure out the murderer before the final scene. I do it so often that it drives my wife nuts. However, I did not figure this one out at all. Thinking back on the action leading up to the climax, I remembered things that should have pointed to the killer. Fear, utter surprise as things were revealed, statements made out of context were all used deftly by all the actors involved. Robert Banks as Waldo Lydecker, the pompous friend/benefactor of the deceased Laura was brilliant. I use that word a lot so let me expound on that. He was utterly stinking brilliant. The small details of his character, the ash flick at the back of a person he does not like, his sly delivery of sarcasm the completely believable reactions to situations on stage. Actually, one of the best performances I have seen in a while.

Laura Louise Smith as “a Girl” was completely spot-on with the nuances of her character that reveals the secrets that push the plot. Her side glances, facial expressions even the way she changed the gait of her walk on stage between situations was a clear indication of her thorough mastery of this character.

Brad Stephens convincingly portrayed the cop who knows he should become emotionally attached to his case and struggles when he realizes he is doing just that. His character was a little flat, but then, he is a detective who is not used to showing emotion so again, it was spot-on.

Sean Malloy as the love-struck teen enamored with Laura was maybe just a bit too old for the part but played as well as anybody could have. Andrew Manning as the fiancée, Shelby Carpenter, was powerful and precise as he was trying to hide certain things about Laura. Cynthia Daniels, Laura L. Jones, all the cast was just an impeccable assemblage of talent that could not have produced a better hour and a half of entertainment.

The unseen star of this production is Ryan Mathieu Smith. Ryan is the costume designer and every stitch of clothing on stage was perfectly parallel to the 1940s. I can remember seeing pictures of my mother in those dresses and coats. The men’s suits were tailored close to the forties style without being cliché ‘murder mystery’ stock. I could tell the time and research put into his efforts and the result was exceptional.

I truly, whole heartedly recommend seeing this show as it might be the best drama presented this year in the DFW Theatre scene.

LAURA plays through September 24th at the Sanders Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy ST next to the Museum of Science and History in the Cultural District
Friday and Saturday—8:PM
Saturday and Sunday—2:PM

For more information or to purchase tickets go to:
www.thetart.org or call 682-231-0082

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They Think To Go Like Saints

Print vouchers for $2 off/ticket.

Print out a voucher for each ticket desired, present them at the theater and receive $2 off/ticket!

Rehearsals are well underway for my next project, The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller and a classic of American drama. Opening September 12th and running through the 28th, the production re-teams me with director Allen Walker (The Curious Savage, Hay Fever) and launches Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre’s second season. I will perform the role of John Proctor.

Salem, Massachusetts, 1692. When a farmer’s wife is falsely accused of witchcraft by her former serving girl, the threads of this Puritanical society begin to unravel. Class envy and long-held grudges erupt as it suddenly becomes fashionable for neighbor to accuse neighbor of trafficking with the Devil.  Can John Proctor save his wife’s life, along with his own good name, before the fires of bigotry and deceit consume their world? This gripping drama, which Arthur Miller wrote as a condemnation of McCarthyism in the 1950s, is still a timely parable for our contemporary society.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.thetart.org or by calling the box office at 682-231-0082.

UPDATE: You may also purchase tickets at the theater and receive a discount.  Simply print out as many ticket vouchers as needed and present them at the door for $2 off each ticket.  Vouchers are only valid at the box office and cannot be used for tickets purchased online.

Reviews of The Crucible:

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Playwright to Attend Performance

Brad Stephens in HOPE & GRAVITY

Brad Stephens in Circle Theatre’s HOPE & GRAVITY

Hope and Gravity playwright Michael Hollinger will attend the Saturday, July 12th evening performance at Circle Theatre with a “talk back” immediately following the show.  The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions about his newest work, a non-conventional play consisting of a series of interconnected one-acts presented out of chronological order.  The Circle Theatre production is only its second professional staging.

Since opening on June 21st, Hope and Gravity has enjoy a warm reception from audiences and critics alike.  Punch Shaw of the Star-Telegram praises the play for its “rich and funny” dialogue, noting “there are no weak performances.”  Nancy Churnin of the Dallas Morning News enjoys “Harry Parker’s smart direction”, while David Novinski of TheaterJones finds it “instantly likeable”.  Elaine Plybon of The Column Awards exclaims, “It is always refreshing to see a new play, but I found this one definitely worth seeing again and again.”

Just as an elevator starts and stops on random floors, nine different stories are connected by a simple twist of fate. This nonlinear play travels backward and forward in time as each character experiences the highs and lows of relationships and chance encounters. Their universal quest for life, love and happiness results in both comedy and tragedy. As the play draws to its inevitable closing, two strangers must decide whether or not to risk taking a momentous leap of faith.

Circle Theatre’s mission is the advocacy of contemporary plays rarely seen in Dallas/Fort Worth. Hope and Gravity will run June 19th through July 19th. Visit Circle Theatre’s website for showtimes and tickets!

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Immaculate Conception of The Big Picture

The cast of HOPE & GRAVITY Skype with playwright Michael Hollinger prior to rehearsal.

I am currently in rehearsals for Hope and Gravity, a new play by Michael Hollinger which will have its second professional staging at Circle Theatre.  The production reteams me with director Dr. Harry Parker who directed me in Company two years ago.  After meeting Hollinger via Skype during our first read-through, the cast and I have dug into rehearsals which have been full of discovery and laughs.  I’m anxious to see where we go next and excited to get the play on its feet and in front of an audience.

Just as an elevator starts and stops on random floors, nine different stories are connected by a simple twist of fate.  This nonlinear play travels backward and forward in time as each character experiences the highs and lows of relationships and chance encounters.  Their universal quest for life, love and happiness results in both comedy and tragedy.  As the play draws to its inevitable closing, two strangers must decide whether or not to risk taking a momentous leap of faith.

Circle Theatre’s mission is the advocacy of contemporary plays rarely seen in Dallas/Fort Worth.  Hope and Gravity will run June 19th through July 19th.  Visit Circle Theatre’s website for showtimes and tickets!

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Architecture and Theater Set Design

re-blogged from Stephen B. Chambers Architects, Inc.

Ghost Sonata takes place in a mystical dream world through which mortals wander before reaching the kingdom of death in afterlife (Scenic Painter: Linda Noland)

The GHOST SONATA takes place in a mystical dream world through which mortals wander before reaching the kingdom of death in afterlife.
(Scenic Painter: Linda Noland)

As a boy, I was thrilled with an invitation to ride with my friend, Jimmy Wolf, to the Texas State Fair on Elementary School Fair Day. His father had a workshop/studio on the fairgrounds in what later became the Women’s Museum. Jimmy and I could just ride through the gates of the fair with his dad, no tickets necessary. Little did I know that when the day was over, I would be more fascinated with the studio and shop of Peter Wolf, the renowned theater set designer, than the fair itself. The old painted sets from South Pacific, Oklahoma, and others were stored in his immense workspace. His craftsmen were busy preparing sets for productions that I could only imagine.

Revelations of the characters' past lives form the action of the play and themes relate mainly to secrets, illusions, disappointments and tragedies of life.

Revelations of the characters’ past lives form the action of the play and themes relate mainly to secrets, illusions, disappointments and tragedies of life.

Like other Dallasites, my first introduction to theater was through the Dallas Summer Musicals. Up close, these sets looked like cartoons. It was hard for me to understand how billboard-sized illustrations could appear to be so realistic during the musicals. What magic transformed the two-dimensional flats into a South Pacific island in WWII, another place and time? This experience may not have had an influence on my career in architecture. But, I certainly see the connection today between my architectural practice and the design of theater sets.

I was reminded of this youthful amazement when I saw the sets for The Ghost Sonata, an upcoming play by August Strindberg at the Undermain Theatre. Stephen B. Chambers Architects, Inc. is a sponsor of the Theatre and our Marketing Director, Stephanie Chambers, is on the Board of the Undermain. We read in the newsletter that Strindberg’s Chamber Play will have phenomenal set design. I was curious to walk through the set and see what it might be like. I grabbed my camera and headed downtown to the theatre’s home under Main St. in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas.

Paintings on the floor assist the audience in the suspension of reality, catapulting them into the dream-logic of the play.

Paintings on the floor assist the audience in the suspension of reality, catapulting them into the dream-logic of the play.

Artistic Director Katherine Owen graciously greeted and led me on an impromptu tour of the set. The architecture of the scenery for The Ghost Sonata drew me in immediately and opened the door into Strindberg’s world, a surrealistic setting far removed from downtown Dallas. This creative theater company makes their basement locale of structural columns and low ceilings suddenly disappear in innovative tales through the immensely talented assemblage of set, lighting, costume designers, directors, and actors and top-notch construction team.

The themes in Ghost Sonata relate mainly to secrets, illusions, disappointments and tragedies of lifePaintings on the floor assist the audience in the suspension of reality, catapulting them into the dream-logic of the playI know little of the art, science or history of stage set and lighting design, but deeply feel its relationship to architecture. In many ways, the theatrical scene designer is much like a conventional architect. The designer must make real what only exists in his/her imagination and provide the vision in a graphic form for use in building the sets. Both architects and set designers use a flat page of two-dimensional construction drawings to communicate what the three-dimensional structures will be. Set design has a similar ability to elicit specific emotions and create mood with the use of perspective, space, scale, light, color, detail and proportion. It helps to define the characters and propel the ideas of the playwright. There is a language in theater scenic art that signals sophisticated clues to the viewer. Through its subtext it telegraphs context, location, relationships, time, mood and space.

The GHOST SONATA Set DetailDifferent from architecture, scenic designers must knowingly create environments that have a brief lifespan, are moveable, do not require the same rigor in construction, and are generally viewed from only one direction. Theater sets do not need to have complete integrity in the structures that they are meant to depict. Stage design and lighting create the illusion of three-dimensionality and can manipulate time and place. Audiences will not walk around and through rooms to experience the massing, proportion, mood and emotions its spaces create. The set designers develop a world for the play, which becomes a real construction project, ultimately introducing their imagined world to the audience. The skill of the lighting designers, directors, actors, and costumers complete the transformation.

The GHOST SONATA SetThough written in 1907, Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata is highly unusual modern theater in many regards. The relatively swift three-scene structure is based on sonata form, rather than traditional theater construction. It creates an atmosphere by repeating various themes, rather than developing a story through conventional portrayals of character and a linear plot. The Undermain’s interpretation and production of this play will, no doubt, thrill serious Dallas theater followers. But, the sets and lighting for this production, for me, stand alone as compelling art.

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Here’s a great read about my upcoming project, The Ghost Sonata at Undermain Theatre running April 13 – May 11, 2013.

Undermain Blog

Ghost Sonata Promo_20130314_0121 TOUCHED UP

Following up last week’s post on given circumstances as an element of play analysis, I’d like to turn my attention to the play Undermain is currently rehearsing – August Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata.

Ghost Sonata is a highly unusual play in many regards.  The relatively swift three-scene structure is based on sonata form rather than traditional theatrical acts.  Identifying a clear protagonist is tricky: the character driving the action only appears in two of the three scenes, and the hero (/audience surrogate) is hardly present for more.  The dream-logic of the play makes the very rules of the world difficult to pin down.  When it comes to given circumstances, Ghost Sonata also explores an extreme end of the spectrum.

As I mentioned previously, some plays offer very little concrete information regarding given circumstances.  Beckett and Pinter, for example, tend to be elusive.  Most plays dole out a small amount of…

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Here’s a film I served on as associate producer, editor, and assistant director several years ago. It is now available to purchase at Amazon. Congratulations, David Jetre!

Jetrefilm Entertainment

Shroud

Jetrefilm Entertainment’s first feature length film is now available on DVD at Amazon.com.

Follow this link to Buy Shroud DVD on Amazon.

David Jetre
Writer | Producer | Director | Designer
twitter | www.sandmerrick.com | www.jetrefilm.com

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CARNAGE to Come Full Circle

GOD OF CARNAGE at Circle TheatreI am pleased to announce I have accepted an offer to play Alan in the upcoming Circle Theatre production of God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza.  This will be my second collaboration with Circle Theatre and Robin Armstrong who directed me in Circle’s 2011 production of Seven in One Blow.

A playground altercation between eleven-year-old boys brings together two sets of Brooklyn parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first, diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses, and the rum flows, tensions emerge and the gloves come off, leaving the couples with more than just their liberal principles in tatters.

The play was a success in its original language, French, and its Christopher Hampton English-translated productions have been equally praised in in both London and New York. The London production was widely acclaimed, receiving the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Play of the year. The Broadway production closed on June 6, 2010 playing 24 previews and 452 regular performances. It is the third-longest running play of the 2000s and won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play.

God of Carnage opens January 24th and runs through February 23rd, 2013. Circle Theatre produces contemporary plays rarely seen in the DFW community and is committed to presenting professional, innovative theatre in an intimate setting.  For reservations and tickets, call the box office at 817-877-3040 or visit the Circle Theatre website.

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PROOF Opens at MCT

Proof, the 2001 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play by David Auburn, opens this weekend at the Mesquite Arts Center, running through June 25, 2011.

Directed by Doug Luke, the Mesquite Community Theatre production boasts a wonderful cast including Jeni Rall (Catherine), Cory Wornell (Claire), Gary Anderson (Robert) and Brad Stephens (Hal).  This is the third production Stephens has mounted at MCT, previously performing as Chris Keller in All My Sons (2008) and directing To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday (2009).

On the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, Catherine, a troubled young woman, has spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable father, a famous mathematician. Now, following his death, she must deal with her own volatile emotions; the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire; and the attentions of Hal, a former student of her father’s who hopes to find valuable work in the 103 notebooks that her father left behind. Over the long weekend that follows, a burgeoning romance and the discovery of a mysterious notebook draw Catherine into the most difficult problem of all: How much of her father’s madness – or genius – will she inherit?

PERFORMANCES:

  • Friday June 10 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday June 11 – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday June 12- 2:30 PM ($12.00)
  • Friday June 17 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday June 18 – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday June 19 – 2:30 PM ($12.00)
  • Thursday June 23 – 8:00 PM ($12.00)
  • Friday June 24 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday June 25 – 8:00 PM

BOX OFFICE OPENS ONE HOUR BEFORE SHOW TIME
(House opens thirty minutes before show time.)

**********ADMISSION**********

  • $15.00-Adults
  • $12.00- Students, Seniors Over 55 and S.T.A.G.E. Members (with ID card)*
  • $8.00- Children 2-6 years old

Adult admission for Thursday evening and Sunday matinee performances are $12.00.

CASH OR CHECK ONLY NO CARDS! You may purchase your tickets using your CREDIT CARD by visiting http://www.mctweb.org/ and clicking the “Tickets On-Line” tab.

Though not required, RESERVATIONS are recommended to assure your seat for this performance. For Reservations call (972) 216-8126 or E-mail: Reservations@mctweb.org

Be sure to include your FULL NAME, PHONE NUMBER and the number of $15.00, $12.00 and $8.00 tickets you wish to reserve and the PERFORMANCE DATE & TIME

Cut off time for reservations for evening performances is 5:00 PM on the date of the performance and 12:30 PM for Sunday matinee performances on the date of the performance.

Reservations will be honored until 15 minutes before show-time. After that time, the reserved seats will be offered to our walk-in patrons.

NO ONE WILL BE SEATED AFTER THE PERFORMANCE BEGINS.

*Society for Theatrical Artists’ Guidance & Enhancement

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