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High School Project’s Into the Woods Lovingly Finds its Way to a Happy Ending at the Grand Theatre

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Winding its way through these amazingly youth-talented woods, the 2022 High School Project has done this show proud, bringing to life Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s magnificent (and complicated) Into the Woods at the Grand Theatrein London, Ontario with a simple joy and excitement that is utterly infectious. It’s gloriously uplifting, these woods, seeing all of these high school students, so full of energy and talent, skip this renowned and much-loved youth mentorship program back to the stage with such vigor after two years of online programming. And it couldn’t have found a better spell to cast. “You wish to have the curse reversed?” Well, this proud return for the High School Project has all the ingredients it needs. It is both joyful and insightful, overflowing with a sublime youthful energy as the production and the organization opens up the world of theatre to a whole new audience with this adept staging of Into the Woods on the Grand Theatre‘s main stage, playing from September 20th to October 1st, 2022.

Isaac Szoldatits (center) with the student cast of High School Project‘s Into the Woods at the Grand Theatre, London, ON. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Brought to majestic life by a determined cast of dedicated and talented students, both on stage and in the equally important roles behind the scenes, such as stage management, props, wardrobe, scenic art, orchestra, donor relations, and entertainment marketing, this production of Into the Woods flies strong and high. It’s completely entertaining and worthy of the standing ovation it received when I saw it a few days ago thanks to director Saccha Dennis (Mirvish’s Come From Away) who finds a unique pathway and perspective in the reading room of a library, delivering a production that is both gleefully book-wormy, proud, and wonderfully wicked.

Cindy Li, Miguel Constantin Mandapat, and Will Cramp with the student cast of High School Project‘s Into the Woods at the Grand Theatre. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Staged with insight and fun by set designer Holly Meyer-Dymny (Hart House’s Legally Blond), lighting designer Louise Guinand (Factory Theatre’s The Monument), and sound designer Emily Porter (Berkeley Stree’s Skylight) with tons and tons of help by a crew of dedicated high school students giving it their all, this enchanting production of Into the Woods finds its solid footing on a path that begins in the most perfect of settings for this show, a library. Relishing the exciting connection to the written word, a crowd of enchanted youth sit on the floor cross-legged listening intently to the Narrator, well played by Isaac Szoldatits, read with such fun fervor from his book of fairy tales.

It’s a divine beginning and a perfect set-up for this wild and wonderful adventure, with inventive costuming designed by Lisa Wright, Head of Wardrobe at the Grand, blending the look of modern wear and the essence of a fairytale, expanded and enhanced for a festive visual. It easily transports these listening kids into storybook characters wisely utilizing current culture as a guide. I mean, the Mean Girls approach to the Stepmother and her daughters is a divine creation, lead by the well and wise casting of Miguel Constantin Mandapat as the “apex preditor‘ with her minions; Aldiyana Kruzel as Lucinda and Sierra Choong as Florinda, playing a perfect blend of narcissistic and nasty. They, along with all the others lend and blend the two worlds together, giving it all a smart sassy starting point for the narrator to usher us all into the story. The main characters spring up and take their places alongside the others, easily taking over the whole two-story reading room, a magical space that brilliantly keeps expanding and growing its imaginative branches outward with aplomb until the final curtain. It’s such a fun adventure, with some very talented high school students confidently taking on some very difficult and challenging roles and delivering these characters to us strongly and confidently. It’s the perfect wish fulfilled.

Karissa Kern and Will Cramp with the student cast of High School Project‘s Into the Woods at the Grand Theatre. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

I went into the Grand Theatre happily, looking forward to seeing these high school kids embrace this great show. I must admit, I still was carrying the firmly established memory of Broadway’s latest revival of Into the Woods still dancing solidly and magnificently around my head (you can read my review here). I mean, you can’t beat a cast that includes Sara Bareilles as the Baker’s Wife, Patina Miller as the Witch, and Phillipa Soo as Cinderella. No way. No how. And I can’t wait to download the Broadway revival’s cast album that is being released today, September 30th, 2022. It will be on repeat for a long time coming.

Yet in no way did I want to walk into the Grand Theatre with an idea to contrast and compare the two. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone, including myself. But I must say, with no reservations, that overall everyone delivers with such joy in their hearts. But there are some very strong standouts in this overall exceptionally talented cast of students that I can’t help but congratulate. Most notable are the subtle and smart performances of Will Cramp as the conflicted Baker, Jasmine Darvasi as Jack’s worn-out mother, Karissa Kern as the cheeky Little Red Ridinghood, and Cindy Li as the charming Cinderella. Each of them, completely delicious and very fun to watch, but the most impressive of the lot was the very solid Stella Yanga as the Witch. In one of the most difficult parts in the piece, one that required depth and maturity, she completely blew me away both vocally and in the way she embraced the part with such assurance and charisma. Well done, one and all.

Stella Yanga and Cami Rodriguez in High School Project‘s Into the Woods at the Grand Theatre. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Beyond a few moments when the stagecraft action was a bit too busy, like when we were continually distracted by staircase movement as Li’s Cinderella was enthralling us with her rendition of “On the Steps of the Palace“. It did her no favors, yet that’s a minor criticism in the big scheme of things, as it seems choreographer Greg Carruthers (Hart House’s Legally Blond) did find many beautiful and charming ways of gifting all the cast with action and focus, whether it be in the form of trees or milky white cows. These kids really did deliver an absolutely delightful piece of musical theatre. Sondheim and Lapine would have been proud, particularly how much they embraced the difficult themes and storylines that exist so intricately in the music, lyrics, and story being told. So grab a ticket to the High School Project’s joyful production of Into the Woods, and get yourself over to that well-designed reading room on the main stage of the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. You will be enthralled “for those moments in the woods“.

The Grand’s High School Project production of Into the Woods is led by Saccha Dennis (Director), Patrick Bowman (Music Director), and Greg Carruthers (Choreographer). The company is comprised of a cast of 26 student performers, 15 backstage students, and three orchestra students, from grades 9 through 12 in the Thames Valley District School Board and the London Catholic District School Board.

When approaching Into the Woods, one of the greatest shows in the musical theatre canon, we knew we wanted to honour its spirit, while also presenting the show in a way that many will have never seen before,” remarks the productions Director Saccha Dennis.  “I believe that we have truly accomplished this and that our audiences will be in for a particular treat as they watch the talent of tomorrow bring this enchanting story to life – in person, and on-stage.”

THE CAST

Emma Bishop: Steward
Ella Brophy: Ensemble
Sierra Choong: Florinda
Miguel Constantin Mandapat: Cinderella’s Stepmother
Will Cramp: Baker
George Crosby: Ensemble
Jasmine Darvasi: Jack’s Mother
Jorja Denny: Granny + Cinderella’s Mother
Evan Doerr: Ensemble
Isabella Espanol: Ensemble
Lauren Gracey: Baker’s Wife
Karissa Kern: Little Red Ridinghood
Aldiyana Kruzel: Lucinda
Cindy Li: Cinderella
Alli Paris: Ensemble
Alex Pearce: Ensemble
Kieran Prouty: Rapunzel’s Prince
Cami Rodriguez: Rapunzel
Ryan Shaw: Wolf
Kira Shuit: Ensemble
Leo Sigut: Cinderella’s Prince
Oliver Stanton: Jack
Charlie Stimac: Mysterious Man
Isaac Szoldatits: Narrator
Stella Yanga: Witch
Lydia Zadorsky: Ensemble

BACKSTAGE

Emily Alton: Stage Management
Alyssa Palma: Stage Management
Dexter Greene: Photography & Marketing
Ruthie Rennie: Sound
Matheo Van Der Mark: Props
Nadia Barakziye: Props
Riley Lindsay: Props
Kate Telfer: Props
Amy Bae: Wardrobe
Leen Chaiekh: Wardrobe
Mackenzie De Salvo Downe: Wardrobe
Ghost Vaillancourt: Wardrobe
Sarah Wu: Wardrobe
Sarena “Onyx” Nielsen: Scenic Art
Jordan Porter: Scenic Art

ORCHESTRA

Berkin Alper Girgin Orchestra: Keys 1
Sophia Tanaka Orchestra: Flute

High School Project‘s Into the Woods at the Grand Theatre, London, ON. For information and tickets, click here.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Events

Boomerang at Bryant Park Movie Nights Presented by Paramount+

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On Monday June 24 watch the star studded 90’s romcom: Boomerang. Join hundreds of New Yorkers at 8PM to revisit and enjoy this stylish and nostalgic NYC film classic, and follow the love triangle of the charming Marcus Graham (Eddie Murphy), Jacqueline (Robin Givens)  and Angela (Halle Berry) under the starry open skies of NYC.

This heartwarming feature film is great for a summer date night and will be sure to leave you laughing and smiling. So, bring a cozy blanket, some snacks and hit up the Hester Street Fair for some local food and drinks to enjoy! Hester Street Fair is now bringing the city’s best vendors to the Fountain Terrace each week, from 4pm-8:30pm, to make your Movie Nights picnic the most delicious it can be . Starting at 5pm, stop by our bar tent at the back of the lawn for summer-ready drinks, featuring special offerings from Stout NYC.

Forgot a blanket? Stop by the Bryant Park Shop for a cute blanket, apparel, games, our apiary honey, and more!

For more information on Paramount+ Movie Nights at Bryant Park and all of the free programming at Bryant Park this summer, visit bryantpark.org.

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Cabaret

Can First Graders Mount a Broadway Musical And Raise Money for Charity?  Yes, They Can For Marin Mazzie

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New York City’s Midtown West School/PS 212’s First Grade Theatre Study program continues their tradition of creativity, collaboration, and philanthropy, this year benefiting the Cancer Support Community in memory of Tony winner and American Theater Hall of Fame inductee Marin Mazzie.

This astonishing group of first graders from Midtown West School/PS 212 and their teachers Bryan Andes and Rowena Hurst who, this year, produced an original musical version of The Little Mermaid with a score made up of Flaherty/Ahrens songs while raising funds to honor the memory of beloved Broadway legend Marin Mazzie, who died of ovarian cancer in 2018.

Developed by Andes in 2005, the First Grade Theatre Study (the Study) was created as a way to help students develop a deeper understanding of how people work together to create theater. Using a social studies lens, the two-year program looks at the entire process of how a show comes together – from the creation of a script to the running of a live musical, and every step in between.

The Study begins in kindergarten with an immersive study of fairy tales. Students learn about tales from around the world and how different cultures retell these stories in distinctive ways. Then, beginning in first grade, students engage in the research process. They meet with directors, designers, stagehands, front-of-house workers, wardrobe workers, advertising executives, and actors to gather information about each theater job.

In the winter, the students start writing an original fairy tale script, curating a score, designing advertisements and playbill covers, and deciding which job they will carry out for the production. The students go on to build set models, design costumes, sell tickets, choreograph dances, rehearse their lines, and more.

“Given our location near the heart of the theater district, the Study is also about connecting our school community with the theater community,” Andes said. “Since so many members of the theater community, across all areas of the profession, donate their time to visit our school or host us at the theater to teach us about their jobs, fundraising for a charity with links to Broadway is our way of giving back and saying thank you.”

The beneficiary for the 2024 production is the Cancer Support Community (CSC), a global nonprofit that uplifts and strengthens people impacted by cancer by providing support, fostering compassionate communities, and breaking down barriers to care. CSC’s services and resources are available at nearly 200 Cancer Support Community, Gilda’s Club, and healthcare partner locations as well as online and over the phone. Mazzie was a fierce supporter of CSC and actively advanced its mission to support people living with cancer and their loved ones. Her husband, Broadway star Jason Danieley, continues to be a champion for CSC and a resolute advocate for cancer patients and caregivers.

Members of CSC’s senior leadership, including Karen Costello, MSS, LSW, OSW-C, a licensed social worker and the Senior Director of CSC’s Cancer Support Helpline, spoke to the students this spring about the organization’s mission, answered their questions about cancer, shared how Mazzie advocated for patients, and told them how their fundraising will help people, including children, impacted by or coping with a cancer diagnosis.

Giving back is an important component of the First Grade Theatre Study program, with prior beneficiaries including The Actor’s Fund, Broadway Barks, BCEFA (Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS), and Covenant House. This year, in addition to raising money through ticket sales, the students are creating a vertical garden of sunflowers, Mazzie’s favorite flower. Handmade by the students, the 400 flowers, priced at $5 each, have already sold out. Their generosity and creativity do not end there. The students are also writing positive messages that will be placed in an affirmation jar to encourage patients, caregivers, and other participants at CSC’s nearby network partner, Cancer Support Community Greater New York and Connecticut.

On June 25, the first graders will present their original musical in a special afternoon event that includes both a museum and film documenting the journey and the live performance (complete with an 13-piece orchestra made up of Local 802 musicians, parent volunteers, and teachers).

“We are simply overwhelmed by the effort and generosity of this group of children,” CSC CEO Sally Werner commented. “The creativity, attention to detail, and curiosity they have shown in putting together this musical and fundraiser are outstanding. They are fortunate to have Bryan Andes and Rowena Hurst as their teachers whose dedication to creating a positive, life-changing experience and commitment to “paying it forward” by including a philanthropic and service component are stellar. We are honored to have been selected as their 2024 beneficiary.”

To support the students’ fundraising effort, go to:  https://bit.ly/2024mazziefundraiser

The Cancer Support Community is a global nonprofit that uplifts and strengthens people impacted by cancer. We are dedicated to fostering a community where people find connection, compassion, and knowledge. We provide professionally led support and navigation services, along with social connections and award-winning education — when, where, and how impacted individuals prefer throughout their cancer experience. These resources are available at nearly 200 Cancer Support Community, Gilda’s Club, and healthcare partner locations as well as online and over the phone — all at no cost. We amplify the voices of those impacted by cancer through research and advocacy and create solutions that break down barriers to care and close the healthcare gap for communities whose members are disproportionately affected by cancer.

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Food and Drink

I Took a Trip on a Train …. 

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And not just any train, but one of two cars from the original 20th Century Limited, the World’s Most Famous Train. It was truly a step back in time sitting in the newly and lovingly restored Hickory Creek car, which once transported the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to Hollywood.   

We departed from the magnificent Moynihan Train Hall after enjoying a mid-morning nosh in the exclusive lounge and then walked a red carpet to our car. (The notion of a red carpet actually originated with the 20th Century Ltd.) There were two cars remaining from the original, and both were cozy and comfortable. Once settled, refreshments were offered, and we began the journey up the Hudson River to Albany. I don’t believe it unfair to say that most of us take the Hudson River for granted—it’s there, separating us from New Jersey. But not long after we left the familiar territory of Manhattan, we began to see the river from a different perspective. Sometimes it’s wide, other times not so much, with small islands popping up. There was enough green on the trees to be a pleasant break from the grey of the city, and congenial fellow passengers for pleasant conversation. Before we knew it, lunch was served, and quite an excellent one too, given that it came from the tiniest kitchen I’ve even seen. A beet salad with pecans, Beef Bourguignon, and finally a lovely slice of cheesecake with raspberry sauce was beyond my expectation. 

Throughout the trip, our jovial host, Lou, dropped in to assure everyone’s comfort and to give us a bit of history on the train. Music from the era was just discernable and added to the time-travelling mood.    

A stop in Albany midway through the journey enabled the train to turn around to take us back and to give us all a chance to stretch our legs and see a bit of the state capital. The sun was descending as we passed the familiar sites of West Point and Tappan Zee Bridge, and before long we were back, refreshed and rejuvenated. Beverages and nibbles were served, just as they surely were when Marilyn and other luminaries traversed the country heading for Hollywood.     

Every effort was made by the staff to make this trip memorable for all of us. The afternoon offerings included lovely canapes with a tulip crafted from a tomato and chives—you must see it to believe it!   

And this experience can be yours, brought about by the United Railroad Historical Society of NJ.!  Check them out at URHS.org and HudsonRiverRail.com to see the many ways you can enjoy this luxurious experience. This was a day trip, but overnight trips to and from Chicago are also available. It was a spa day for the mind and spirit! 

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Events

Hamptons Fashion Week Keeps Getting Hauter So Save The Date

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Hamptons Fashion Week®, is the premier fashion event in the Hamptons! On July 26th-27th, 2024, join us at the luxurious Summer Series and an unforgettable experience. With over multiple designer shows, runways, luxury brands and exhibitor spaces during Hamptons Super Saturday®, Hamptons Swim Week® with a range of exciting activations, this is the must-attend event of the year.

At Hamptons Fashion Week®, leading fashion designers, entertainment, and productions are all under one roof, creating a truly immersive and transformative experience. You’ll have the opportunity to rub shoulders with industry professionals, fashion designers, models, and more, all while experiencing the latest trends in fashion.

From panel discussions and product demonstrations to social events such as industry mixers, after parties, lifestyle events and more! Guests will have access to exclusive, on-site hospitality, unmatched insider extras, and more, making this a truly coveted invitation.

Reserve your access now to receive one of fashion’s most coveted invites and be a part of the best touring fashion hampton experience of the year. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to be a part of the transformation of the fashion industry. Join us at Hamptons Swim Week® presented by Hamptons Fashion Week® Summer Series and Experience 2024!

Hamptons Fashion Week announced that it will feature Alice & Olivia and Michelle Farmer as their award recipients at Hampton’s Fashion Week Retail Of The Year Award Show on July 26th VIP Reception. Event coverage will be brought to you by E! News!, Bella Magazine, Dans Paper, Hamptons.com, Vogue  and other major influencers! There will also be a swim Week Runway Showcase by Johnny Was

 
This year, Celebrity, Hollywood Stylist & Designer Phillip Bloch will be receiving the Style Icon of The Year Award , July 27th during the program and show 6pm-10pm
 
Shop our latest brands at theHamptons Fashion Week Online Marketplace!
 
You need tickets so click here. Security will be super tight for this event. So if you don’t have a ticket there is no entrance.

VIP Tickets $500 include:

Swag Bag-Valued at $500{One Per Person]

Seating

Access to ALL 3 Events!

July 26th, 6=10pm, Vip Launch Party-Drinks , Bites & Entertainment. The cocktail reception is from 6pm to 8:30pm 

July 27th, Drinks, Bites , Entertainment plus Hamptons Fashion Week Fashion Show Debut in Westhampton. The cocktail reception is from 6pm to 8:30p and After Party.Double check on the List below

VIP Restaurant Sponsors:

Justin Chop Shop

Rouge Kitchens

The Cottage On The Hamlet

Sobol

Centro

Mill Road Seafood

Fruit King

North Fork Chocolate Company

Honest Plate Chef Nicolas

Mary’s Pizza And Pasta

Tonino’s Pizza

Buoy One

Jerri’s Cakery & Confections

Daphne’s Westhampton Beach

Insatiable Eats

Vern Restaurant And Bar

VIP Spirit Sponsors

William Grant And Sons

Votto Vines Importing

Hamptons Wine Shoppe

Handlebar

British Ginger T

Monkey In Pardise

Elbuhl Mezcal

Twin Stills Moonshine

Blue Nextar

Penelope Bourbon

Westhampton Beach Brewing

Twin Stills Moonshine

Fort Hamilton Distillery

Kleos Mastiha Spirits

Beau Joie Rose Champange

Cantera Negra Tequila

Bay Gin

Twisted Cow Distillery

Series 19 Wheat Vodka

Series 19 Rye Vodka

Series 19 Jalapeno Vodka

Dune Drifter Agave Spirit

Spy Ring Rum Raisin

Drinksouthside

 

 

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Food and Drink

A Toast to a Sparkling Fourth of July

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Fourth of July is just around the corner. Get ready to get your red, white and rosé on with these excellent selections. Your holiday will simply sparkle with these spectacular sip selections.

For a perfect start to your holiday luncheon and to kick off the holiday in a refreshing way try Mingle Mocktails Sparkling Raspberry Rosé.

This is a sparkling rosé in a pretty can option suitable for anyone whether you drink alcohol or not. We adore the bright bubbles that fizz out delicious notes of raspberry. Crisp and dry, it hits your senses perfectly and lingers with just a hint of sweetness on an end note. It is a wonderful drink to have as you start to talk to guests arriving for a wonderful day of holiday festivities.

For a sophisticated sip that will make you blush with wonderful joy try Minuty Prestige Rosé.

Minuty Prestige wines have been showcasing the terroirs of Provence for over 25 years. Subtle finesse comes with this crystal-clear cuvée with a delicate nose. This cuvée was born over 25 years ago out of Jean-Etienne and François Matton’s desire to offer a wide audience of Provence rosé lovers a wine combining aromatic expression and lightness on the palate with a thorough mastery of Provence’s terroirs.

We adore this breathtaking selection that delicately hits your senses with a smooth balance that bears a hint of bright reflection to add to your day. A perfect choice for the sun set before the fireworks.

For the perfect drink to have with the holiday bbq and when the fireworks pop in the sky try Cloudy Bay 2023 Sauvignon Blanc.

The color reflects perfectly with the fireworks illuminating over you as you sip on this gorgeous wine that speaks to you in grand voice with notes of juicy citrus.  Your pairing with your festive meal will be matched by the capricious and grateful attitude for all the party guests that surround you. We love the way it helps you see the night in a whole new beautiful way.

Here is to your own magical Fourth of July holiday with these incredible sips.

 

Cover art by Alondra Olivas on Unsplash

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