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Paul Sills

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Weekend Intensive and events at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum in Chicago!

I am a son of Viola Spolin, so I was in some of her theater game workshops at Hull House, Chicago. It was her influence, which led me to read book after book of fairy tales from many cultures. Since she was the student of Neva Boyd, who taught traditional games and folk dances at her Recreational Training Center, I came in for a lot of playing. All this has stood me in good stead on my journey.
— Paul Sills
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Viola Spolin directing Paul Sills (center, holding script) and student actors on the Hull House Stage, 1930s.

Sills/Spolin Theater Works is honored to be returning to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago in May and June for several exciting events, including free workshops, a tribute to Spolin and Sills, and a weekend intensive workshop. We are delighted to bring the work back to its birthplace.

  • We’ll be there on May 13th and 14th for a three events that are open the public and free with RSVP. Learn more here.

  • Hull House will also be hosting an event to honor Viola Spolin and Paul Sills' contributions to American theater on the evening of June 20th, 6-9pm. Save the date and stay tuned for details.

  • Sidecoach Aretha Sills is offering a weekend Spolin improvisation intensive in the historic dining hall at Hull House on June 22nd and 23rd. We will play Viola Spolin's theater games in the space where FDR, Jane Addams, Ellen Gates Starr, and Neva Boyd broke bread. The intensive includes ten hours of play in two days. Beginners and experienced players welcome. Learn more and register here.

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SAG Life Achievement Award Winner Alan Alda on Training with Sills & Spolin

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I think it’s the best foundation

2019 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement award winner Alan Alda when asked about his training as an actor:

I was crazy. It’s not something I recommend to sensible people, but what I thought was my natural genius was a collection of mannerisms that took me 15 years to get rid of. The one bit of training I had was learning improvisation with Paul Sills and Viola Spolin, who really revolutionized theater in the country through Viola’s work on improvisation. I recommend that to young people who want to become actors because I think it’s the best foundation.”

Read the whole interview here.

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New Workshops Winter and Spring 2019

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UPCOMING SPOLIN THEATER GAME WORKSHOPS IN LOS ANGELES & THE BAY AREA

Explore the improvisational acting method of Viola Spolin to enhance your training as an actor, improviser, educator, writer, or director. Named "one of the most prominent acting techniques" by Backstage, Viola Spolin's Theater Games release the intuition through focus, spontaneity, and play, opening up new avenues of expression and communication in your work and in your daily life.  

COMING SOON:

  • No Expectations Improvisation: Theater Games for Mindfulness and Communication, Saturday, Dec 1 (Wait List Only)

  • Bay Area Weekend Intensive Jan 12 & 13, 2019

  • 8-Week Theater Game Workshop Starts Jan 15, 2019 in Los Angeles

  • Improvisation for Writers Starts January 10, 2019 in North Hollywood

  • 9-Week Alumni Theater Game Workshop Starts March 12 in Los Angeles

  • Improvisation to Develop a Solo or Ensemble Show Starts March 14th in North Hollywood

  • Weekend Spolin Intensive in North Hollywood March 16 & 17th, 2019

Viola Spolin’s Theater Games launched the American improvisational theater movement and changed the way acting is taught. Her work has influenced generations of actors and educators. In the workshops with sidecoach Aretha Sills, we’ll explore the groundbreaking exercises and theatrical concepts found in her seminal book Improvisation for the Theater, with an emphasis on the philosophies of legendary improvisation innovators Viola Spolin and Paul Sills, and on applying Spolin’s meditative methods to your work in any artistic discipline.

Learn more below…


No Expectations Improvisation: Theater Games to Inspire Mindfulness and Communication, Saturday Dec 1 in LA - WAIT LIST ONLY

Enter the holiday season refreshed and inspired! In this three-hour workshop, we’ll explore the theater games and exercises that inspire theatrical improvisers to get out of the head and into the present time, but without any expectation of performing or being “on.” Our goal is to experience the many benefits of spontaneity and group play, with no pressure to create scenes or act. We’ll play a combination of meditative warm ups, sensory-awareness exercises, and traditional children’s games to release the intuition and open up new avenues of personal expression and communication. No experience needed, just a willingness to play!

We’ll meet: Saturday, Dec 1st, from 2 to 5pm
Location:  Subud L.A., 5828 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tuition: $60. for new players, $50 for returning players. A few sliding-scale spots are still available. Tuition is refundable minus a $10 registration fee if you cancel by Nov 1.
Registration:  Wait list only. Email with questions or for a spot on the wait list.


Bay Area Spolin Improvisation Intensive Jan 12 & 13, 2019

Designed to introduce the key principles of Viola Spolin’s revolutionary acting, directing, and teaching methods in two days, the weekend intensive will help players be more fully present onstage and off.  Beginners and experienced players are welcome.

We’ll meet: Saturday and Sunday, Jan 12 & 13, from 11am to 5pm each day, with an hour break for lunch at 2pm.
Location:  Shotgun Studios, 1201 University Ave, Studio B, Berkeley, CA 94702
Tuition: $250. A few sliding-scale spots are available. Payment plans ok. Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by Dec 12.
Registration:  Email with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here.


8-Week Theater Game Workshop in Los Angeles Starts January 15, 2019

This workshop is open to beginners and experienced players. Actors, educators, directors, and improvisers learn through play how to incorporate Viola Spolin's transformative techniques into their practice. The workshop will introduce players to the the key principles of Spolin's revolutionary acting, directing, and teaching methods, and help them be more fully present onstage and off. 

We'll meet: Tuesday Nights, Jan 15 - March 5, 2019, 7:30 - 10pm.
Location: Subud Los Angeles, 5828 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 90036. 
Tuition: $365.; Returning players rate is $330. A few sliding scale spaces available. Please ask if you need a payment plan. Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by Dec 15.
Registration: Email me with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here.


Improvisation for Writers Starts January 10, 2019 in North Hollywood — Save $50 if you register by Nov 30!

"My vision is a world of accessible intuition." -Viola Spolin

"If you haven't surprised yourself, you haven't written." -Eudora Welty

This 8-week workshop is designed to jump start new written work in a playful and non-competitive environment. Writers will learn the fundamentals of scene improvisation and put them to work in their writing through in-class games and writing exercises. We'll clear creative blocks by igniting an intuitive response, and allow ourselves the chance to see where it leads without judgment. The workshop will explore ways writers can access their intuition through play to bring a fresh spontaneity to all types of written work. Open to beginners and experienced writers and players. 

"Improvisation for Writers was the first workshop I took with Aretha Sills. Combining traditional and theatrical games, it was clear how this approach fits well with writers. The side-coached free writes, based on the focus of the theater games, gave my writing three dimensionality and a rich environment to find new characters, plot points, conflicts and complex story arcs. Getting out of the head and into the physical is life-changing for a writer. I have gone on to take many more improvisational theater workshops with Aretha, because it benefits my writing (especially with well developed, living-breathing characters), my overall creativity, and my personal well-being."  --Valerie Brockbank, screenwriter/ fiction writer

We'll meet: Thursday Nights, Jan 10 - Feb 28, 2019. Please note: we will not meet on Valentine's Day and the last class will be held on Wednesday, March 6. All classes meet from 7:30 - 10pm.
Location: 5628 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91601.
Tuition: Before Nov 30, tuition is $315 for new players and $280 for returning players. After Nov 30 tuition is $365. or $330 for returning players. A few sliding scale spaces available. Please ask if you need a payment plan. Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by Dec 10.
Registration: Email me with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here.


9-Week Alumni Theater Game Workshop Starts March 12 in Los Angeles

This workshop is for returning players who would like to delve deeper into exploring the exciting theatrical possibilities in Viola Spolin’s Improvisation for the Theater. Our last session will be a workshop performance/demonstration and a potluck reception for an invited audience of friends and family on Saturday, May 4th.

We'll meet: We’ll meet for 8 Tuesday nights, March 12 - April 30 plus a workshop demonstration/performance for an invited audience on Saturday, May 4th. All sessions meet from 7:30 - 10pm.
Location: Subud Los Angeles, 5828 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 90036. 
Tuition: $380. A few sliding scale spaces available. Please ask if you need a payment plan. Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by February 12.
Registration: Email me with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here.


Improvisation to Develop a Solo or Ensemble Show Starts March 14th in North Hollywood

Players will create and develop a monologue or personal story with the goal of beginning a longer piece. Teams of players who would like to develop an ensemble show are also encouraged to participate. We’ll use theater games and improvisational methods to help us round out the characters, fill in detail, and deepen the connections in our scenes and stories. At our last workshop we will present our works-in-progress to an invited audience of friends and family. All experience levels welcome.

We'll meet: Seven Thursday nights, March 14 to April 25th, plus a final meeting on Saturday, April 27th, which will be a performance of our works-in-progress for an invited audience. All classes meet from 7:30 - 10pm.
Location: 5628 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91601.
Tuition: Tuition is $375 for new players and $340 for returning players. sliding scale spaces available. Please ask if you need a payment plan. Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by February 14.
Registration: Email me with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here.


Weekend Spolin Intensive in North Hollywood March 16 & 17th, 2019

Designed to introduce the key principles of Viola Spolin’s revolutionary acting, directing, and teaching methods in two days, the weekend intensive will help players be more fully present onstage and off.  Beginners and experienced players are welcome.

We’ll meet: Saturday and Sunday, March 16 & 17, from 11am to 5pm each day, with an hour break for lunch at 2pm.
Location:  5628 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91601.
Tuition: $250. before Dec 15, $265 after. A few sliding-scale spots are available. Payment plans ok. Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by February 16.
Registration:  Email with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here.

Learn more at www.violaspolin.org/workshops








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SPOLIN improvisation WORKSHOPS IN LOS ANGELES, CHICAGO & The Bay Area

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Explore the improvisational acting method of Viola Spolin to enhance your training as an actor, improviser, educator, writer, or director. Named “one of the most prominent acting techniques” by Backstage, Viola Spolin’s Theater Games release the intuition through focus, spontaneity, and play, opening up new avenues of expression and communication in your work and in your daily life.

FALL 2018 WORKSHOPS:

  • Chicago Weekend Intensive Oct 27 & 28 (wait list only)

  • Los Angeles Weekend Intensive Nov 10 & 11

  • No Expectations Improvisation: Theater Games to Inspire Mindfulness and Communication, Saturday Dec 1 in LA

  • Bay Area Weekend Intensive Jan 12 & 13, 2019

Viola Spolin’s Theater Games launched the American improvisational theater movement and changed the way acting is taught. Her work has influenced generations of actors and educators. In the workshops with sidecoach Aretha Sills, we’ll explore the groundbreaking exercises and theatrical concepts found in her seminal book Improvisation for the Theater, with an emphasis on the philosophies of legendary improvisation innovators Viola Spolin and Paul Sills, and on applying Spolin’s meditative methods to your work in any artistic discipline.

Learn more below...


Weekend Intensive in Chicago October 27 & 28 — Wait List Only

Designed to introduce the key principles of Spolin's revolutionary acting, directing, and teaching methods in two days, the weekend intensive will help players be more fully present onstage and off.  Beginners and experienced players are welcome. 

We'll meet: Saturday and Sunday, Oct 27 & 28, 2018, from 10am to 4pm, with an hour lunch break at 1pm.
Location:  Foxhole Creative, 2444 W Montrose Ave., Chicago, Illinois 60618
Tuition: $265. A few sliding-scale spots are available. Payment plans ok. Tuition is refundable minus $50 deposit if you cancel by Sept 27.
Registration:  Email with questions if needed. To be added to the waiting list, please fill out the form found here. I will reply to confirm your spot on the list.


Los Angeles Weekend Intensive November 10  & 11 (North Hollywood Location)  

Designed to introduce the key principles of Spolin's revolutionary acting, directing, and teaching methods in two days, the weekend intensive will help players be more fully present onstage and off.  Beginners and experienced players are welcome. 

We'll meet: Saturday and Sunday, November 10 & 11, 2018, from 11am to 5pm, with an hour lunch break at 2pm.
Location: New Musicals Inc., 5628 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, CA  91601
Tuition: $265. A few sliding-scale spots are available. Payment plans ok. Tuition is refundable minus $50 deposit if you cancel by Oct 10.
Registration:  Email with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here. I will reply with payment instructions. 


No Expectations Improvisation: Theater Games to Inspire Mindfulness and Communication, Saturday Dec 1 in LA

Enter the holiday season refreshed and inspired!

In this three-hour workshop, we’ll explore the theater games and exercises that inspire theatrical improvisers to get out of the head and into the present time, but without any expectation of performing or being “on.” Our goal is to experience the many benefits of spontaneity and group play, with no pressure to create scenes or act. We’ll play a combination of meditative warm ups, sensory-awareness exercises, and traditional children’s games to release the intuition and open up new avenues of personal expression and communication.

No experience needed, just a willingness to play!

We'll meet: Saturday, Dec 1st, from 2 to 5pm
Location:  Subud L.A., 5828 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tuition: $60. for new players, $50 for returning players. A few sliding-scale spots are still available. Tuition is refundable minus a $10 registration fee if you cancel by Nov 1.
Registration:  Email with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here. I will reply with payment info.


Bay Area Spolin Improvisation Intensive Jan 12 & 13, 2019

Designed to introduce the key principles of Viola Spolin's revolutionary acting, directing, and teaching methods in two days, the weekend intensive will help players be more fully present onstage and off.  Beginners and experienced players are welcome.

We'll meet: Saturday and Sunday, Jan 12 & 13, from 11am to 5pm each day, with an hour break for lunch at 2pm.
Location:  Shotgun Studios, 1201 University Ave, Studio B, Berkeley, CA 94702
Tuition: $250. A few sliding-scale spots are available. Payment plans ok. Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by Dec 12.
Registration:  Email with questions if needed, then please fill out the registration form found here. I will reply with payment info.


Aretha Sills is the granddaughter of Viola Spolin. She studied theater games for many years with her father, director Paul Sills (creator/director of The Second City and Story Theater), and has conducted workshops for Paul Sills' Wisconsin Theater Game Center, Bard College, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Stockholm International School, Sarah Lawrence College, and Northwestern University. She has worked with Tony- and Emmy-Award winning actors and has trained faculty from Northwestern, DePaul, Columbia College, The Second City, The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, LAUSD, CETA, and many other institutions and schools. She is the Associate Director of Sills/Spolin Theater Works and she directs The Predicament Players. 

 To be notified about upcoming workshops, or to inquire about private coaching or workshops for your school or group, please email. 

Quotes about the workshop:

“Aretha is dedicated to preserving the pureness of this technique, which from my point of view assists the actor to find the courage to find themself and then to fly. I believe she has, innately and amazingly, all the elements of the technique of both Viola Spolin and Viola’s son, the extraordinary director, Paul Sills. I have studied with Aretha, and believe me, the thrill lives on.” – Paul Sand, Tony Award winner, Paul Sills’ Story Theater; Original Second City cast member

“Aretha Sills, carrying on the work of Spolin and Sills, is an amazing, insightful side-coach and teacher. We were fortunate enough to take a workshop in L.A. with her and it helped us reconnect with theater game work on a deeper level. She knows her stuff. Can’t wait to work with her again!” – Deb Lacusta & Dan Castellaneta, The Simpsons, actor & writers

“If you are an aspiring actor who is really really really funny and you like to stand in one place running your big mouth and interrupting your friend who is only really funny, then you should take this workshop to cure you of that.”  -Brian Hamill, Mob Rule Inc. Senior Improvisation Workshop

“As an educator and instructor of acting and directing, I was eager to learn about the American theater improvisation developed by Viola Spolin and expounded by Paul Sills. Aretha Sills provides an insight into the authentic roots of the system that has been utilized for years by theatre training programs. The workshop will provide you with an excellent opportunity to explore various games and exercises to enrich your view of performance and acting.”  -Norma Saldivar, professor and chair, UNLV Department of Theatre, and executive director of the Nevada Conservatory Theatre

“Aretha is one of the century’s best improvisation teachers. Like her grandmother before her, she understands people, theater, and improvisation in an intuitive and deep way. As someone who has studied with some of the top teachers in the country and has performed for over 15 years, I can honestly say Aretha’s work opened my eyes. I understood improv on a deeper level. I was refreshed and returned to beginner’s mind.” -David Alger, founder Pan Theater

To be notified about upcoming workshops, or to inquire about workshops for your school or group, please email.

Learn about our new youth theater workshops in Los Angeles here

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Petition: Add Viola Spolin to the American Writers Museum in Chicago!  

Please sign a petition to add Viola Spolin to the American Writers Museum in Chicago!  

Jeffrey Sweet, author of Something Wonderful Right Away: An Oral History of The Second City and The Compass Playershas created a petition to add Viola Spolin to the American Writers Museum in Chicago!

We hope you'll sign and share the petition, found here.

Writes Sweet: "The American Writers Museum, a new attraction on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, includes a section saluting Chicago writers, each honored Chicago writer being represented by a banner and a biography. Most of the worthy names are there. ... Viola Spolin is not. This is a dismaying omission. ... It is not an exaggeration to say that Improvisation for the Theater is one of the most important and influential books of the American theatre, laying out the theoretical foundation of the improvisation theatre movement. Second City -- which was founded by Spolin's son, Paul Sills -- is the most notable of the companies that exist because of Spolin and her work."

Thank you for taking the time to sign the petition honoring the mother of improvisational theater! 

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Sills/Spolin Theater Works at the Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium

Aretha Sills speaking about Jane Addams, 2017 Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium.

Aretha Sills speaking about Jane Addams, 2017 Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium.

On May 12th, Aretha Sills of Sills/Spolin Theater Works gave a talk at the first annual Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium at University of California, Irvine. Titled "A Search for Community: Neva Boyd, Viola Spolin, Paul Sills, and the Origins of Improvisational Theater in the U.S.", the talk and Q&A traced the roots of their work to the radical Progressive-era philosophies cultivated at Jane Addams’ Hull House in Chicago using stories, personal history, photographs, and Spolin and Sills' own words and writing. 

In 1955, Paul Sills’ called the new improvisational theater, Compass, “a search for a community.” Viola Spolin (originator of Theater Games and author of Improvisation for the Theater) and Paul Sills (founding director of Compass, The Second City, and Story Theater) created a form of theater that celebrated American ideals of liberty, community, and democracy. 

Sills/Spolin Theater Works educators are available to bring workshops in Theater Games and Story Theater to your school or organization. We also direct productions, offer teacher training, and speak to groups about Viola Spolin, Paul Sills, and the history of improvisational theater in America.

Contact us with inquiries.

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Fall 2016 Theater Game Intensives in NYC, Oakland, and Denver

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Fall 2016 Theater Game Intensives in NYC, Oakland, and Denver

Explore the transformational theater games of Viola Spolin to enhance your training as an actor, improviser, educator, director, or to experience more play in your daily life. We're taking the show on the road! Upcoming workshops include weekend intensives in New York City, Denver, and Oakland.  

To learn more, click on the post's title to your left.

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Ed Asner and Carol Sills Discuss Playwrights Theatre Club, Paul Sills, Viola Spolin and more

Director of Sills/Spolin Theater Works, Carol Sills, recently met with the legendary Ed Asner to talk about his time at the University of Chicago and Playwrights Theatre Club, where he worked with Paul Sills, Viola Spolin, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, David Shepherd, and many other important figures in American theater. You can see a condensed version of their conversation in the video below. We'll be sharing more of Ed's great stories next week. Many thanks to Ed for his warmth and generosity in sharing his memories with us, and to Liza Asner for her help arranging the shoot. We're deeply grateful to Carol Gray, who shot and edited the video, and to Lucas Gray for consulting. We hope you enjoy the first in our Sills/Spolin Theater Works Interview series! 

Be sure to "like" the Facebook page for Sills/Spolin Theater Works to get news, and visit PaulSills.com for information about upcoming improvisational theater intensives at Paul Sills' Wisconsin Theater Game Center. Learn more about the life and work of Viola Spolin here.

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2016 Summer Theater Game and Story Theater Intensives in Door County, WI

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2016 Summer Theater Game and Story Theater Intensives in Door County, WI

Paul Sills' Wisconsin Theater Game Center

Every summer Paul Sills' Wisconsin Theater Game Center offers intensives in the work of American theater legends Viola Spolin and Paul Sills. Actors, theater students, teachers, directors and other players are invited to attend one or both. Workshops are held in studios at the Sills family farm in Door County, Wisconsin, a famous vacation destination on the beautiful peninsula in Lake Michigan. Each intensive offers ten sessions in five days — 25 hours of play, with long lunch breaks in which to explore the area. Tuition is $500 or $900 for both. 


Workshop A: Theater Game Intensive with Aretha Sills
July 25 to 29

Explore the transformational theater games of Viola Spolin to enhance your training as an actor, improviser, educator, director, or to experience more play in your daily life. Viola Spolin’s theater games launched the modern American improvisational theater movement and changed the way acting is taught. Her work has influenced generations of actors and educators. The Theater Game Intensive is a concentrated course based on her groundbreaking book Improvisation for the Theater. Coached by Aretha Sills, from a lesson plan created by Paul Sills, the intensive is open to beginners and experienced players. To read quotes about Aretha's workshops, please visit here. Learn more about the intensive here

Workshop B: Story Theater Intensive with Carol Bleackley Sills
August 1 to 5

In the late 60s Second City founding director Paul Sills surprised the Chicago theater scene with a new art form. Players in street garb staged tales from the oral tradition set to contemporary music in dramatically-lit space. By 1970 Paul Sills' Story Theatre had won critical acclaim on both coasts. "Unequivocably great,” wrote Clive Barnes in the New York Times. Sills imparted this method in an intensive he coached with Carol Sills in 2008. Since then, Carol has continued the practice. Players will adapt stories from literature in a process that leads to a workshop performance. Viola Spolin’s theater games spark fire in a curriculum that prepares participants to coach players in their own classrooms and theaters. Learn more here

For more information or to register for upcoming workshops, visit www.PaulSills.com. To learn more about travel to Door County, please visit www.DoorCounty.com. Players often share lodging or car rentals and we can help you find reasonably priced accommodations. Please feel free to contact Carol Sills with questions.

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