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Last year writer/performer Kate Healy was a Chicago Fringe Fest newbie but this year she’s back with a rave from Time Out Chicago under her belt and Lie Light, a new show which uses literal bindings to illuminate the repercussions of small, daily lies. Healy spoke with Our Town about the purpose of lying and the ethics of using real people as inspiration.

Our Town Is lying necessary?
Kate Healy It is if you want to be liked by all, never get in trouble, and never change. We say we like the truth but we tell and accept lies because we don’t want to own our mistakes and deficiencies. In some cases our pride is more important than someone else’s feelings, in some cases hiding evil is more important than watching innocence suffer, in some cases pumping someone full of faith is necessary to get the opportunity you’re after. But that choice, because it is a choice, alters you permanently.

OT What inspired your new show?
KH At the end of a relationship, I was feeling particularly vulnerable and started protecting myself with little lies. They felt harmless, but I was anxiety-ridden and impossible to get to know. My play is not autobiographical, but it comes from the feeling I had of wanting to appear in control.

OT As a writer what are your responsibilities when you write about other people?
KH I think they have a right to know. If you write about others it's not fully your story. I think it’s important to know why you’re writing, why you’re compelled to record and share the selected events and people. Lately it seems I only learn from true stories.
What are the ethics of using another person's experience in your art?
KH There is no need for apology. I don’t know if a true artist ever apologizes [but] you have to be brave enough to state the source, approach the source, and honor the source. It is humbling to admit that you learned from others, that who you are is a constant work of progress with contributions from anyone you’ve ever met or read or listened to. I believe it says something beautiful about art, that one might live and work in the voices of others to eventually arrive at what they want to express and find their own form of communication.

OT Your show uses actual bindings to represent lies. Employing a visual metaphor, how do you avoid being heavy handed, yet also get your point across?
KH I wanted to show in a physical and material way, how we guard our feelings. The visual of a rope being attached to each character gives the audience a complicated agency. It allows them to discern a character’s strength, see the insecurities that the lies are coming from, and watch how that spirals out of control or gets reeled back. It will be clear who is lying, but very difficult to decide who is right, who is good, and if the truth should even come out. The world of this play is set up by a narrator who is experimenting. I play Gracie, and she builds this thought-machine that allows her to see when she is being lied to, but as soon as hears truths about herself the world starts to break down. To me it is a symbol that if you’ve been lied to, the bigger problem is that you can’t believe again.  

'Lie Light' shows at the Chicago Art Department Shows are August 31 at 8:30 p.m., September 1 at 7 p.m., September 7 at 10 p.m., September 8 at 5:30 p.m. and September 9 at
2:30 p.m.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.


Want to know what your therapist is really thinking? Yeah, me neither. Writer/performer and yep, therapist Jude Treder-Wolff is here to tell you though. Her one woman show Crazytown: My First Psychopath hits the Chicago Fringe Fest this week. A comic take on an over-eager therapist's wake up call, Crazytown evolved over years of solo performance work. Treder-Wolff spoke with Our Town about the relationship between art and therapy and how to nurture a heckler.

Our Town How do performance, therapy and writing relate?
Jude Treder-Wolff From my perspective, an effective performance, therapeutic process or piece of writing deals with some kind of transformation. A person who begins in one circumstance or state of mind, faces obstacles, tries various ways to overcome the obstacles and is changed by the process. It may not be the change one envisioned or even wanted at the start of the process, but that is often because in facing down the obstacles we discover things – inner strengths, hidden connections between events or people, secrets or truths that redefine the problem - that could not be discovered without those obstacles. The role of performer and therapist are linked in the sense that an effective performance takes an audience through some kind of emotional experience, but entirely different in every other way. As a psychotherapist, my opinions, feelings, and concerns have to be put to the side so I can give my full attention and connect as deeply as possible to the person or group in front of me. The role is about good listening, good timing and creative guidance to help a person discover their own strength, creative capacities and path out of the problems they face. The performer role is me with my big opinions and big mouth out in front of people sharing what I really think about things. Being a performer made me a more effective therapist because I had this outlet to express ideas and work through my own perfectionism, fear of being judged, negativity, desire for control and disappointments which continue to flare up all the time in the process of creating or writing anything. Working through those issues has the side effect of expanding awareness about other people and their stories, which translates into being a more effective therapist.

OT Molding real life events into a story with a compelling narrative arc can be tough. How did you go about deciding what was interesting to you vs what might interest an audience?
JTW This is a great question. Just because something interesting or dramatic happened in real life does not make it viable as an entertaining story onstage. Because I started writing monologues exploring an idea or a theme and I often use vignettes or experiences from my own life when doing training or shows on these themes, I have lots of opportunity to see how a story lands on an audience. For example, I run a Smoking Cessation Program for a very large company on Long Island, and most of the participants are pretty cranky about having to be in the program. If I can get a laugh from a group in an 8 a.m. workplace smoking cessation group or staff meeting, I know I can get that laugh from an audience in a theater. So I have a great deal of real-time opportunities to try out and sharpen the stories of real experiences from my own life that make the point I want to make. The evolution of Crazytown has been almost an 18-month process of improvisation. Every performance was different, because I was trying out different ways to tell the overall story. The audience response is immediate and shows me clearly what works, what should be changed, and what needs to be cut.

OT I’m curious about what sort of moral quandaries might have resulted from using real-life clients to create entertainment.
JTW I’ll clarify right away that although until about two years ago I was seeing psychotherapy clients, I never used any of their stories in my shows. While the material and the characters created for my shows are rooted in real-life dilemmas common to many people who show up for psychotherapy, they are about my failures, flaws, and flops. It would be a terrible violation of the therapist/client relationship – not to mention of their ethically-enforced right to confidentiality - to use what I heard in sessions onstage. That said, in Crazytown I am telling a story about my struggle, my fear and my obstacles through a real event with a real person in a real place. Details of everyone involved are completely disguised.

All photos by Patty Michels

The first thing you need to know about Baconfest is it took place at the UIC Forum right next door to the reptile convention. THE REPTILE CONVENTION. Okay, maybe that’s not the first thing YOU need to know, but I sure as hell wish I’d known. I would have worn my hazmat suit or carried a machete or at very least parked across the street.

Anyway, once I’d made it past a building I knew was seething with POISONOUS SNAKES, I spotted the line for Baconfest. Though the dinner shift didn’t start for another hour, outside the UIC Forum, the line snaked from the building coiling like a....nevermind. I’m not going to think about it.


Inside, I was given drink tickets, a Baconfest tote bag and was directed into the event space. “You’ll be able to smell it,” the vegetarian working the press table told me.


She was right; the room's aroma was a bit like the alley behind a Chinese restaurant, but visually the space was pristine. Friendly and outgoing, the staff cleared tables, emptied garages, and refilled soda bins. The chefs and food-workers manning each booth seemed cheerful and informed, happy to share their offerings and curious about what their neighbors had concocted. Overall, the event was one of the most well-organized I’ve attended.


I mentioned in a prior blog that I’m not so much a bacon person, but I’m definitely a chocolate person, and luckily there was plenty: chocolate chip cookies made with bacon grease, chocolate chip and bacon bit dotted cannoli, chocolate bacon biscotti and more.


I also sampled an awesome bacon Bloody Mary, as well as small bites from Girl and the Goat and Epic.


Adjacent serpents aside, Baconfest seemed a smashing success, even for a non-bacon-lover like me.


A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.


I came late to the zombie genre but just like everyone and their flesh-eating mother, it's got me by the entrails now. 28 Days Later was my turning point, my zombie awakening if you will; images of that chittering priest amid a church full of zombies still accelerates my pulse when I head for the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Jason Geis, Co-Artistic Director of pH Productions knows what I mean. A fast-zombie aficionado himself, (“Why? Because they can catch you and eat you.”) Geis is responsible for the much anticipated annual Zombie Pub Crawl. A benefit for pH Productions, the crawl started on a lark and has grown exponentially with each passing year. Below, Geis discusses all things zombie.

Our Town Zombies have been around for decades; what’s behind the recent cultural resurgence? 
Jason Geis There are a lot of theories on this. Obviously shows like Walking Dead help push the zombie meme harder. But my favorite theory is that we can relate to zombies. They aren't hard to kill, they aren't particularly sneaky, but they can overwhelm you pretty fast. In this day and age with all the emails, and Facebook and everything else - if you don't keep up with it all you feel overwhelmed and can fall prey to the zombies. Zombies as a metaphor for modern society - how's that for brainy? 

OT What’s the Zombie pub crawl origin story?
JG A former cast member came to us and told us that Minneapolis had done a Zombie Crawl and wouldn't that be a funny fundraiser. I immediately thought - not funny - downright awesome. So now we do it every year. The cast looks forward to it as much as the zombies. 

OT Why Andersonville?
JG I'm actually not sure why we picked Andersonville for the first crawl. I think we were trying to think of an unexpected location that might go for something quirky like this. We have since kept it in Andersonville, because that is where we want to move our comedy theater permanently. It's an amazing neighborhood, with amazing people, amazing businesses and amazing leadership in the alderman and chamber of commerce. Did I say amazing enough? I think I did. 

OT How do you go about enticing neighborhood bars to participate?
JG After the first year it was easier. Bar owners saw how many people came out. On a non-Cubs Saturday afternoon there's a pretty nice potential to make some profit for your bar. Plus, we try and get a beer sponsor to give cheaper beer to the bars so they turn more of a profit that day. It's a win-win for everyone. Oddly, there are still bars that will not participate; they are skeptical that they won't make any money or they think we are going to destroy their bar. Simon's and Hamburger Mary's have been on from the beginning - and I'm sure they could tell you otherwise. 

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The closest my dog will get to Baconfest. Photo by Patty Michels

You guys, I don’t actually like bacon. I know. That’s like saying I don’t like sunshine or babies. Which I also kind of don’t. But just like zombies, bacon is having its cultural moment and Chicago food writer, software analyst and bacon enthusiast Seth Zurer is thrilled. Along with Andre Pluess and Michael Griggs, Zurer was driven to found Baconfest in order to share his passion for pork with the masses. A succulent success in 2011, Baconfest is back this year, bigger and better. Zurer spoke with Our Town about what those lucky enough to attend the sold out fest can expect.

Our Town Bacon: Always tasty but only recently culturally celebrated. Why so trendy all of a sudden?
Seth Zurer I think that we're in a Golden Age of Bacon.  Chefs have always loved bacon, but they didn't always have the kind of exposure that they do now; they're hosting talk shows, travel shows, cooking shows. They're the new media darlings and celebrity stars [and] they've brought to the general public an enthusiasm for local craft bacon that dovetails nicely with the farm-to-table, locavore, artisan food movement on the rise in the culture.  Or it could just be that bacon is damn good?

OT What inspired you to create Baconfest?
SZ My two partners, Andre Pluess and Michael Griggs, attended a rock'n'roll puppet musical called "Beer" that the NeoFuturists put on in 2009.  They were impressed that the creators of the show had been so passionate about beer that they'd want to create a whole production devoted to it.  After the show, they sat down to talk about what thing they felt as passionately about and bacon immediately came up.  Pretty shortly, they'd dropped the idea of a musical, and settled on a festival instead - a "Burning Man" of bacon.  I had some experience in the restaurant media world and was known for my love of pork, so they called me up to see if I thought it was a good idea.  I did, it was, and here we are!

OT What kind of restaurants and vendors can attendees expect?
SZ We've got chefs from the best restaurants in the city - celebrities like top chefs Heather Terhune from Sable and Stephanie Izard from Girl & the Goat; craft people like Art and Chelsea Jackson from Pleasant House Bakery and Charlie McKenna of Lillies Q, fine dining powerhouses like Cafe Spiaggia and Vie, gastropubs like Three Aces and the Bristol.  Our vendors include artisan local bacon makers like Nueske's, Dreymiller and Kray, Spenser's Jolly Posh British and Irish Foods, JDY Gourmet, and Big Fork Bacon Sausage, plus bacon entrepreneurs like Meng Yang of Know Your Flag who makes unbelievably stylish bacon prints and tee shirts.  Drinks from Goose Island, Greenbush Brewery, Pabst and More.

OT Nueske's Amateur Cookoff saw 33 candidates submitting recipes for bacon-y dishes incorporating Nueske's bacon. You helped choose finalists who will then attend Baconfest. What was that process like?
SZ It was tough - contestants submitted recipes and in many cases photos of their original recipes.  We asked our fans to help choose by opening up voting on our website - over 4500 votes were cast. Then we consulted our friends at Nueske's and chose five that spoke to us and to our fans.  Those five finalists will all get to attend the fest and present their dish to a panel of judges.  One lucky winner will receive a Golden Rasher Award, the Oscar of Bacon. 


I’ve seen playwright and actor Rory Jobst naked, but I’ve also seen the unprotected profundity of his work. His new play, Samuel Beckett, Andre the Giant, and the Crickets is likely no exception, by which I mean it’s insightful, not that Jobst shows up naked in it—though I wouldn’t put it past him. Based on the real life connection between Irish Nobel-winning playwright Samuel Beckett and wrestler Andre the Giant, the show is part of Rhinofest 2012. Jobst spoke with me about his famous father Beau O’Reilly, his influences and even his nude interlude.

Our Town Your work tends to reflect on pop culture. What’s the fascination for you?
Rory Jobst People tend to regard pop culture as a passive thing; it's what you discuss on your lunch break. What you watch or listen to in your underwear. While those things are true to a certain extent, I think that pop culture is way more serious. Trends in entertainment are popular because they reflect the world we are living in. We relate to them on some level. "Write what you know," the old adage says. Well, I know plenty about [pop culture]!

OT Your father is Chicago mainstay Beau O’Reilly. What’s it like to enter the Chicago theater scene when your father casts such a long shadow?
RJ It's definitely something I consider, because we more or less have similar aesthetics. The odd thing is, [theater] is what I wanted to do growing up, and I didn't really even have a relationship with him until I was a teenager. I seemed to have been drawn to this lifestyle independent of his influence. That is not to say that he hasn't had a tremendous influence on my life and work. I even had the privilege of being one of his students in a playwriting class at SAIC [and] he has always been very supportive of my work, offering helpful, honest feedback, and getting me involved in some really cool projects to boot. As far as the Chicago Theatre scene, I've met and worked with some amazing companies and people the old fashioned way: by auditioning a lot and maintaining lasting partnerships. I feel like after about eight years on the scene I have developed a name for myself, and so has my brother, Colm, who has been on the scene for a long time, too. But what matters the most is that we are all supportive of each other’s work, and that has been fantastic.

OT You’re infamous at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for taking to heart an assignment to reenact a dream and running through the halls naked. As an artist is it important to take yourself out of your comfort zone?
RJ Infamous, eh? I had no idea. And half naked, for the record. That was a very rewarding project, because the nudity just brought a vulnerability to that piece. I would always have these dreams of not wearing any pants, but walking around in public as if it were socially acceptable. I was fortunate to have a more or less positive reaction to it. It didn't feel as much shocking as a very private moment that I just happened to be sharing with about 30 people. I think it is important to be taken out of your comfort zone, not to say that I do enough of that myself. I've gotten very comfortable writing these two person pop culture mash up shows. Actually, for my latest piece, I found that getting out of my comfort zone involved resisting the need to be shocking. For instance, my work usually is chock full of profanity, sex, and violence. I am happy to say that there is not a single F-bomb in this piece!

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This morning a megaphone-equipped truck rolled down my street, the man inside broadcasting unintelligible directions. Did I mention the swirling yellow lights and the siren? Turns out the city is repaving my street and wanted my neighbors to move their cars; however, catapulted from slumber and racing the length of my apartment, I felt certain the apocalypse was nigh. Nighish at the very least.

That’s the sort of person I am. My Significant Other runs ten minutes late? She’s been swept from Lake Shore Drive by a forty-foot wave. The dog sneezes? It’s gotta be leprosy. I can’t remember who wrote Twilight? Brain tumor. (In this case, perhaps a blessing.) In other words, I have no need for roller coasters, recreational drugs or haunted houses. Life is scary enough, thank you very much. But for those of you who’ve never once thought that tiny fork you picked up at an antique store might be haunted, have I got a thrill for you.

Set in quaint Villa Park (I have no idea if Villa Park is quaint), Asylum Xperiment, a Hollywood-style haunted event is right-now-at-this-very-moment setting up shop at The Odeum Expo Center. I spoke with AX’s creators, Dave Link and Mike Skodacek (two guys I can confidently say I have absolutely nothing in common with) about this fearsome annual event.

Our Town What drew you to the haunting industry?
Dave Link Both Mike and I are textbook haunters. We both dreamed of crazy creepy creatures in the night and then created them as front yard haunters. We acted and assisted in many haunts through several decades. We took the financial risk to invest our savings, blood, sweat and tears into a seasonal gamble. Here we are!

OT Dave, how does your background in sculptures and the design industry contribute to making the event singular?
DL I am a technical sculptor and designer. I see and analyze things most people may never observe or comprehend. I thrive on detail, texture and color. So does Asylum. We are one!

OT Mike, I’m told you’re more sinister than Dave. How so?
Mike Skodacek I grew up in a younger generation where the general public wants more gore and creep factor. I've always had a different and twisted way of looking at things.

OT What interests you about real-life mind games and the psychological basis of fear?
MS I want to really scare people...I want scares that people will go home with and think about while they're lying in bed and trying to fall asleep. I enjoy giant monsters and alien-like creatures too, but the things that could really get you in real life and actually happen are what I want to plant in the customer’s head. A good example of this would be the Paranormal Activity movies that keep coming out every October. Simple scares but very effective.

OT This year, the event has been heightened to keep pace with jaded fans. Is bigger always better?
DL We have the opportunity every year to expand into the rest of the 100,000 square feet in the Odeum. We decline, as we are more about creating quality than quantity. Our event is growing size-wise as we feel more comfortable being able to uphold our high quality standard.

OT Your cage maze is no roadside hay bale maze. What gave you the idea to suspend actors from above?
DL We love scares from above. The 50’ ceiling in the Odeum spoke to us one day and said, ”I want an actor to float beneath me” And so it was.

OT How is your runaway elevator attraction accomplished?
DL We have a custom made floating room animated by 4 truck suspension airbags. It is computer programmed to create a light, animation and scent-controlled show to give the illusion of a runaway elevator actually changing floors.

OT Dave, what’s been your proudest AX accomplishment?
DL My proudest accomplishment was actually being at work by noon one day during our 60-day build…seriously. I am proud of our entire Team/AX family—they radiate respect, love and are dedicated to our vision and community.

OT Mike, I hear you act in the scenes.
MS I really don’t act as an actor in my own haunted house anymore. But my favorite memories of acting were always in the process of designing new characters that I could incorporate my friend the chainsaw into. I'd come up with a complete storyline and bio for each character that I built. Again, the characters were [types who] could be walking down the street in your neighborhood...

AX runs Thursdays through Sundays in October. Buy Tickets at


I’m the last person you will ever find at Oktoberfest. Just picture a continuum, on the left end there’s Heidi, an up-for-anything blond who rock climbs on the weekends, brings back a shot glass from every country she visits, and can run a marathon in Louboutins. On the right, imagine an agoraphobic nun, allergic to alcohol and incensed by lederhosen. I’m just to the right of the nun.

But if this blog were just focused on my personal interests, I’d only write about Don Draper. And unicorns. This great city has much more to offer (Seriously, Chicago’s paltry unicorn selection is embarrassing.), and starting today, Chicago offers up Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest originated in Munich in 1810 as a celebration of the wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig (aka King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. I know this because Heidi told me. She’s big into German history. (Actually, Sonja Martinez, Assistant Manager of German American Services, Inc. told me. But I bet she can run in heels.) In its modern incarnation, Oktoberfest boasts carnival rides, music and of course beer, specifically Spaten, the original Oktoberfest beer.

According to Martinez, “An original Oktoberfest can only be put on with the support of an original Oktoberfest beer. We were fortunate enough to get support from Spaten brewery.”

This year, Oktoberfest will be held at Navy Pier, freaking awesome for Heidi (she loves the Ferris wheel), but bad news for the nun (she once tried to see a Chicago Shakespeare Theatre production there but experienced heart palpitations when she saw the line to get into the parking garage).

Attendees will find the experience authentic in a way Martinez says most local festivals are not. “This starts when you walk up to the tent, which is made to look like the authentic tents as can be found in Munich. The beer steins, which were specially made by a German company, are another detail, which makes this event stand out. Also, Germany’s Best & Oktoberfest will not only have the Oktoberfest portion but will also showcase many areas of modern Germany.”

Expect to see venders such as Fehrenbach Black Forest Clocks (Heidi collects them! It’s one of those quirky traits that cements her identity as the GerManic Pixie Dream Girl.), Goethe Institute (Heidi pronounces this 'goathee,' but her skin's like a baby's and she laughs at fart jokes, so who cares?), Front Porch Coffee and Gifts, and many more. When Heidi has kids at a perfect age twenty-seven, she vows she’ll make this event a family tradition; they’ll love watching wheel gymnastics and buying Gingerbread hearts to hang around their necks—just like the kids in Germany do!

So, if you’re fun-loving and know the difference between a Lager and…something that’s not a Lager, check out Oktoberfest. I’ll be watching Madmen with the nun.


Oktoberfest runs through October tenth. Learn more at

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Soft Skull, an imprint of Counterpoint Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

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For some Chicagoans September first doesn’t just mean an endless line of SUVs blocking the streets surrounding every elementary school in the city. It also means the eagerly anticipated Fringe Festival, now in its second year. Part of a movement that began in Edinburgh, Scotland, a Fringe Festival offers nontraditional performers and pieces a chance to showcase their work. For Kansas native turned Chicago actor Kate Healy, last year’s Fringe Fest provided an unusual impetus to place her work in this year’s show. Healy’s play, Let Me Count, is an emotional story told with facts. It’s about taking your own inventory; all that you’ve done, lost, and loved in the span of your life. As if that weren’t plenty, there will also be remote-controlled cars and Diet Coke.

Our Town Is it just me or is it impossible to get Diet Coke at Chicago restaurants?
Kate Healey It is impossible! I feel like I’m always going to corner stores and getting a can. I don’t know why Diet Coke is better; I started drinking it and couldn’t go back.

OT Down to business. Was acting always a goal?
KH In high school being onstage was the most electrifying thing I could experience, but somehow I figured that wasn’t what I would do with my life, probably because it scared me. Halfway through college, I ushered a show, and I knew exactly what all the actors were doing back there, the feeling, the pacing, the preparation, and the simple but complicated waiting, I missed it so much. I started trying out, and from my first audition I was hooked. It was a beautiful dare.

OT Did you experience culture shock moving from Kansas to Chicago?
KH My bike was stolen the first day I got here, but I really love the city.

OT You wrote Let Me Count spurred by an imperfect Fringe Fest piece you saw last year. What is it about bad theatre that can be so motivating?
KH I saw some incredible pieces at the Fringe last year, but this particular piece was really…self-indulgent and patronizing at the same time. I figured, if she can do that, I can definitely do that, but better, and with some purpose.

OT Your show deals with taking inventory. What compels you to break life down into lists and numbers?
KH Lists are definitely part of my life, always writing to-do lists because I’m so afraid of forgetting. Numbers, not so much, but I wanted to look at a life objectively, we all have explanations for why we do what we do, but if you could actually remember how many times you walked silently by a homeless man, how would you feel? I think numbers can provide a lot of perspective in a short amount of time, it can be jarring or comforting, and I wanted my audience to take that ride with me, and ask their own questions, pick up where I left off.

Artists sometimes romanticize numbers thinking they can relay concepts words can’t. Can numbers really carry a show?
KH I hope so, I think it’s a different, inescapable way of looking at things. I also think it’s what you invest in those numbers, how they strike you and if you choose to let them lead you or not. The numbers don’t care, but we do.

OT You say the Chicago theatre scene turned you into a feminist. Why?
KH I’ve had to look at myself and understand that I have the skills and the guts of a theatre artist, but that a lot of people see just a model, or a recent college grad still mooching off her parents, but that’s not what I am. I love being a girl, I love being a woman, I love being feminine, but I feel like I have to have more strategy, energy, and knowledge to make who I am work for me. I don’t resent it, but it’s certainly a change.


If you’re a Chicagoan who likes to shop than no doubt you’ve heard of the Randolph Street Market. Created in 2004 by former party planner Sally Schwartz, the event has even attracted the likes of Oprah darling Nate Berkus. Our Town spoke with Schwartz about the Market’s inception, current incarnation, and because we here at Our Town are fashion impaired, snagged some style tips as well.

Our Town When you started what was originally known as Chicago Antique Market, did you have any inkling of what it would become?
Sally Schwartz I knew it was a big idea but I didn't actually think I'd still be doing it eight years later, thought I would be on my yacht having cornered the market in some rare item I'd stumbled across. Honestly, it's so much fun I can't imagine doing anything else and feel very blessed that it's been so well received.

OT Randolph Street Market has been described as an urban street party rather than a traditional flea market. What goes into cultivating that atmosphere?
SS I always wanted this event to feel safe and be a safe place to transact business so the vendors are hand picked and screened. Because it's a two-day show, everyone gets to relax and have fun. Throw in the alcohol and people are loose and enjoying life. It's our cool vendors, many of whom camp out onsite, that make the event such a joy for the customers. We also have lots of big cops, Chicago's finest, as bouncers making sure everyone behaves. Chicago is such a unique place, even in the world of big cities, and the Randolph Street Market reflects it, a little wacky, a lot of quality.

OT Haggling at RSM, distasteful or necessary?
SS Haggling is just part of the game and the fun! Though many of our vendors report that they love our market so much because lots of the customers never beat them down in price at all. They think our Chicago customers are so fun and polite and appreciative. And apparently, that's unusual in the world of flea marketing!

OT What was it like to receive a mention from Oprah darling Nate Berkus?
SS I was totally thrilled the first time I saw Nate wandering about. I knew he would shout it from the rooftops. It's incredibly validating to have people with the means to travel anywhere and buy anything tell you how much they love what they see and buy at the Randolph Street Market.

OT This weekend you’re hosting pool parties and a photography competition.
SS The pool party is part of the high jinx, we fill kiddie pools and put lawn chairs around them and VOILA! Pool party! It keeps everyone cool in spirit and gives the pups a place to drink and romp. The first annual Vintage Vernacular & Street Style photo contest is another way for us to get our audience participating and using the market as a backdrop. There are so many fabulous photo ops and we just can't capture them all so we invite our attendees to try their hands at creating permanent memories.


Long before storytelling events bloomed like dandelions across the US, Chicago’s Fillet of Solo Festival was on the scene. Now in its fifteenth year, the festival is, according to Lifeline Theatre artistic director Dorothy Milne “a treasure trove of talent.” This year’s three-week event, running July 21st through August 7th features performers like Jenny Allen, Jimmy Doyle, Julie Ganey and even New York artist James Braly. Our Town spoke with Milne about her work on Fillet of Sole as well as her own storytelling group, The Sweat Girls.

Our Town How has FOS changed over time?
Dorothy Milne It started small and got really big. Live Bait was running the thing all summer in two spaces with twenty-four participating storytellers by the time it closed in 2008. Sharon [Evans, Live Bait's Artistic Director] wanted the Festival to continue and approached me with the idea that Lifeline take over production. As a long-time fan of the festival and a regular storyteller there with my solo collective, Sweat Girls, and with Lifeline being a new work theater, as Live Bait had been, it seemed a perfect fit. After a year of hiatus, Live Bait and Lifeline Theatre co-produced the 2010 Festival and, with that experiment a success, Lifeline has taken over production of the Festival, while Sharon remains a guiding artistic force in the event.

OT To what do you attribute its longevity?
DM If you put together a great storytelling festival, it's only going to grow. The start-up may be challenging -- it's hard to describe to newbies what they're going to see. Just yesterday I heard someone in our box office reading a description of a show to someone, and the caller was like "But it sounds like you're describing the performer rather than their character.” And the box office staffer was explaining that the performer IS the character. This idea often baffles the uninitiated. But anyone who comes to see a good storyteller becomes an immediate convert. They not only return, they bring friends. It's a form you want to share with other people.

OT What goes into coordinating the fest?
DM Sharon and I read dozens of submissions and took several weeks to decide on the eleven shows in the Fest. It’s important to us to bring in established artists who already have a following and to provide opportunities for debut performances by as-yet-unknown artists who excite us. There are twenty-four participating artists; some of the one-hour shows have one performer in them and others have multiple performers, each doing a short piece. And this year, the Fest features four artists with national exposure as well. The logistics are a lot to juggle. And we're producing the Fest in two spaces, so our staff is running back and forth between the venues for these shows that are starting at the same time!

OT You’re a director and a performer. How does each inform the other?
DM Starting as an actor helps me in how I communicate with actors. I speak their language, as much as anyone can speak anyone's language. Figuring out best communication with other humans is a life-long struggle. As far as the reverse, the most important thing is to take the director hat OFF when acting. There's a joke about it being a mistake to cast actors who also direct.

McConk Close up 3.jpg
Brian Posen

Whether you want to donate money to people raring to strip to their nipple tassels or attend a fantastic fourteen-day theatrical festival, this blog has something for you. If like me, you are suffering from seasonal allergies and want to tear out your eyes and flay yourself, I suggest an oatmeal bath. It won’t actually help much, but you’ll become distracted trying to understand why sitting in a bathtub full of breakfast cereal is supposed to soothe your skin.

First the festival: Stage773 Artistic Director Brian Posen, a twenty-year veteran of the Chicago theater scene has created 14@Stage773, a two-week celebration of performing arts. Not only does the event feature vaudeville, solo performance, visual arts, children's theater, music, film and comedy, but it also kicks off renovations on the Stage 773 space.

In curating the event, Posen was particularly concerned with providing a performance opportunity for acts that might not often have the opportunity to perform in venues like Stage 773. Says Posen, “we are providing the space for free. We believe in the community and are a strong part of it, so ticket prices reflect that. They are stupidly low and Chicago loves that.”

With only a few days of the festival remaining, Posen is excited about the closing night Graffiti Party, a “lively night of performance and visual arts. We want the neighborhood to come and say good-bye to the old space and help us welcome the new and improved building.”

As for what to expect of Stage 773’s new incarnation, Posen says the theater will “no longer be a place where you come and see a show and leave. We are striving to create a thriving, vibrant artistic home for all of the Chicago arts community. It's going to be home for so many different theater companies and artistic events. [And with] four spaces, two of those turning around shows every two hours, [the space] will be alive!”

Excuse me for a moment; I’ve got to chew off the skin on my upper arm.


But what of the naked burlesquers you ask? Saturday August 20th, queer burlesque troupe Ties and Tassels presents Queerpocalypsee hosted by Chicago comedienne Cameron Esposito. For over a year the troupe has held monthly drag/burlesque variety shows in order to raise money for the event which will take place at The Abbey Pub. However, they’ve not quite hit their goal and in order to make Queerpocalypsee a night to remember, they’re looking for Kickstarter supporters.

If you feel like helping but want some entertainment out of the deal, you can also attend Ties and Tassels’ July 16th performance at Lizard's Liquid Lounge, funds from which benefit Queerpocalypsee.


I’d write more but Lady Gaga is petting a goat in my living room. Either that or the Benadryl I took is making me hallucinate.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Counter Point Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by followingOur Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez


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Photo by Patty Michels. Left, Darrick Malone.

Now that it’s summer and you can step outside without risking exposure, Our Town is introducing a new weekly feature: ChicaGo.

Each week, we’ll post a speedy little street interview with one lucky Chicagoan. Keep your eyes out for us, because next time it could be you!

Location: Andersonville’s Midsommarfest

Chicagoan: Darrick Malone

Our Town So what brings you to Midsommarfest?
Darrick Malone I’m here volunteering with Equality Illinois to help support marriage for all, not just for some. I’m also registering people to vote.

OT What’s your favorite summer activity?
DM The festivals. Anytime people are out getting rambunctious but staying safe.

OT Favorite Chicago restaurant?
DM What’s the name of that place? I was just there last night. Club Lucky in Bucktown.

OT What’s your favorite make out spot in Chicago?
DM Home.

OT Cubs or Sox?
DM Whoever is winning.

OT What’s the worst thing about Chicago?
DM There is no worst part of Chicago. Chicago is perfect!

To learn more about Equality Illinois, visit

Flash Dance

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Look out Chicago. Starting June 12th Links Hall presents a week celebrating improvisational dance. Curated by Columbia College instructor, dancer/choreographer Lisa Gonzales, the festival will feature performances, workshops, jams, and discussions with internationally acclaimed dancers. With artists including The Architects at The Dance Center, Nancy Stark Smith, Bebe Miller and more set to perform, the event will certainly make a splash on the Chicago dance scene.

Our Town So often artists wind up teachers. Is this a sensible overlap?
Lisa Gonzales So much of art-making in dance happens for an insular audience. While the making of art is of vital importance no matter the audience, teaching allows artists to make a difference in the larger world. Serious practice in an art form such as dance develops the entire person, not just the artist person. As a teacher, I feel very honored to be able to have that kind of impact in a person’s life.

OT How do your art and your teaching inform each other?
LG Sometimes they feel quite separate. But as an artist, everything I do finds its way into my art-making because life and art feel fluid. Of course, I teach components of what I use myself when making work—processes of perceiving, making movement, composing, proposing questions and answers through the body—things I find useful to consider when making work. My primary goal as a teacher, however, is to nurture a student’s own creative voice rather than impose mine.

OT What drew you to work with puppets?
LG I happened into the avant-garde puppet scene in New York through a dance collaborator’s husband who worked in puppetry and had the great fortune of being asked to puppeteer. They are not afraid of story, meaning or emotion. They also value turning meaning upside down, inside out and reconfiguring it in a new way. They work with many of the same tenets as we do in post-modern and avant-garde dance, but primarily through the visual realm to get to the physical/visceral experience. The puppeteer isn’t the primary conveyor of information; the puppet or object is, so the experience is once removed from the performer.

OT What’s the hardest part of working as a puppeteer?
LG As a dancer I am used to making myself the primary component of expression, so learning to disappear the self while animating the object/puppet takes some work

OT Take us through the process of choreographing a dance.
LG For me first comes the desire or impulse. Then I need to get into the studio (if the desire hasn’t come from being in the studio already) to begin physical research. This helps me to integrate into the body ideas that have emerged through reading, writing, or experience. I may improvise and use video to capture movement that I will then relearn and compose into a larger form.

OT How does improvisational dance differ?
LG People assume improvisation is about doing whatever one wants, [but] improvisation [requires] rigor, intelligence and serious preparation through committed practice. [Everything] must happen in the moment. It may go something like this—oh, I made that movement, then I will try to connect that with the section that came five minutes before. Oh, and this meaning is emerging. I like that, so I will compose with these elements with this meaning in mind.


I worry about Slut Walk. You’ve heard about it, of course. Back in April (which in our age of social networking is like saying back in 1903), a group of Toronto protesters spearheaded by Heather Jarvis and Sonya Barnett, began rallying to protest a Toronto policeman’s thoughtless words. Speaking at a York University safety forum in January, Michael Sanguinetti advised women to “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” While he later apologized, the victim-blaming tenor of his statement may be a mixed blessing; it has spurred women across the country to action.

I’m more than familiar with taking back epithets. Just this week I took back neurotic and hirsute. I’m also aware of the peculiar wallop the word “slut” packs, having had it used against me in seventh grade by a girl I’d hoped would become my best friend. This was in the good old days, before sexting and vlogs when you could ruin a girl’s reputation without getting carpel tunnel syndrome. At the time, my sex life consisted of picturing Scott Bakula’s chest, so perhaps what set the girl off was my proclivity for wearing fishnet stockings while my classmates stuck with identical aqua Gap T’s and rolled cuffed jeans. Whatever her motive, the word kept me in modest attire for the next decade.

Letting the air out of the word “Slut” is one minor aspect of Slut Walk’s purpose. Chicago co-organizer Jessica Skolnik hopes the event, set for Saturday June 4th, will contribute to “a revised cultural attitude toward rape, [and change] the culture around victim-blaming, [allowing women to] exist in the world without fear of harassment and to engage in consensual sexual behavior without judgment.”

Writer Randi Black, who plans to attend, agrees. “Some people still don’t realize that rape is about power, and not sex,” she says. “Rape happens because people have a sense of entitlement. I hope spectators will realize those who commit sexual assault are ultimately responsible. Just because we might be dressed provocatively and calling ourselves sluts doesn’t give anyone an excuse to do whatever they want to us.”

Others, like Division|Collective curator Cortney Philip take a lighter tone. “Slut Walk,” she says, “is about having choices. When I stand in front of my closet in the morning, the last thing I want to hear is someone else's voice in my head telling me that I should dress to look attractive, but not so attractive as to invite assault. Or I could just be going because it looks like a good party.”

While organizer Jamie Lauren Keiles has no problem with any of these viewpoints, she believes “awareness-raising is important, but one event isn’t going to solve everything.” Known for “The Seventeen Magazine Project,” a blog she created in 2010 to document the month she spent living according to the gospel of Seventeen Magazine, Keiles credits the internet for “shaping [her] understanding of feminism. I was raised in a house with two working parents and a mom that kicked major ass, [but] I don’t think I started identifying as a feminist until I started reading blogs. I realized feminism was more than 70s-style bra-burning, [rather] feminists were a diverse group.”

And uniting that group is one of Skolnik’s chief goals for Slut Walk. Excited to gather “the broad coalition of people doing work for survivors' rights, sex workers' rights, and other progressive/feminist causes,” she believes “in order for culture to change, it's important that activist groups join forces. Right now, many groups are focused on direct provision of services (which is really important!) and don't often get the chance to join together like this.”


If you’re on the Chicago comedy scene you’re hip to the Chicago Improv Festival. In its 14th year, the event features performers both local and international at a variety of Chicago venues. Rance Rizzutto, a teacher, photographe and ten year comedy veteran, is one of many Chicago performers taking part in the yearly comedy ritual. Below, he talks to Our Town.

Our Town What’s your favorite part about performing in the festival?
Rance Rizzutto I love that a city already so full of improv can get a fresh dose from outside sources. It is refreshing to see the small nuances in the playing styles of teams from across the world.

OT Who are your influences?
RR Late 80’s SNL, Dana Carvey era; Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Seinfeld, the show and the man; and Monty Python. I like a good mix of honest reality, physicality, and absurdity.

OT Your fiancée, Deanna Moffitt is also in comedy. What’s that like?
RR Improv is all about embracing and accepting another person’s ideas. It really helps when both people in a relationship understand that. Plus we have fun in general because we’re immersed in the playful nature that surrounds improv.

OT What’s your worst onstage moment?
RR I haven’t really had any horror stories that I haven’t just rolled with. Most recently I was hosting a show with middle school students in the audience. I made a comment about how Rebecca Black was awful. You would have thought I slapped their grandmothers. I got them back on my side, but I had to work for it. Rebecca Black is awful, right?

OT Best comedy advice?
RR Think as little as possible. By that I mean if you’re thinking about what you’re going to say that means you’re listening to the voice in your head and not the one in your scene partner’s mouth. You’re going to miss something. Make a character choice then listen and listen hard.

OT What can we expect from your work in the festival this year?
RR I’m lucky enough to perform with people I not only love playing with, but watching perform. I’m a bit of a mischievous performer and when I hear the one thing get said that doesn’t seem like it belongs I pounce on it and make sure it is an important part of the world we’re creating on stage. As an added bonus, I’ll be performing with the Istanbulimpro group from Istanbul, Turkey. I performed with them on my brief overnight stay in Istanbul and it was a fantastic moment in my life.

This year Rizutto performs with Chaos Theory on Thursday 4/28 at 10:30 p.m. at the Playground Theater, Deltones on Friday 4/29 at 8 p.m. at iO Chicago and Istanbulimpro at 9 p.m. on Saturday 4/30 at the Playground Theater. For more information on CIF visit

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually. IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by followingOur Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

SketchFest 2010

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Darcy & Tess LIVE at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival -   starring Colleen Murray and Robyn Scott copy.png
This weekend marks the beginning of Sketchfest 2010, a decade old event that claims to attract the best in local, national and international performers. Held at Stage 773, the fest also offers children's programming, workshops, networking opportunities, and other special events. This year, with more than one hundred sketch comedy groups performing over two weekends, actor/comedians Colleen Murray and Robyn Scott will be front and center, presenting the live component of their new pilot, “Darcy & Tess.” Both “corporate actors” and comedy scene veterans, the two discussed their newest venture with Our Town.

Q You’re both corporate actors, what does that entail?
A We both work for Second City Communications, a corporate services divisions. We work with clients who need various services ranging from training and development to live entertainment to industrial films and voiceover.
Q What made you two team up?
A We got to know each other through Second City, got along really well as friends and have the same comic sensibility. We thought up these characters and wanted to develop them, and that ultimately led to creating this pilot.
Q What assets do you both bring?
A We’re both very flexible and adaptable to change. We each have a lot of really funny friends and resources in Chicago’s comedy community. And as performers, we’re both very willing to take risks with our characters.
Q How did the pilot evolve?
A It came from our original idea of two friends trying to run different businesses to make it in a bad economy. Then we expanded upon that so that we could give them an origin story to give their experiences meaning and context.
Q What’s your writing process like?
A We wrote the entire thing together, side by side, visualizing and creating each scene. We were always in the same room and we truly did equally create every piece of it.
Q What are your hopes for it?
A We’d love to see it on TV, but we’d be happy with it on the web or on your butt. We don't care as long as people see it and enjoy it. We just hope it finds its niche and it tickles people’s fancies.
Q How did you become involved with Sketchfest?
A We both had performed in it in previous years and knew it was a great festival that we wanted “Darcy & Tess” to be a part of. Colleen’s previous Sketchfest performances included “Moist,” a hit sketch show that went on to be feature at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen.
Q You’ll be performing elements from your pilot. How did you go about converting the material to a different medium?
A Everything we wrote was from an improvisational core, so we were able to pretty easily go back and adapt for stage. Parts that would be fun to play live, we could just reformat to a live sketch performance.
Q What can audiences expect from your performance this weekend?
A You can expect us to play multiple characters, expect a multimedia experience, and hopefully expect to laugh a lot. You can also expect to see us both in mustaches, and maybe even a roller skate routine.

The duo perform Saturday, January 8th at 6 p.m.

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

It’s been a memorable year. I for one, misplaced a pair of black Converse and made a tolerable mustard/soy sauce marinade. I know many other Chicagoans had similarly staggering peaks and heartrending valleys. That’s why today’s blog is devoted to celebrating the common man. The New York Times may have award-winning photographers and poignant headlines, but I have my parents standing inches from me having an irate discussion about the temperature of my father’s oatmeal. That friends, is what it’s really about.

Halloween Fun

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I’ve been looking for a way to earn a little extra cash. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t an “MFA in Creative Writing” essentially an American Express black card? And blogging, that’s almost as lucrative as teaching, right? What use could I possibly have for more money? Greedy me, but lately I’ve been daydreaming about having enough toothpaste to brush all of my teeth, maybe even enough for a toothbrush, my index finger is rubbed raw. I was sitting at my cardboard box, typing on my manual typewriter when it hit me, it’s almost Halloween and moneymaking opportunities abound! Maybe you’ve heard about the 63rd St. Beach Haunted House. Historic and picturesque, it overlooks the lakefront, but on select days, October 22nd through October 30th, it’s set to go goulash. (I actually meant ghoulish, but I’ve run out of whiteout so please just proceed.)leafblower.jpg

Sufjan Stevens
8 p.m. Friday at Chicago Theatre; $45
Finally admitting that his 50-state, 50-album project was bogus – hey, at least he went out on Illinois – the Soofster is back, ditching his epic folk wisps for the assaulting digital landscapes of recent release The Age of Adz. The ear to the ground is saying it's all an allegory about the state of the media engine these days. But as always, many a biblical and Christian theme weaves about -- and things should be angelic as ever in the confines of the Chicago Theatre.

St. Pauli Girl Costume Contest
7-8 p.m. Friday at Tilted Kilt; free
Oktoberfest may be over in Germany, but St. Pauli Girl beer is keeping the party going in Chicago. Official spokesmodel Katarina Van Derham hosts a St. Pauli Girl costume contest at the Tilted Kilt. Ladies are encouraged to dress in their best barmaid costume and the top lookalike wins $250. The Sun-Times' own Elliott Harris is graciously helping judge. Specials include $4 St. Pauli Girl Lager.

8 p.m. Saturday at Logan Square Auditorium; $20
Of the seemingly endless brigade of Wu-Tang members and affiliates, Raekwon is one of the select few who tours on a regular basis. In the past couple years the master chef has made appearances at Paid Dues, Rock The Bells and Pitchfork, with a few smaller gigs on the side. His busy schedule has all been in celebration of his long awaited sequel, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. 2 (2009), which took nearly 15 years to complete. Opening for Rae will be a bevy of artists, including Chicago's own Mikkey Halstead.

Long Grove Oktoberfest
All day Saturday-Sunday at Old McHenry Rd. and Robert Parker Coffin Road
Come for the old-fashioned fun of a family carriage ride, German dancing, pumpkin decorating and children's activities. Stay for beer and brats and traditional German entertainment. The party starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with a parade. That's followed by family friendly events all day, culminating in a haunted walk and bonfire starting at 6:30 p.m.

Friday-Sunday at Greenhouse Theater Center; $12-$25
From Greek myths to urban legends, this show -- opening this weekend -- explores every messed-up thing that captured the human imagination without ever walking the earth. Teatro Luna, an all-Latina group that specializes in wickedly funny, soulful writer/performer shows should present a fast-paced and engaging night: something supernatural, without all the Halloween cliches.

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