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Arts, Briefly: NBC Renews 5 Dramas

Written By Unknown on Senin, 29 April 2013 | 16.43

NBC really does have a batch of shows that are working, despite a rough patch this spring that even induced a presidential-level joke on Saturday night. Last week NBC announced it was renewing five drama series, including two, "Revolution" and "Chicago Fire," that the network introduced this season. "Grimm," arguably the network's most reliable drama, was another show that was renewed; it holds up Friday night for the network and has experienced a ratings increase of 14 percent this season. The ratings for "Law & Order Special Victims Unit" have descended to just about survival level, but that show will return in a move that has been a ritual for the network for 15 years. "Parenthood," the well-regarded family drama that performed well this year (up 8 percent), had been truncated to only 15 episodes, a sign that the network did not have the most faith in its endurance before this season started. That was also a sign that cost was a factor in considering its fate: "Parenthood" has a big budget and an enormous cast, with several star-name actors, including Lauren Graham, Peter Krause and Dax Shepard. A renewal order had been in some doubt until last week because of those budget concerns, but NBC announced that "Parenthood" would be back and with a full order of 22 episodes. The NBC announcement didn't stop President Obama from taking a little shot at the network's prime-time woes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night. Joking about his recent performance at a basketball demonstration, the president said: "I took 22 shots and made 2 of them. That's right, 2 hits and 20 misses. The executives at NBC asked, 'What's your secret?' "

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Arts, Briefly: American Academy Announces Newest Class

A sortable calendar of noteworthy cultural events in the New York region, selected by Times critics.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced on Wednesday that Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger and Herbie Hancock would be among the 198 newly elected members of its 2013 class. Among the other artists, writers, scientists and philanthropists who will be inducted in a ceremony scheduled for Oct. 12 in Cambridge, Mass., are Robert De Niro and Sally Field; the poets Annie Dillard and Natasha Trethewey; and the filmmaker Jonas Mekas, a co-founder of the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.

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The Media Equation: Cable TV’s Shift to Darker Dramas Proves Lucrative

We used to turn on the television to see people who were happier, funnier, prettier versions of ourselves. But at the turn of the century, something fundamental changed and we began to see scarier, crazier, darker forms of the American way of life.

Pinning down a realignment in the zeitgeist is dicey business, but more than a few people might point to Feb. 7, 1999. On that night on HBO, a character named Tony Soprano went with his daughter, Meadow, to inspect a college. It's an oft-deployed television trope, but this time it came with a mind-altering twist. While at a gas station on the way to the college, Tony spotted a former associate who had become an F.B.I. informant and entered witness protection. In between the quotidian tasks of touring the campus, Tony hunted the man down and used his bare hands to kill him.

Rather than being revolted, audiences and critics began to chatter, and the episode, the fifth in Season 1 of "The Sopranos," won an Emmy for outstanding writing in a dramatic series. The rest was television history.

It was not only a profound shift, but a highly lucrative one as well. Built on lush portraits of human pathology, subscription- and ad-supported cable channels gradually became hotbeds of quality and profits, even as broadcast networks withered.

Click on ambitious cable channels now, and you will find a high school science teacher who makes meth when he is not dissolving his enemies in vats of acid ("Breaking Bad"); a successful Madison Avenue advertising executive whose entire life is a lie ("Mad Men"); a forensics investigator who is a serial killer on the side ("Dexter"); and another New Jersey gangster, this one in Atlantic City, who is also very much the family man ("Boardwalk Empire").

It has been a winning formula, but the execution risk is high. In "Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution," to be published in July by Penguin Press, the author, Brett Martin, suggests that the programming was produced by men who were as tortured and sometimes as despotic as the antiheroes they hung their plots on.

In his book, Mr. Martin suggests if you want to create original programming, you are going to have to deal with the idiosyncrasies of some very original characters. Artists, and that's what they were, require a wide berth, even when tens of millions of dollars is at stake.

In this new order, writers suddenly became director-producers, filling their writing rooms with talented cronies, who may or may not have had television experience. Crews would stand by for days while the creators mulled details and handed out freshly printed pages of entire new scenes. Directors, studio executives, even the actors became game pieces in the creator's effort to build a version of the universe he saw in his head.

"This isn't like publishing some lunatic's novel or letting him direct a movie. This is handing a lunatic a division of General Motors," one television veteran told Mr. Martin, remaining anonymous presumably because he or she hoped to make more television — and more money — with said lunatics.

What becomes remarkable in retrospect is not just the rise of a new kind of storytelling, but the realization that an entire industry was built and controlled by writer-producers, men who typed for a living. Among others, Mr. Martin recounts the rise of David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos"; David Milch, who came out of "NYPD Blue" to create "Deadwood"; David Simon, a former reporter for The Baltimore Sun who created "The Wire"; and Matthew Weiner, a "Sopranos" alumnus who conjured "Mad Men."

That cohort and several others produced a small-screen equivalent to the revolution in American cinema during the 1970s, led by Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola. The most remarkable narrative ambitions are now defined by a television season more often than a film, and show runners like Mr. Chase became all-powerful overlords of the worlds they created.

"It was necessary for me to always take the point of view that I was obligated to no one and nothing," Mr. Chase told Mr. Martin.

Big money creates its own leverage, but after a while, HBO became hooked on prestige, approving a fourth season of Mr. Simon's "The Wire" even though audiences were meager.

E-mail: carr@nytimes.com;


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Archivists Bringing Past Into Future Are Now Less Cloistered

By Emily B. Hager

Archiving in the Digital Era: Want to see Einstein's family tea set? How about scripts from "The Carol Burnett Show"? Archivists are the specialists who protect and display these objects for posterity, now more online than ever.

Their gatherings take place at locations as disparate as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan or the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Queens, but they always reflect their consummate knowledge of New York. And when the conversation turns to topics like chaos or history's turning points, no one is in a hurry to go home.

In fact, there is often a waitlist to get in.

Meet New York City's archivists.

Archivists are the specialists who snatch objects from oblivion. They have long spent their careers cloistered, like the objects they protected. But now many of these professionals are stepping out. A main reason is the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York. The group, which recently surpassed 500 members, holds monthly events that draw a young, well-dressed crowd, hungry for chances to network, train and socialize. Members not only work at libraries, where archives have long resided, but also at such organizations as the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Junior League, the Episcopal Church, the Philharmonic, the Stock Exchange and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Michael Simonson, 44, is the archivist at the Leo Baeck Institute in Manhattan, a research library on German Jewry. His responsibilities include preserving for posterity two dainty teacups and saucers that bear photogravure likenesses of little Albert Einstein and his sister, Maya, and which came from the family's home. After hours, Mr. Simonson, in his thick-rimmed hipster glasses, has also taken a turn as president of the Round Table, coming away with a keen awareness of other treasures salted away at leading institutions around New York and of the kindred souls who protect them.

Maurita Baldock, one longtime member, jaunty in red-tinged glasses and an asymmetrical haircut, keeps watch by day over records that document American history as the curator of manuscripts at the New-York Historical Society. Included among them is a frank letter that Gen. George Washington wrote in 1782, before stretch jeans hit the scene. In it, he begs his tailor to make his britches "roomy in the seat and not tight in the thigh."

Annemarie van Roessel, the reference archivist for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, has Katharine Hepburn's diaries at her fingertips and 80 boxes of material devoted to Gypsy Rose Lee that leave little to the imagination. That includes see-through panties, with an Air Force unit's logo, from a U.S.O. mission to Asia in 1969, and most revealing of all: the performer's tax returns.

Archivists, of course, cannot always spill. Maria LaCalle, who came to a Round Table lecture on Google wearing a jeweled nose stud and the kind of toned biceps that come from hoisting 40-pound boxes all day, still will not breathe a word about the archive she managed years ago for Rolling Stone magazine on the rock 'n' roll era. (Nor would anyone at the magazine's head office broach the subject.)

"You say you're an archivist, and no one knows what you do," said Rachel Chatalbash, the Round Table's current president. Recently named senior archivist at the Yale Center for British Art, she previously worked at the Guggenheim Museum.

Strictly speaking, archivists should not be confused with librarians, who generally manage collections meant to be handled freely; with record managers, who keep track of items created in the course of business; or with conservationists, who restore and preserve old objects.

Archivists, rather, gather essential items with an eye to the future, and their work, done properly, becomes "a porthole into the past," Ms. van Roessel said.

They may, however, impose more restrictions than librarians if assets are irreplaceable or precious — asking patrons to wear gloves, for instance.

"Is there a temptation to guard the item and not allow access because it might fall apart?" asked Vanessa Cameron, a former archivist for the Bronx County Historical Society, now working at a private club. "Yes. Preservation and access are going to butt up against each other all the time."

Digitizing has made it easier to provide facsimiles of items, like books, to avoid some wear and tear from handling. But at times there is no substitute, given the information and aura that surround an object.

"I'm a big proponent of access," said Mr. Simonson, fearful that he will now be bombarded with requests from people wanting to join him for tea. "But people would have to justify why they have to see an actual item that could be culturally valuable."

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Rita McBride School Sculpture Will Use Found Tiffany Glass

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 27 April 2013 | 16.43

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Jason B. Smith, left, an architectural historian, and Tania Duvergne, of Public Art for Public Schools, study shards of Tiffany glass at the P.S. 315 site.

It may not be in quite the same league as finding the remains of Richard III under a parking lot in Leicester, or fragments of Chinese pottery dating back 20,000 years. But last week the discovery of a thousand or more shards of colorful Tiffany glass, stumbled on while clearing the site of a former Tiffany factory for a new school building in Corona, Queens, is expected to give a sculpture commissioned for the school more authenticity than originally hoped for by the agency that ordered it and the artist who is making it.

The work, a large piece — roughly 100 linear feet, broken into four or five hefty segments — by the sculptor and installation artist Rita McBride, will stand in the entrance lobby of P.S. 315, near a large, open staircase leading down to the school's library. The plan calls for it to be visible from both the library and the street, 43rd Avenue at Ninth Place, when the 1,100-student elementary school opens in 2015.

And because the sculpture was commissioned to pay homage to the history of the neighborhood, the piece was designed to use Tiffany glass — although until excavations for the school turned up a mother lode of colorful pieces, Ms. McBride said she was not sure where the glass would come from.

"Archaeology is central to the proposal," she said of the still unnamed piece in a telephone interview from Germany on Tuesday. "I was interested in the history of the site, and was hoping to evoke some imaginative stories through the actual materials."

Ms. McBride, who was born in Iowa, studied at Bard College and now lives and teaches in Düsseldorf, specializes in monumental works in a variety of styles and materials.

"I always love going to archaeological museums which have architectural fragments mounted to the walls," she said. "I enjoy not knowing exactly where they would exist in the original building, or what their functions would have been. So for the school, I'm hoping to mount a modernist frieze — a structure from another era. And I'm excited to be using actual Tiffany glass pieces that were manufactured there."

The new school building — a $68 million project designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill — also uses color in ways that allude to the Tiffany factory, which operated on the site from 1901, when it was built for Louis Comfort Tiffany, to 1932, when he declared bankruptcy. But neither the building nor Ms. McBride's artwork commemorates other tenants of that brick factory, which has just been razed, among them a bronze foundry, electronics and garment manufacturing companies and, most recently, a halal chicken slaughterhouse.

Tania Duvergne, the director of the Public Art for Public Schools program of the New York City School Construction Authority, said Ms. McBride was selected for the $150,000 commission in a process that was judged by representatives from Ms. Duvergne's agency and the city's Departments of Education and Cultural Affairs, and several art professionals.

"We looked at the work of a large pool of artists," she said. Four finalists were invited to submit project plans.

"One thing we liked about her proposal," Ms. Duvergne said, referring to Ms. McBride's preliminary design, "was that it is intended to evoke an archaeological dig, had it taken place at the site, revealing remnants of glass from the Tiffany factory. But this was before we knew that we would find any of the actual glass. She had hoped to find shards of real Tiffany glass from other sources, but we knew it would be a challenge. And when we did find some, we wouldn't know whether it was actually produced at this site. Now we know."

As it turned out, when digging began at the site last week, shards of glass turned up in the southwest corner — an area, Ms. Duvergne theorized, that had been a repository for broken or unusable pieces. A historian was dispatched on Monday to see whether the shards were of historical interest and determined that they were not. That afternoon Ms. Duvergne and some of her staff turned up to sift through the dirt in search of pieces for Ms. McBride's project, which the artist plans to build in New York over the next two years.

"We've collected several hundred, perhaps 1,000 pieces," Ms. Duvergne said after her first day of digging. "The sizes vary from very small to as big as a hand, and though the majority have been green, we've also found yellows, golds, unbelievable pinks, blues and purples. We have shards that show the textures he used, the opalescent quality and the intricate detail of his creations. We're looking for the widest variety, to reflect the amazing variety of Tiffany's work."

Ms. Duvergne and her crew returned to the site for what they expected to be one last gathering effort on Tuesday, after which the dirt was to be carted away to a landfill. But Ms. Duvergne arranged to keep the debris in place for a few more days of shard harvesting.

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Critic’s Notebook: Michael Bublé Promotes ‘To Be Loved’

The Michael Bublé charm offensive hit the ground running this week. On Tuesday, the release date for his sixth studio album, "To Be Loved" (Reprise), Mr. Bublé put in a shift as guest co-host on "Today" and later taped an interview with "Nightline." On Wednesday he was booked heavily with radio spots plugging the album and its insistently perky lead single, "It's a Beautiful Day."

And a little after rush hour on Thursday morning, he could be seen ducking into the Lincoln Center subway station, still in his tuxedo and makeup from a taping of "Live! With Kelly & Michael" nearby. Backed by Naturally 7, the a cappella group that has opened for him on tour, Mr. Bublé gave an impromptu performance of "Who's Lovin' You," the Smokey Robinson song, to a small, delightedly startled crowd.

"That is when you know you've made it," he said, indicating the subway platform, after belting his way through the tune. Then he spun around to greet his onlookers: almost all of them female, smartphones in hand.

He isn't the type to show pressure, but Mr. Bublé, 37, faces a burden of expectation with "To Be Loved." It follows his blockbuster releases "Christmas," which was 2011's best-selling album not made by Adele, and "Crazy Love," which made its debut at No. 1 in 2009. For an artist who has long been pitched, at least to his core demographic, as the likably hale young heir to Frank Sinatra — your daughter's boyfriend singing your father's tunes — that track record might seem as vulnerable as it is impressive.

Mr. Bublé and his team certainly aren't taking any chances. "To Be Loved" reaffirms his suave command as a vocalist and song stylist, while subtly expanding the frame. After a long affiliation with the orchestral-pop producer David Foster, Mr. Bublé entrusted this album entirely to Bob Rock, whose other clients have included Bon Jovi and Metallica.

Given that Mr. Rock also produced one of Mr. Bublé's defining pop-crossover hits, "Haven't Met You Yet," this is not too wild a stretch. Among the album's four originals are "It's a Beautiful Day," blithely set on the other end of a speculative romance, and "After All," a sure-footed power-pop duet with Bryan Adams, who, like Mr. Bublé, is a proud son of Canada. There are a few solid nods to Motown, recorded direct to tape with the Dap-Kings, Brooklyn's purveyors of retro-soul. (The title track, a hit for Jackie Wilson, also provided the title for the 1994 autobiography of Motown's founder, Berry Gordy.)

At the same time, "To Be Loved" is bookended by full-dress arrangements of "You Make Me Feel So Young" and "Young at Heart" — both inextricably linked to Sinatra, and to a specific brand of wistful optimism, one that values youth as a flexible commodity. As it happens, both songs were included as a tribute to Mr. Bublé's grandfather, whose health was faltering at the time of the recording: he is the source of Mr. Bublé's love of Dean Martin and the Mills Brothers, and an important early booster in his career.

Still, the gesture has its strategic value, as do some of the album's other touches. Mr. Bublé's duet partner on "Something Stupid," a No. 1 hit for Frank and Nancy Sinatra, is the actress Reese Witherspoon — a guarantee of coverage by the likes of "Us Weekly." As for a version of "Come Dance With Me," arranged as a cha-cha, it's surely no coincidence that Mr. Bublé is to perform it on Tuesday on "Dancing With the Stars."

What's maybe a little surprising, amid all this calculation, is that "To Be Loved" also stands as Mr. Bublé's most soulful album, and by and large his most satisfying. To hear him tell it, this was a hard-fought outcome: "With each record, I started to get more power, and with more power I started to become myself."

During an hourlong conversation in the green room at "Live! With Kelly & Michael," where he'd returned after his subway incursion, Mr. Bublé readily tackled the subject of his image. He pronounced himself "easy pickings" for critics, especially in light of the soft-focus headshot on the cover of his self-titled 2003 debut.

By dint of his background, Mr. Bublé is hardly a softie: he grew up in a family of salmon fishermen on the Pacific Coast of Canada, and spent his youth working on the boats and idolizing hockey players. (He's now a part owner of a minor league team.) In the moments before his appearance on "Live! With Kelly & Michael," he was in a dressing room happily eliciting knockout stories from Victor Ortiz, the welterweight boxer, who was also one of that morning's guests (for his turn on "Dancing With the Stars").

But it's a bright, easygoing charisma that serves Mr. Bublé best, which partly explains his heavy promotional agenda. Some of his strongest work, in terms of image, has been as a self-deprecating talk show guest, or the straight man in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

Before his televised performance on Thursday morning, he engaged in effortless banter with the show's hosts, Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, around the subject of his impending fatherhood: his wife, the Argentinean actress and model Luisana Lopilato, is due to have a boy on Aug. 21. (She smiled demurely as he spoke, and later mouthed the lyrics as he sang another album cut, the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody.")

On one intriguing original on the new album, "I Got It Easy," Mr. Bublé seems to hint at his own good fortune: "Now I'm not trying to brag about it," he sings in the bridge, though a willfully ungenerous reading of the song might suggest that he is. (Later in the song he sings: "I roll over in bed/Got a beautiful woman beneath me/Every night.")

Mr. Bublé said, earnestly, that "I Got It Easy" was actually meant as a reflection on the grace of God. It had been a hard sell to his label, he added. "I tried to pick my spot, and go: 'You know what? I feel like I've earned the right to have this song on the album.' And, O.K., maybe not everybody's going to dig it."

Which might not be a concern for some artists. But toward the end of the interview Mr. Bublé, proudly recounting his insistence on old-fashioned recording techniques, wondered aloud whether "To Be Loved" had the highest production costs of any album released this year. He dialed his manager, Bruce Allen, who replied, on speaker, "It's well into the seven figures, but I'll tell you this: it's not over two million."

For an instant the color drained from Mr. Bublé's face. "O.K.," he said, "I thought it was less than that." He cursed, and laughed. "Man, I'm not going to make any money!"

Hanging up the phone, he quickly recovered. "I think of myself as a grinder," he said, turning to the comfort of a hockey analogy. "I'm not a first-line guy. I'm not the fastest or most talented. But I put my head down and just go about my business, and sometimes those are the guys that people love after 30 years. So, it's working." He laughed again, sharply. "Unless I sell 10,000 records this week."

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Theater Review: ‘A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia)’ Takes Over Here Art Center

There were so many things to take in during Tuesday's presentation of "A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia)," a performance and installation by Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin that has taken over the upstairs and downstairs theaters, hallways, stairwells and other nooks and crannies of Here Art Center.

Yet at the end, when Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Margolin lay on the floor of the upstairs space, fingers entwined, staring dreamily up at a chalky string sculpture they had spent the past hour and change wordlessly weaving, my mind drifted elsewhere, to a considerably less chaste collaboration by a couple: "Heterospective," in which the choreographer-dancers Michael Clark and Stephen Petronio performed sexual acts in the Anthony d'Offay Gallery in London. That was in 1989, when politically minded artists were more likely to be fighting against AIDS than for weddings. How times (and aesthetics) change.

"A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia)" has its roots in Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Margolin's marriage, in 2008. "Since then," a wall text reads, "we've been struck by the realization that a once wholly hetero-normative set of aspirations: the suburban ideal, the traditional nuclear family, emerald lawns and Betty Crocker ... is now part of our heritage as well, and for better or worse we have to deal with it."

These aspirations lace the installation, which audience members can wander through, in guises like videos depicting suburban children at play, snippets of sitcoms like "The Cosby Show" and a white picket-fence fragment. Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Margolin (who met through the Team theater ensemble) court nostalgia but also hold it at arm's length, a familiar contemporary performance move that both works and feels threadbare.

In the downstairs space, New York arts veterans like Joe Stackell and Penny Arcade offer video commentaries, debating through sound bites big topics like mortality, gay activism versus human rights activism, assimilation and queerness. Meanwhile, two performers read the transcript for Prop 8, the California law banning same-sex marriage, speaking into plastic bags that they then knot into homemade balloons: here's to hot air.

Through all of this activity, Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Margolin keep up their intense, inward-focused task in the center of the upstairs theater (each night will feature different actions, leading to the construction of a house). They are, for better or worse, moving forward.

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Frenchman Will Return to China Prized Bronze Artifacts Looted in 19th Century

Francois Guillot/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A bronze rabbit head is one of two objects to be given back to China. It was looted from the Summer Palace near Beijing during the Second Opium War.

BEIJING — One of France's wealthiest businessmen has agreed to return to China two bronze animal heads that were looted from the imperial Summer Palace near Beijing by invading French and British troops in the 19th century, according to a report on Friday by China Radio International, a state news organization. To China, the looting of the palace epitomizes the humiliation it suffered at the hands of imperial Western powers during the Second Opium War.

The offer to return the heads came from François-Henri Pinault, one of 60 high-powered Frenchmen who are accompanying the French president,François Hollande, this week on his first visit to China. Mr. Hollande is seeking to strengthen diplomatic and trade relations with China, and also brought eight cabinet ministers.

Mr. Hollande has received a warm welcome since landing in Beijing on Thursday. The previous French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, angered Chinese leaders after he met with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, in 2008, months after a widespread Tibetan uprising in western China.

"It is easy to forget, watching China emerge as a great power, that the legacy of humiliation at the hands of modern imperialist aggressors back in the 19th century retains a palpable sense of immediacy even today," said John Delury, a historian at Yonsei University in Seoul who, with Orville Schell, is writing a book on China's quest for wealth and power. "So what might seem a rather obscure gesture of returning a pair of bronze animal heads takes on outsized significance as a kind of restitution of historical justice, a long-awaited righting of wrongs to the Chinese nation."

The bronzes emerged as a point of contention between China and France in 2009, when Christie's auction house handled the sale of the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent's vast art collection after his death. Mr. Pinault is the chief executive officer of Kering, the company that owns Christie's.

After China failed to block the sale legally, a Chinese businessman made successful bids totaling about $40 million for the heads, then refused to pay, citing national pride.

According to Mr. Pinault's company, Mr. Pinault acquired them himself and decided to return them to China, which just this month decided to allow Christie's to become the first international auction house to operate independently on the mainland. Mr. Pinault told Chinese officials that the heads would be returned by the second half of this year.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage in China said Mr. Pinault's offer was "an expression of friendship toward the Chinese people," according to a state news report.

"The Chinese side offers its high praise for this action and considers that it conforms with the spirit of relevant international cultural heritage protection treaties," the government agency said.

The two bronzes, a rat head and a rabbit head, were among 12 animal heads, replicating the Chinese zodiac, in a central fountain clock at the palace, spewing water to tell time. All disappeared after the palace, also known as Yuanmingyuan and used by rulers of the Qing dynasty, was destroyed by Western troops in 1860.

So iconic are the animal heads that Ai Weiwei, the rebel artist, made a sculpture with versions of all 12. Typical of Mr. Ai, the sculpture was constructed with a sense of irony. It was first displayed in May 2011 at the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan while Mr. Ai was being illegally detained in Beijing by security forces, and it quickly came to symbolize the constant conflict in China over issues of free speech.

The China Poly Group, a state-owned enterprise with ties to the People's Liberation Army that has a museum and theater in Beijing, has acquired several of the animal heads, but the owners and locations of the rest remain unknown.

Mr. Pinault, 50, is the son of Kering's founder,François Pinault, an art collector. The gift was from the Pinault family. The company has significant stakes in China, where some of its fashion brands, like Gucci, are doing well.

France has a significant trade deficit with China and wants more Chinese investment. But the French president is under some pressure to raise human rights issues with the new Communist Party leadership. Mr. Hollande doled out his criticisms more freely when he was simply the leader of the Socialist Party.

Mr. Hollande wants to reassure the Chinese that his government will protect the security of Chinese tourists in France and intends to discuss making it easier for Chinese to obtain visas.

Mr. Sarkozy had tendentious relations with Beijing after the meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2008. Relations deteriorated that year when Western and Tibetan protesters interrupted the Olympic torch relay when it passed through Paris on the way to Beijing.

Tensions eased just before France took the presidency of the Group of 20 in 2010. Ties became strained again when France criticized China's reluctance to support the battle against Col.Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator.

Edward Wong reported from Beijing, and Steven Erlanger from Paris.

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Theater Review: ‘Wanda’s Monster,’ With Laurie Berkner’s Tunes, at Theater 3

Written By Unknown on Kamis, 25 April 2013 | 16.43

Peter James Zielinski

Laura Hankin and James M. Ortiz in "Wanda's Monster."

Anyone familiar with cable television knows that plenty of adults believe in monsters. But the parents of Wanda, the heroine of the new family musical "Wanda's Monster," must not be fans of series like "Finding Bigfoot." Wanda can't convince them or her brother that a creature lives in her closet.

Audiences at Theater 3, however, know he's there. Looking more like a Honker from "Sesame Street" than like Nessie or Sasquatch, this fuzzy beast enters from the aisles. Like the children around him, he's been enjoying the show's opening, set at a rock club run by Wanda's grandmother. Granny, you see, is Joan Jett.

Well, not really Joan Jett, though she does wear black leather and ride motorcycles. Mostly Granny evokes Laurie Berkner, a wholesome singer-songwriter who's bigger than Justin Bieber, if you happen to be 4 or 5. Making Books Sing, which turns children's books into musicals, commissioned Ms. Berkner to write the score and lyrics for "Wanda's Monster," based on Eileen Spinelli's 2002 picture book. Ms. Berkner, who doesn't perform in the show, has filled it with catchy, folk-flavored pop, arranged by the production's music director, Kristen Lee Rosenfeld. The upbeat melodies include one of Ms. Berkner's longstanding hits, "Monster Boogie," which fans are invited to dance to.

Barbara Zinn Krieger, founder of Making Books Sing, wrote the script, one of whose most inspired touches is turning Granny, who wears sweat pants and sensible shoes in Nancy Hayashi's book illustrations, into this kick-out-the-jams rocker. Vibrantly played by Jamie Kolnick, Granny alone takes Wanda's side, acknowledging the Monster's existence but persuading her granddaughter (Laura Hankin, a grown-up who makes a convincing 5-year-old) that monsters are really shy, gentle, misunderstood souls.

In this hourlong adaptation, briskly directed by Adrienne Kapstein, the Monster is not only sweet but also sublimely silly. Winningly portrayed by James Ortiz in a role greatly expanded from the book, he eats the flowers Wanda slips into the closet for him and attaches her artwork to the wall with his spit. While the hulking, horned Mr. Ortiz may frighten a few little theatergoers at first, most, like Wanda, will want to hug him at the conclusion. This charming musical brings home a point worth considering at any age: embrace what you fear, and you just may find a friend.

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Theater Review: ‘I Am an Opera,’ by Joseph Keckler

He imagined things. He grew paranoid. "I began," he tells the audience at Dixon Place, "to relive many moments from my life, rapidly and intensely."

A certain rapid intensity is also the hothouse condition that creates opera, sending emotions into extremities that can be expressed only in song. And so the talented Mr. Keckler, 28, who trained as a classical singer and defines himself as an interdisciplinary artist, recounts his surreal tale operatically: that is, he sings.

This amusing collision of ordinary (if drug-addled) life, foreign languages and high-flown music styles brings us from Handelian harpsichords and coloratura to a Mozart-style Italian aria and Schubert-like German lieder. At one point Mr. Keckler accompanies himself on the piano: a French chanteuse.

He careens through episodes that include an account of his Goth adolescence; a duet with his own portrait; and black-and-white movie scenes of an actress playing a domineering, damaged old voice teacher of his, done silent-film-like, with intertitles. Near the end Mr. Keckler shares the stage with a buff shirtless guy in a bull mask — an Internet hookup, it seems — to whom he sings a sultry torch song, à la Adele.

Through all this Mr. Keckler is funny and casually charismatic, with a smoky, resonant baritone. He can get laughs from an audience merely by laughing.

But while "I Am an Opera," which was written and composed by Mr. Keckler and directed by Uwe Mengel, is only 55 minutes and runs with polished professionalism, it still seems unfocused, its intellectual and emotional payoff hard to discern. This lack of coherence is a function of the dreamlike premise, but that doesn't make the scattered dramaturgy any more satisfying.

If the work ends up being diverting rather than powerful or haunting, it may be because Mr. Keckler, in his earnest homage, has misunderstood opera. A common idea about the art is that the music transforms banal words and unbelievable situations into sublime emotion: that it's purely about performance.

But the great operas were not just about magnetic artists singing beautifully. They were also about plots, characters, feelings, themes, ideas.

"I Am an Opera" is what many imagine opera to be: more style than substance. Mr. Keckler's piece is certainly stylish. So are the classic works he nods to. But they also have something to say.

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ArtsBeat: ‘Nice Work’ to Close on Broadway

The Broadway musical "Nice Work if You Can Get It," a venture involving the heirs of George and Ira Gershwin and several veteran theater producers to showcase famous songs by the brothers, will close on June 15 after 27 preview performances and 478 regular performances, the producers announced on Wednesday. The Jazz Age-style show, which originally paired Tony Award winner Matthew Broderick as a playboy with Tony nominee Kelli O'Hara as a bootlegger, opened last April to mixed reviews and never caught real fire at the box office. (Ms. O'Hara's role is now played by Tony nominee Jessie Mueller.)

The musical, which cost approximately $10 million to mount on Broadway, will not recoup that original capitalization by its closing date; a spokesman for the producers said that "Nice Work" will earn back a majority of its investment, but he did not have precise figures. The show's lead producers – Scott Landis, Roger Berlind, Sonia Friedman and Roy Furman – also announced that a national tour of the show will begin during the 2014-15 theater season.

The closing of "Nice Work" will free up the Imperial Theater, a house that many producers covet for its size and prime location near Times Square. No new shows have been announced for the Imperial, but several Broadway producers say that Cameron Mackintosh's revival of "Les Miserables" – which is due to open in March 2014 – is a likely future tenant. The original "Les Misérables" ran at the Imperial for nearly 13 years before closing in 2003.

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Theater Review: ‘I’ll Eat You Last,’ Starring Bette Midler

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

I'll Eat You Last Bette Midler as the agent Sue Mengers in a one-woman show written by John Logan at the Booth Theater.

Chances are you are not a movie star. Chances are equally good that this state of affairs is not likely to change soon. But if you've ever wondered what it might be like to explore that golden realm where the gods and goddesses of the screen dwell, race over to the Booth Theater, where you can enjoy an audience with a woman who consorted almost exclusively with box office luminaries, or "twinklies" as she affectionately calls them.

After Years of Playing Bette, Another Role


After a 40-year absence, Bette Midler returns to Broadway, playing the Hollywood agent Sue Mengers in the solo show "I'll Eat You Last."

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Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

A feeling of perpetual motion without even standing up: Bette Midler during her 90-minute monologue in "I'll Eat You Last" at the Booth Theater.

In "I'll Eat You Last," a delectable soufflé of a solo show by John Logan that opened Wednesday night on Broadway, Bette Midler portrays the Hollywood agent Sue Mengers, who at the height of her reign in the 1970s could make a career merely by issuing an invitation to one of her A-list-only dinner parties. For a limited time, the tightly closed doors of the Beverly Hills aerie in which Mengers held court are being thrown open, and for the price of a ticket we all get to feel a little twinkly for a night.

It's a heady sensation, thanks to the buoyant, witty writing of Mr. Logan ("Red"), the focused direction of Joe Mantello and above all to Ms. Midler, who gives the most lusciously entertaining performance of the Broadway season. Dropping names as if to the rhythm of a disco beat, snapping out wisecracks like acid-tipped darts that find the sweet spot every time, proffering profanity-laden advice about how to get ahead in show business: as the frank, brassy, foul-mouthed Mengers, who died in 2011, Ms. Midler cradles a spellbound audience in the palm of her hand from first joke to last toke. (Mengers's love of celebrity was perhaps equaled only by her affection for marijuana.)

Or rather she would so cradle us, if both hands were not otherwise engaged. As she welcomes us, Sue does not deign to rise from the pillow-bestrewn couch on which she sits, or rather slinks ("Forgive me for not getting up," she says, unapologetically. "Think of me as that caterpillar from 'Alice in Wonderland,' the one with the hash pipe"), but her silver-taloned fingers are in continual motion: slicing the air to accentuate a point, fiddling with the white-blond tresses framing her face, adjusting her signature glasses — oversize circles that symbolize a lifelong obsession with stargazing — or grabbing another cigarette or a joint, if not both at the same time.

We have been invited into Sue's private domain to provide a distraction from a dark cloud that has appeared on a formerly cloudless horizon, regarding matters both social and business — which for this woman are one and the same. (The year is 1981, as the décor by the designer Scott Pask tastefully whispers.) Sue is regaling us with tales from her well-stocked larder of Hollywood lore while she awaits a phone call from her great friend Barbra Streisand, who was also the biggest jewel in the crown of her client list — until just a few moments ago. The story of the Streisand defection will be told, but not until Sue has dished up great mountains of glittery Hollywood dirt. We learn how Sue finagled the female lead in "Chinatown" for Faye Dunaway. How Steve McQueen stole Ali MacGraw from the Paramount honcho Bob Evans, turning her into a high-class hausfrau and torpedoing her career. (Not a great loss to cinema history, perhaps, but as a fiercely loyal agent and friend, Sue resented it immensely.)

When the phone rings and it's Sissy Spacek calling, we learn how a good agent engages in the delicate art of client-poaching in the guise of offering maternal advice. "Let's face it," she says, acknowledging the ruthlessness that rules in Hollywood, "if no one's trying to steal your clients, you're doing something wrong."

And of course we are treated to the boilerplate life summary that's de rigueur in bio-plays: How a young immigrant from Germany, burning with the shame of "always feeling outside looking in," escaped into the movies, became obsessed ("That's why I still talk like a gum-cracking Warner Brothers second lead"), quickly abandoned acting ambitions for a role behind the scenes, and climbed the Hollywood agenting ladder rung by rung until she became one of the first women to reach the top in a male-dominated world.

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Cooper Union Will Charge Tuition in 2014

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 24 April 2013 | 16.43

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

A crowd gave Cooper Union's Foundation Building a symbolic hug Tuesday after the East Village college decided to charge tuition.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, which is one of the last tuition-free colleges in the country but has been under severe financial strain, announced on Tuesday that for the first time in more than a century it will charge undergraduates to attend.

The decision ends almost two years of roiling debate about an education that was long revered for being "free as air and water," and stood as the school's most distinguishing feature, insulating it until now from concerns about the rising cost of a college degree.

Under the plan adopted by Cooper Union's trustees, the prestigious college, based in the East Village, will continue need-blind admissions. But beginning in fall 2014, it will charge students based on what the college described as a steeply sliding scale, with those deemed able paying around $20,000, and many others, including those "with the greatest needs," paying nothing. The change would not apply to undergraduates enrolled as of this fall.

"The time has come to set our institution on a path that will enable it to survive and thrive well into the future," the board chairman, Mark Epstein, said in an announcement to students and faculty members in the college's Great Hall. "Under the new policy, the Cooper Union will continue to adhere to the vision of Peter Cooper, who founded the institution specifically to provide a quality education to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it."

Some students wept during the announcement; others left, declaring there was nothing more to hear. "I can't even process this," said Ashley Katz, 20, a second-year architecture student from California. "One of my professors came out and said, 'Drape the whole school in black.' "

After the speech, opponents of the decision gathered outside the Great Hall, where Abraham Lincoln gave one of his most famous speeches, in opposition to the westward expansion of slavery, and staged what they called a walkout.

Cooper Union opened in 1859, endowed by the industrialist Peter Cooper with valuable real estate and a mission of educating working-class New Yorkers, at no cost to them. Early on, some students who could afford to pay did so, but no undergraduates have paid for more than 100 years. Along with the nation's military academies, Cooper Union was among the only remaining schools in the United States that did not charge tuition.

The absence of a tuition bill and the high quality of its instruction have over time changed the college's identity; today the institution that graduated the architect Daniel Libeskind, the graphic designer Milton Glaser and the artist Alex Katz, and even instructed an inventor named Thomas Edison is one of the most selective colleges in the country. Its three schools enroll about 1,000 art, architecture and engineering students from every location and every station of life, but a budget crisis lately forced the college to wrestle with changes that would once have been inconceivable.

According to Cooper Union's president, Jamshed Bharucha, it currently operates at a $12 million annual deficit. The number reflects several factors: expenses that have risen faster than revenues, a growing administrative staff, disappointing fund-raising drives and, most significantly, $10 million a year in payments on a $175 million loan the school took out a few years ago, in part so that it could invest money in the stock market. In 2018, an increase in rent from the college's biggest asset, the land under the Chrysler Building, will overtake expenses, but only for a short while, he has said.

Last April, Dr. Bharucha announced that Cooper Union would collect tuition from graduate students, who at present make up a very small fraction of the college's population. He later instructed faculty members to submit proposals for additional revenue streams, a directive that met with mixed results. The faculty at the art school refused to comply; in response, the administration refused to send out early acceptance letters for art school applicants.

Meanwhile, students, faculty members and alumni who advocated for a harder look at Cooper Union's expenses convened large assemblies to demand that the administration open its books. Some staged an occupation of the school's historic Foundation Building.

Many students quickly filed out of the auditorium Tuesday, but others stayed to submit questions to Mr. Epstein. The first one was shouted: "Do you really think it's going to work?"

"Yes we do," he said. "Hopefully forever."

The tuition the school expects to charge is still below that of many prestigious private colleges. At the Rhode Island School of Design, an urban school with a celebrated art program, tuition is $42,622; at Carnegie Mellon University, which has a highly ranked engineering program, tuition is $46,670.

Last year, Cooper Union hired a consulting firm to consider the effect of collecting tuition from undergraduates. (Officially the college lists a price of $38,500 a year, but extends to all students what it calls a full-tuition scholarship.)

Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 23, 2013

An earlier version of this article misidentified the Cooper Union official who announced the tuition policy to students and faculty. It was Mark Epstein, the chairman of the board of trustees, not Jamshed Bharucha, the Cooper Union president.

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Theater Review: David Byrne’s ‘Here Lies Love,’ at the Public Theater

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Here Lies Love Jose Llana and Ruthie Ann Miles star as Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in this production at the Public Theater.

Discothèques make strange bedfellows. To confirm this dangerous fact of life, just boogie on down — and you must — to the glittery new dance palace at the Public Theater. There you'll find yourself dancing hip by pelvis with one of the most notorious power couples of the 20th century.

Imelda Marcos, With a Beat


David Byrne, the former frontman of Talking Heads, creates a disco evocation of the world of Imelda Marcos for a Public Theater stage in "Here Lies Love."

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Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Ruthie Ann Miles, seated center, and Jose Llana, above, in "Here Lies Love" at the Public Theater.

I mean Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, the former president and first lady of the Philippines, who turn out to be a lot of fun if you just go with the sweaty flow. After all, who's thinking about morality in politics when the music's this loud and catchy? Be careful how close you get to them, though, or you might wake up to one hell of a morning after.

"Here Lies Love," the exciting new poperetta conceived by the musician (and former Talking Head) David Byrne, sets a new standard for audience participation. Or do I mean coercion? In this heady show about the heady life of Mrs. Marcos — which has been staged with infinite inventiveness by Alex Timbers and one of the hardest-working tech crews in town — all the world's a dance floor, and all the men and women merely disco rats.

As in life, though, only a few people get to call the tune. In this case, that would be the D.J. Or, if you're thinking in metaphors (which this show conditions you to do), Ferdinand and Imelda. Or, in practical terms, the Public Theater ushers in neon pink jumpsuits, with cunning sequin accents, who herd you into position as David Korins's modular set is reconfigured again and again.

And as the stage and the world turn, you're expected to keep on dancing. Members of the show's ensemble will instruct you in the Manila pop-style steps. You may also find yourself on television, simulcast on the walls, during political rallies. You'll be asked to vote for Marcos, too, natch. And as folks tend to do when caught up in the fever of a crowd, you'll probably find yourself smiling and nodding assent.

To chart the dizzy rise of Imelda (an ideal Ruthie Ann Miles) and her husband (Jose Llana), Mr. Byrne, working with Fatboy Slim, has written an insidiously infectious set of songs. "Here Lies Love" is rich with candied melodies that stick to the inner ear and beats that act like cattle prods. This is music created to sweep you into unthinking acquiescence, as history is said to do.

But it is also ingeniously devised to reflect the interior life of Imelda R. Marcos, a provincial teenage beauty queen, who in this show continues to treat life as one long pageant, with an emphasis on the evening gown and talent sections. The real Mrs. Marcos, now 83 and a congresswoman, was known to burst into song for the entertainment of both private guests and her constituency.

During the heyday of her husband's protracted rule, from 1965 to 1986, she was also a disco queen, hitting the floors at gilded international night spots, which, thanks to her, included the roof of the palace she occupied in Manila. Mr. Byrne has said he thought that the "hedonistic and transcendent" nature of disco might capture "some of what a powerful person is feeling." Hence a score that feels like the aural equivalent of amyl nitrite.

We should perhaps pause here to note that the life of a charismatic president's wife has been told in a sung-through show before. That would be Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Evita," the 1978 musical that was revived on Broadway last season.

Much of the narrative shape of "Here Lies Love" is remarkably similar to that of "Evita." But Mr. Byrne's lyrics, many of which are taken from found documents and interviews, are less glib and less openly contemptuous of the central character than Mr. Rice's were. For at least its first hour, "Here Lies Love" refrains from telling us how and what to think about its characters.

Perhaps that's why Oskar Eustis, the Public's artistic director, saw fit to include a program note stating that "Ferdinand Marcos led a brutal and murderous regime, and his wife was in many way its leader." Even so, I'm not sure that, examined coldly, "Here Lies Love" provides much more than "Evita" by way of insights into a bloody chapter of 20th-century history.

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Theater Review: ‘The Trip to Bountiful,’ at the Stephen Sondheim Theater

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Condola Rashad, left, and Cicely Tyson in "The Trip to Bountiful." More Photos »

The title destination in Horton Foote's "Trip to Bountiful," which has been revived at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, is said to be a small, obscure town in Texas. But on the evidence of the performance of Cicely Tyson, who stars in the production that opened on Tuesday night under Michael Wilson's slow-handed direction, Bountiful is a code name for the Fountain of Youth.

Playing the elderly Carrie Watts, a prisoner of family and circumstance in a cramped Houston apartment, Ms. Tyson first appears to us as stooped, breakable and about to keel over. With her grizzled gray cap of a wig, she could almost pass for 88, which is Ms. Tyson's real age. But once Carrie is Bountiful-bound — having escaped from the watchful care of her son and his wife (Cuba Gooding Jr. and Vanessa Williams) — she sheds years as a cat sheds fur in the summertime.

Jessie Mae, the self-centered daughter-in-law played by Ms. Williams, has been warning Mother Watts that it's just plain morbid to wallow in the past. But Carrie knows that there are strength and sustenance to be drawn from the rural land where she grew up. And sure enough, by the end of this production, Carrie is a ringer for Ms. Tyson in "Sounder," the movie in which she memorably starred more than 40 years ago.

I suspect that this remarkable rejuvenation process is as much about an actress returning to Broadway, where Ms. Tyson last appeared in 1983, as it is about an old child of the earth going back to her birthplace. The liveliest moment in this generally sluggish production comes when Carrie is briefly transformed into a song-and-dance gal, early in the second act.

At this point, Carrie has made it all the way to a bus stop (once a train station) in Harrison, only 12 miles from Bountiful. She loves to sing hymns but in Houston is usually discouraged from doing so by the high-strung Jessie Mae. Now, with no wet-blanket daughter-in-law to cramp her style, and with Bountiful close at hand, Carrie delivers an increasingly spirited rendition of "Blessed Assurance," assisted by a young Army bride named Thelma (Condola Rashad, in a lovely, low-key performance) who has become her traveling companion.

At the matinee I attended, Ms. Tyson's interpretation of that hymn was so infectious that much of the audience was soon singing and clapping along. Ms. Tyson turned full-face to us, raised her arms and swayed in encouragement, like an impassioned choir master. You knew that an encore just had to follow, and though Ms. Tyson never broke character, it did.

Earlier Ms. Tyson had demonstrated a quieter virtuosity in what turned out to be the production's most affecting scene, which takes place on the bus to Harrison. Carrie is comforting Thelma, whose husband has just left for military service, and the older woman makes the startling confession that she never loved her own husband, though she admired him.

She couldn't marry the man she truly loved, because his father and hers didn't get along. His name was Ray John Murray. And when Ms. Tyson pronounces it with solemn and melodic precision, you see Carrie seeing that young man. It's a quintessential Horton Foote moment, right down to the triple-barreled name, in which a rue-tinged fragment of the past assumes an existence more vivid than the present.

Otherwise, this "Trip" — which has been designed as a Norman Rockwell-style evocation of 1950s America by Jeff Cowie (sets) and Rui Rita (lighting) — only fitfully captures the rhythms of everyday melancholy that you associate with Foote. Although casting the principal roles with African-Americans may be a novelty, it's not an issue. As a portrait of the toll taken by the shift from rural to urban life in the 20th century, and of intergenerational conflict, "Bountiful" is hardly race-specific.

But among Mr. Foote's best-known works — which it is, thanks in large part to the 1953 television and Broadway productions starring Lillian Gish, and the 1985 film for which Geraldine Page won an Oscar — "Bountiful" is the baldest in its sentimentality and its statement of themes.

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Warner Bros. Enlists Walmart Stores to Promote ‘Man of Steel’

LOS ANGELES — Which is more powerful: Superman or Walmart?

Souvenir tickets from the promotion between Walmart stores and the new film "Man of Steel."

In an unusual promotional partnership that starts on May 18, customers at 3,718 Walmart stores in the United States will be able to buy tickets to early screenings of "Man of Steel," the coming Superman movie from Warner Brothers.

About one million tickets will be put aside. Sellouts are expected. Prices will vary but will generally stay in line with the cost of tickets at the local theaters.

The promotion is designed to fill seats on opening weekend; Warner is counting on extensive in-store advertising and a burst of chatter on social media. Simultaneously, the goal is to send shoppers cascading into the arms of the world's largest retailer. Warner and Walmart billed the partnership as a Hollywood first.

"You hear these staggering numbers of how many people walk through a Walmart every day, and that gives us an exposure that we really can't put a dollar number on," said Dan Fellman, Warner's president of domestic distribution.

At the same time, Chris Nagelson, Walmart's vice president of domestic entertainment merchandising, said, "These movies create a lot of energy in our stores."

Walmart added that the unusual deal showcased its ambition and the depth of its studio relationships. (Studios want to make it happy: Walmart is one of the world's last volume sellers of DVDs.)

Walmart shoppers will be able to buy up to four tickets a visit, choosing between traditional and 3-D viewing formats (where available), for a local screening on June 13. "Man of Steel," perhaps the most anticipated movie of summer, arrives nationwide on June 14 and stars Henry Cavill.

About 100 Walmart stores will not participate because there is not a suitable movie theater within 30 miles, Mr. Fellman said. People who buy the advance tickets will also be able to pre-order the movie on DVD or Blu-ray disc. They will also receive a free digital comic book written by the "Man of Steel" screenwriter, David Goyer.

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ArtsBeat: Architects Announce Opposition to MoMA Plan for Former Museum Site

Written By Unknown on Selasa, 23 April 2013 | 16.43

Richard Meier, Thom Mayne, Steven Holl, Hugh Hardy and Robert A.M. Stern are among the prominent architects who on Monday called for the Museum of Modern Art to reconsider its decision to demolish the former home of the American Folk Art Museum.

"The Museum of Modern Art—the first museum with a permanent curatorial department of architecture and design—should provide more information about why it considers it necessary to tear down this significant work of contemporary architecture," the letter said.

"The public has a substantial and legitimate interest in this decision, and the Museum of Modern Art has not yet offered a compelling justification for the cultural and environmental waste of destroying this much-admired, highly distinctive twelve-year-old building."

Earlier this month, MoMA announced that it would raze the building – which it purchased in 2011 – and replace it with an expansion that will connect to a new tower. The building's architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, have expressed their disappointment with the decision and a number of others in the profession have publicly registered protest.

The open letter was written by the Architectural League of New York, a nonprofit organization, and signed by members of its board of directors. The folk art museum has relocated to a smaller space on the Upper West Side.

MoMA said in a statement that it would not comment on the letter at this time.

In an interview last week, Barry Bergdoll, MoMA's chief curator of architecture and design, said the decision was not an easy one. "It's incredibly painful to see a really significant building go," he said. "The conclusion reached makes sense for the future evolution of this complex of buildings and coming up with something that can really show off this collection to its greatest effect.

"Here's a building that was made for an incredibly important folk art collection that was abandoned by that museum," Mr. Bergdoll continued. "It's a kind of bespoke suit for folk art that has tremendous obstacles. You can't punch walls in the side and expect it to still be the same space."

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Theater Review: ‘The Testament of Mary,’ at the Walter Kerr Theater

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The Testament of Mary Fiona Shaw in this play at the Walter Kerr Theater.

Just let the woman speak, for pity's sake.

A great actress and a fine, trenchant script are struggling to assert themselves at the Walter Kerr Theater, where Colm Toibin's "Testament of Mary" opened on Monday night. The ads for this production, directed by Deborah Warner, feature the play's sole performer, Fiona Shaw, wearing what appears to be a crown of thorns, but as a muzzle.

The Mary whose testament we have gathered to hear is the mother of Jesus. And she wants to be allowed, for once, to tell her story on her terms, and to appear to us unencumbered by the signs and symbols that history and devotion have layered upon her.

So there'll be no seraphim fluttering about the head of this Mary. The only winged creature we see her with is a live vulture, which appears in a prologue to the show. This is to be Mary stripped bare, the better for us to grasp the suffering reality of a woman doomed to live with the memories of a son taken from her first by fame and then by a terrible public death.

That it doesn't quite work out that way ranks as one of the greater disappointments in a season that has made a practice of dashing hopes. Having read and admired Mr. Toibin's book of the same title, an expansion of the script for this play, and knowing how transfixing Ms. Shaw can be, I was all set for an evening of searing, austere eloquence. It was just what I needed as a tonic after the gooier excesses of Broadway.

I was startled, then, when I first saw the stage of the Walter Kerr, which was occupied by the designer Tom Pye's elaborate installation. That's where the vulture I mentioned earlier perches, spreading its baleful wings. That is also where we first see Ms. Shaw, garbed like a Raphaelite Madonna and seated in a large, transparent cube, a sea of votive candles at her feet.

The audience is invited onstage to take a closer look, and to note the surrounding clutter of things new (a tape recorder, a roll of toilet paper) and old (amphoras, an open trap door that looks onto what appears to be an archaeological dig).

I joined the throng, trying not to stare at Ms. Shaw, whose mouth was shaping unheard words, and stooping to examine scrawled-upon paper, hand-rolled cigarettes and, at a distance, that intimidating vulture. Though I didn't snap pictures of Ms. Shaw with my cellphone, as many fellow audience members did, I felt creepy and a little guilty.

This is probably as I was meant to feel, like a gawker at a sideshow. It's a crafty coup de théâtre, this fourth-wall-breaking prologue. It suggests how people have been conditioned to see those of whom we make saints, through a glass darkly. The implicit promise here is that the glass will be broken.

Sure enough, shortly after the last of the pilgrims have returned to their seats, much of that set is dismantled. Ms. Shaw sheds her biblical raiment and steps before us in mufti, her face scrubbed raw, in a long black dress over work pants. Before the show ends, she will have taken off every last stitch of those as well. Stripped bare, indeed.

Long before that moment of confrontational nudity, you will have probably surmised that Ms. Warner is going to err on the side of literal-mindedness. She has divested the stage of one landscape of smothering iconography only to substitute another. As Mary describes the events leading up to her son's death, she employs all sorts of heavy visual aids.

Speaking of the death and resurrection of Lazarus, she covers her face with a shroudlike cloth. When she talks about the transformation of water into wine, she hefts a large clay vessel onto a table. By the time we get to Calvary, you have a good idea of how she is going to use that long wooden ladder and those coils of barbed wire.

It is as if Ms. Warner — who collaborated with Ms. Shaw on productions of Euripides' "Medea" and Beckett's "Happy Days" — didn't trust sufficiently in the power of her star and script to captivate a big Broadway audience.

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Theater Review: Tristan Sturrock in Solo Show, ‘Mayday Mayday’

Suspense is not a selling point for "Mayday Mayday," a solo show written and performed by the English actor Tristan Sturrock that opened on Monday night at St. Ann's Warehouse. Although uncertainty as to how the narrative will turn out is generally considered a good thing at the theater, that's definitely not the case here.

In this amiable personal monologue, Mr. Sturrock, who starred at St. Ann's and later on Broadway in "Brief Encounter," describes a near-fatal accident he suffered when he fell off a wall after having a few too many one night. He broke his neck, losing feeling and movement in his limbs, and was hospitalized for many months.

But here he is before us, genial and energetic, moving with an easy fluidity as he recounts the story of the fall and its aftermath. So we know from the beginning that Mr. Sturrock's dangerous swipe with misfortune did not derail his career and life. Given the grim news we all have been absorbing in recent days, it's kind of refreshing to know from the moment we settle in our seats that we are headed for a happy ending.

Not that the story is without its queasy-making hairpin turns and moments of drama. A winding path figures prominently in the story, in fact. Mr. Sturrock and his wife, Katy Carmichael, who directed the show, were living in a cottage pleasantly placed on a hill in Cornwall, England, when the accident happened.

He recalls knowing the precise number of winding stone steps that led up to the cottage. And yet it was on this familiar path that disaster struck. On the night in question Mr. Sturrock headed down the zigzag into the village to join in the festivities at the local pub celebrating May Day, a holiday hailing the advent of summer.

"Before I went in," Mr. Sturrock recalls, "I said what I always said, 'Whatever I do I must not get too drunk.' "

Reader, he did.

Heading back up those tricky steps, he stopped to sit on a wall to answer a call from his wife, who was five months pregnant. Leaning back, he just kept going. Bang! Mr. Sturrock's description of his discovery that he could not move his limbs, and his fear that he would never be found — he was wedged between the wall and a garage — is scary and unsettling. His breathing becomes shallow, and he must fight to remain conscious, aware that to give in would probably mean the end.

Luck was in his favor. Mr. Sturrock rises from a crumpled heap on the stage floor to recount how his wife and a neighbor's friend searched until they found him. Using a series of small props arrayed around the stage in small pools of light, Mr. Sturrock also portrays the paramedics who rescued him, the pilot who airlifted him to the hospital and various medical professionals, family and friends who helped him through the long recovery period.

Despite the grim story, "Mayday Mayday" has plenty of humor, although much of it is necessarily of the gallows variety. His neurosurgeon describes to him the two alternatives for treatment: wearing a complicated, constricting "halo brace" for 12 to 18 months, or undergoing delicate surgery that could, if things went wrong, result in paralysis or death. Mr. Sturrock asked the surgeon what he would do if he were in the same situation.

"Well if it were me operating — and I've done this surgery many times before," he begins, oozing chipper self-confidence, before finishing off with an equally chipper: "However, we all have our off days. Now try and get some rest."

Mr. Sturrock is a lively raconteur, and moves with nimble gracefulness around the stage, animating the story with the sheer warmth of his presence. In one of the funniest bits, inspired by the term "operating theater," Mr. Sturrock depicts his surgeon preparing for the operation as a grand actor getting ready to make his big entrance onstage.

"Mayday Mayday" isn't particularly remarkable when Mr. Sturrock winds down the show by musing on the insights he drew from his rough experience. "Some of us are lucky ... some of us aren't," he says toward the end. "Things change like that!" he adds, with a snap of the fingers.

All true, but we probably don't need a brush with death to arrive at an awareness of such matters. Mr. Sturrock also notes "how fragile we all are," which is equally true and perhaps equally obvious. What "Mayday Mayday" illuminates more vividly, more precisely and more movingly is the converse: how resilient the mind and body can be, when the spirit never flags.

Mayday Mayday

Written and performed by Tristan Sturrock; directed by Katy Carmichael; music by Pete Judge, Barney Morse-Brown, Ian Ross and Alex Vann; sound by Patrick Sturrock and Tristan Sturrock; designed by Ms. Carmichael and Tristan Sturrock; lighting by Ms. Carmichael, Tristan Sturrock and Daniel Winters; projections by Brett Harvey. A Theater Damfino production, Ms. Carmichael, producer; presented by St. Ann's Warehouse, Susan Feldman, artistic director; Andrew D. Hamingson, executive director. At St. Ann's Warehouse, 29 Jay Street, at Plymouth Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn; (718) 254-8779, stannswarehouse.org. Through May 5. Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes.

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ArtsBeat: Boston Symphony Announces New Season

The Boston Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday disclosed plans next season to tour China and Japan, perform Britten's large-scale "War Requiem," present Beethoven's five piano concertos with Yefim Bronfman as soloist and put on a concert performance of "Salome" by Strauss – all without a music director. The orchestra released its programs for 2013-14, which will be the third season since James Levine stepped down as its music director for health reasons after already missing a number of concerts in previous years.

An array of guest conductors are filling in, including Lorin Maazel, who will lead the Asian tour, which marks the first time since 1979 that the Boston Symphony has gone to China — now a frequent destination for Western music ensembles. Guest conductors are often viewed with extra scrutiny when an orchestra is searching for a music director, although it is risky to consider them all candidates. Other guests next season include Andris Nelsons, who will lead "Salome," Robert Spano, Ste'phane Dene`ve, Daniel Harding, Manfred Honeck, Christoph Eschenbach, Charles Dutoit, who will lead the Britten work, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Bernard Haitink and Andrew Davis. Orchestra officials declined to comment on their search for a music director.

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Theater Review: Matthew Paul Olmos’s ‘so go the ghosts of méxico, part one’

Written By Unknown on Senin, 22 April 2013 | 16.43

Steven Schreiber

so go the ghosts of méxico, part one Laura Butler Rivera stars in Matthew Paul Olmos's play at La MaMa.

In 2010 a 20-year-old criminology student with a new baby volunteered for a job no one else would take: chief of police in the tiny Mexican border town of Práxedis Gilberto Guerrero, a place overrun by rival drug gangs. (To give you a sense of either the courageousness or foolhardiness of her decision: her predecessor had been tortured and beheaded.) The international news media quickly anointed this remarkable young mother, Marisol Valles García, as "the bravest woman in Mexico." She proceeded by publicly withdrawing from the drug war, which she said she would leave to the feds; hiring more female officers, who didn't carry guns; and focusing her police force's efforts on community building and teaching family values, which she hoped would keep the gangs at bay.

Matthew Paul Olmos is one of at least two playwrights to find inspiration in her story (as well as countless activists on both sides of the border). His chilling new play "so go the ghosts of méxico, part one" — produced at La MaMa after being selected by Sam Shepard, and the first of a three-part cycle — is based on her efforts.

In a program note Mr. Olmos says his play is "not meant to be a literal telling of her story," but rather "a poetic impression of what Marisol did for her country." There is little chance of confusion on this point, given the show's use of zombies, a supernatural car radio, an imaginary child and one character who is just an abstract symbol for an entire pigheaded neighbor country.

The images of this production are persistently haunting, thanks not only to Mr. Olmos's audacious, almost novelistic script but also the inventive contributions of the director, Meiyin Wang, and her stellar design team. Some of the action is depicted through film projection onto the pitted surfaces of Nick Benacerraf's squalid set — built from old speakers and sheets of plastic — enhancing the sense of disorientation. Light bulbs sometimes stand in for people and mystical forces. (Lighting and video design are by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew.) Most strikingly, the entire production is infused with an anxiety-inducing soundscape (by Elizabeth Rhodes), which alternates among paranormal radio music, the goose-pimply sounds of static and a dull, quickening heartbeat.

At times the production verges on haunted-house cheesiness (a distinct risk when zombies and red corn syrup are involved) or preachiness, but the overall effect is so horrific and enthralling that you're willing to forgive the excesses. The actors are mostly excellent, particularly José Joaquín Pérez as a cartoonish, low-level thug, whose cellphone and gang-provided pistol are both his lifeline and only source of usefulness in this world; and Laura Butler Rivera, who beautifully captures the ambivalence Marisol feels when she realizes, as the audience has known since first being introduced to her uninhabitable world, that she has been defeated.

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Arts, Briefly: Fox Renews ‘Glee’ for 2 More Seasons

A sortable calendar of noteworthy cultural events in the New York region, selected by Times critics.

The Fox musical "Glee," which defied the ratings odds when it had its debut in 2009, will remain on the network through 2015 in a deal announced on Friday. The network ordered two more seasons of the series, giving the co-creator Ryan Murphy and the other producers an unusual opportunity to plan story lines for the characters well into the future. The current season of "Glee," its fourth, attracts about 8.7 million viewers a week and routinely ranks among TV's top 10 shows for 18- to 34-year-olds. In a statement Mr. Murphy thanked Fox and the studio that produces the series, 20th Century Fox Television, for their support. The fourth season has toggled between the high school glee club in Ohio and the graduates who are at a performing arts college in New York. Mr. Murphy has hinted in interviews that he wants the fifth season to focus on just one of the locations, but he has not said which one.

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Arts, Briefly: Free Downtown Blues

A sortable calendar of noteworthy cultural events in the New York region, selected by Times critics.

The blues musician B. B. King and the rock group Los Lobos will be the headliners at the third annual Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival, which will be held on July 10 and 11 in a plaza outside the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan. Other acts include the rock trio Los Lonely Boys, Alejandro Escovedo and the rhythm-and-blues group the James Hunter Six. The concerts, presented by Brookfield Office Properties, are free to the public.

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Theater Review: ‘Macbeth,’ With Alan Cumming at the Barrymore Theater

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Macbeth Alan Cumming plays the title role and many more in this production at the Barrymore Theater.

The Scottish play, or "Macbeth" as it is known to laymen and superstition-free theater folk, sounds more Scottish than usual in the Broadway production that opened on Sunday night at the Barrymore Theater. The murderous general of the title is portrayed by the Scotland-born Alan Cumming, whose rich, rolling accent brings a whiff of the green highlands with it.

The real novelty of this production lies elsewhere: Mr. Cumming does not just play Macbeth but also all of the other significant roles in what is essentially a one-man, one-act hurtle through this Shakespearean tragedy of ambition, murder and soul-corroding guilt, here set in the chilly chamber of a mental institution.

The harsh lighting snaps on to reveal a man looking dazed and disoriented as two minders remove his disheveled clothing and help him into hospital garb. His clothes are sealed into brown paper bags with the ominous word "evidence" stamped upon them. His demeanor is meek and subservient, but bloody slash marks on his pale flesh suggest that this fellow has perpetrated (or been the victim of) some bloody deeds that have left his mind shattered and prey to tormenting fantasies.

"When shall we three meet again?" he asks in a tone of frightened urgency as his stoic caretakers depart. This, the first line of the play's text, spoken by one of the witches, unleashes the dark fury of Shakespeare's tragedy, as one by one the characters take possession of this disturbed fellow, who flits manically around the green-tiled room as he snaps from one persona to the next, suggesting a swarm of bats let loose in a confined space.

Mr. Cumming, a Tony winner for "Cabaret" who currently appears as a canny political operative on the terrific television drama "The Good Wife," is a versatile performer who here gets to indulge in the kind of high-hurdle challenge (or ego trip) that can prove irresistible to actors. He is also a born entertainer, who recently appeared with Liza Minnelli in a concert engagement at Town Hall. (Like many a celebrity in this era of all-platform saturation, Mr. Cumming also has his own line of fragrances.)

Watching him perform this personalized rendition of "Macbeth," I was at times more intrigued by the battle going on between the serious actor and the shameless entertainer than I was by the tense struggles taking place in the divided mind of Macbeth, a noble warrior who knows that killing his king is an evil act, or by the scenes of seething conflict between Macbeth and his more ruthless wife, given a voluptuous sexual manipulativeness by Mr. Cumming.

Some choices made by Mr. Cumming and his directors, John Tiffany ("Black Watch," "Once") and Andrew Goldberg, tend to chase away the shadows in this corrosively dark drama. (However, the one passage of authentic comic relief, the sodden porter's scene, is eliminated.) King Duncan is portrayed as a dizzy fop, speaking in fluty tones that make him seem like a featherweight leader whose dispatching might well be good for the country — an interpretation at odds with his depiction in the text as the generous, responsible antithesis of the ruler that Macbeth will become. Duncan's son Malcolm, whose status as the king's heir places him firmly in Macbeth's cross hairs, is represented by an eerie-looking doll in a dingy dress, and Mr. Cumming uses a childish squeak to speak his few lines. With his innocent victims thus represented, Macbeth's brutal acts are somewhat denuded of their malevolence. (The use of a child's tiny sweater, symbolizing one of Macduff's doomed sons, strikes a more haunting note.)

Macbeth himself evinces a mordant sense of humor now and then. After Macduff's description of the disturbances in nature that took place during the night of Duncan's murder — the "lamentings heard i' the air" and "strange screams of death" — Mr. Cumming's Macbeth says with a shrug, " 'Twas a rough night," eliciting peals of laughter from the audience. Hearing from one of the murderers he has hired that Banquo lies dead in a ditch, with 20 gashes in his head, Mr. Cumming uses the same offhand tone to reply, "Thanks for that." More laughter.

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Television Review: ‘The Bletchley Circle’ on PBS

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 21 April 2013 | 16.43

Churchill called the thousands of puzzle-solvers and clerks who spent World War II at Bletchley Park secretly breaking enemy codes "my geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled."

And almost as extraordinary as their work was — some say the decryption of Germany's Enigma machine hastened the end of the war by as many as two years — their loyalty to the Official Secrets Act is almost impossible to fathom. Codebreakers kept silent about their war effort for decades; the British government didn't officially recognize Bletchley Park veterans until 2009. Nowadays, it is still possible to read newspaper obituaries of 90-year-olds who never told their spouses, parents or siblings what they really did during the war.

"The Bletchley Circle," a three-part series that begins Sunday on PBS, finds an imaginative way to give overdue credit to those unrecognized government servants, most of whom were women.

The series opens in 1943, but it's actually a murder mystery set in 1952.

Anna Maxwell Martin ("Bleak House") plays Susan, a bored housewife and mother of two who detects a pattern in a series of unsolved murders. When the police won't follow up, Susan enlists three former colleagues from Bletchley Park to help her decipher the serial killer's modus operandi. And while the solving of the mystery is fairly conventional, these amateur detectives aren't. And that makes "The Bletchley Circle" more compelling than the average British period drama.

For one thing, Susan's postwar restlessness echoes, more gently, the frustration of the heroine of "Plenty," David Hare's play about a woman, also named Susan, who had life-or-death adventures working with the French Resistance and cannot accept the dullness of her postwar life as a dutiful diplomat's wife. This Susan is less tormented, perhaps partly because she finds a way to put her wartime talents to new use.

She also finds comfort and camaraderie when she reunites with friends from Bletchley Park, women who helped her crack a major code and also could never quite accept the postwar status quo — and second-class citizenship.

Savoring an important breakthrough in their Bletchley dormitory room in 1943, Susan and her friends promise one another that after the war they will never be "ordinary." Yet even the more enlightened men, like Susan's husband, Timothy (Mark Dexter), a wounded veteran who does not know what Susan did during the war, expect their wives to conform and keep house. The worst husbands turn violent if their manhood is threatened.

The four members of the Bletchley Circle have to meet covertly, hiding their detective work behind a facade of knitting and shopping with ration coupons.

And it's the women's bond in a man's world that is the real secret of "The Bletchley Circle."

The men who broke codes during the war are more recognized. There have been plays, movies and novels about Alan Turing, the visionary mathematician who developed an early kind of computer to decrypt the German codes and was badly rewarded for his accomplishments. Turing was the inspiration for a fictional heterosexual math whiz in Robert Harris's novel "Enigma," and in real life he became a martyr of the gay liberation movement: Turing was put on trial for homosexual acts in 1952 and killed himself in 1954.

It was an intolerant age for gay people, minorities, the lower classes and women. "The Bletchley Circle" doesn't have a preachy tone, but it does have a message, and it's similar to the one in "Call the Midwife," a British series also shown on PBS that follows young nurses who after the war helped women in the poorest sections of London deliver babies, usually in tenement homes, on top of rags and newspapers. (It's a feminine, more earnest corollary to "Doctor in the House," a funny 1952 novel by Richard Gordon about callow young doctors working in the same milieu, that was turned into a movie and later became a successful television series.)

"Call the Midwife," which accentuates the ties between these young women and their underprivileged patients, is overtly sentimental. "The Bletchley Circle" is more dry-eyed and understated.

But both series find a clever, entertaining way to pay tribute to women who in their time were often overlooked and underestimated, and nevertheless found ways to never be ordinary.

The Bletchley Circle

On PBS stations on Sunday nights at 10 (check local listings).

Produced by World Productions. Created and written by Guy Burt; directed by Andy De Emmony; Simon Heath, executive producer; Jake Lushington, producer.

WITH: Anna Maxwell Martin (Susan), Rachael Stirling (Millie), Sophie Rundle (Lucy) and Julie Graham (Jean).

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