Archive for the ‘SJSU’ Category

Spring Awakening: An extraordinary rock music production by the San Jose Rep

San Jose Repertory Theatre has opened their 2011-2012 season with a blockbuster of a show, raising the bar in every aspect of theater production.  Spring Awakening, with its provocative content, is the kind of show which should usher in a whole new generation of theater lovers, and its high level of technical and acting talent also proves that there is no need to head north to see a fantastic production when you live in the South Bay.

You might think that a show about oppressed, sexually repressed teenagers in 19th century Germany might be stuffy and boring.  But pair this storyline with some fantastic rock music and you have incredibly moving tales of lust, love, rape, physical abuse, pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality and suicide.  What does rock music have to do with 19th century German teens?  What does rock music NOT have to do with ANY teens?  Rock music was created to express the pain, frustration, angst and experiences of youth.  It is actually a perfect pairing, and works on every level in this show.  And although the story deals with difficult topics and situations, and will bring tears to your eyes, it also ends with a song that celebrates hope, and love, and living.  It brought an immediate and deserved standing ovation with not many dry eyes in the house.

Although the SJ Rep has always brought in great acting talent for their shows, I will admit to some worries about whether they could find such a capable large cast which requires dancing, very talented singers, as well as such a high level of acting… but the Rep went way beyond my expectations.  The singing was on par with any Broadway show I’ve ever seen, and the acting from everyone was superb.  Most notable for me was Eryn Murman as Wendla, capturing our sympathy, emotions and attention from the very first scene to the very end notes.  The entire cast was easily as talented as I’ve ever seen on the Repertory stage, and as a whole represents a great history of Broadway and musical experience.  Every single cast member was extraordinary, including the SJSU students who absolutely held up their end of the talent requirement.

Sonya Tayeh, known from “So You think You can Dance”, was brought in as choreographer for the show, and while I am sure she’s going to help fill theater seats (she certainly made ME excited about the show), the choreography was not what I expected.  Known for her quirky modern dances on the television show, she kept the dancing in the background here, using it only to express the thoughts, feelings and frustrations of the characters, while letting the story shine through.  It is what a choreographer should do in a show like this, and I believe she did it perfectly.  As a side note, she was in the audience on Opening Night and was absolutely gorgeous.

The music of course had a starring role in this show.  The band, as put together by the Rep’s own Dolores Duran-Cefalu, was on stage, played to perfection, and benefited from the best sound direction I’ve heard locally with the possible exception of Opera San Jose [opening Saturday!].  Sitting anywhere in this audience was like sitting in front of any Broadway musical production, and did great justice to Duncan Sheik’s music.

Once again, I’m not letting this review go without mentioning that in recent years the San Jose Repertory Theater has gone over and above in set, lighting and media design, and they’ve outdone themselves in this show as well.  And once again I see the names of John Iacovelli and David Lee Cuthbert involved.  If it’s possible to fill a set with emotion, these two can do it, and it’s hard to deny that when they are involved, the set will also have a starring role.

This is a show about teenagers who are dealing with adult themes and problems, just as all teenagers do, while also having little to no control over their lives.  This is the core difficulty of being a teenager.  Although there are mature themes explored on stage (masturbation, nudity, sexual situations and suicide), the show was not as explicit as I had been led to expect – but parents should be aware that it IS a provocative show.  Use your best judgment regarding your own teenager, but anyone 18 and up should head over to the Rep immediately and get a ticket.  Book writer and lyricist Steven Sater was also in the audience on opening night and he looked pleased.  I truly hope we did make him proud, as I know that I am certainly proud of Director Rick Lombardo and our local San Jose Repertory Theatre.  I cannot imagine how Mr. Lombardo plans to top this show, but we have six more shows to look forward to this year.  If there was ever a time to buy season tickets, this IS the year.

Spring Awakening
San Jose Repertory Theatre
September 1 – 25

Summer Pops Free Music Festival 2011

Symphony Silicon Valley presents its Summer Pops free music festival, five concerts over two weekends, on the Paseo de San Carlos (the grassy area between the Associated Students House and Spartan Complex) at San Jose State University. Enter at South Fourth and East San Carlos streets; parking available nearby.

Bring a picnic, your beach chair or a blanket. The series will include a family night for kids of all ages, a Latin night, Big Band hits, and Hollywood blockbusters. Both Sunday concerts feature free ice cream.

Saturday, July 30 — 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Classics With Attitude: Maestro Peter Jaffe opens the Festival with a mix of light classics including favorites like the eerie “Night on Bald Mountain;” “Carmen Fantasy;” the rhythmic “Bolero;” and the sweeping and picturesque “The Moldau.”

Sunday, July 31 — 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Family Adventure Concert: Family favorites for kids of all ages — from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean, the bubbly theme from Little Mermaid, and more. Come early to enjoy free ice cream.

Friday, August 5 — 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Noche Caliente: Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca bring hot Latin dance rhythms and smooth world music beats to a special evening of Latin music. Special guests, pyrotechnic San Jose Taiko, open the concert.

Saturday, August 6 — 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Big Band Hits: “Your Hit Parade” brings back the swinging sounds of the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s Big Band hits, with special emphasis on the dance music of the era.

Sunday, August 7 — 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Hooray for Hollywood: A night of Hollywood themes from the movies Gone with the Wind, Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, and James Bond. Come early to enjoy free ice cream.

Viva Varieté to raise money for SJSU Alumni Association Scholarship fund

Fundraising nights are always fun. Fundraising for SJSU scholarships is always a great cause. But an evening fundraising for SJSU scholarships that also includes entertainment with a Viva Varieté show?  Priceless!

San Jose State University recently celebrated its 150th year of educating our children, but with rising tuition costs and a difficult economy, more students than ever need our help to gain access to that education.  You can help make a difference in a young student’s life by marking your calendars for June 28, pulling out your checkbooks for a great cause, and getting ready for an evening of themed characters, silent auction, whimsical confections and wine tasting by Artesa Winery.  Graciously held at the San Jose Repertory Theatre, you’ll be entertained with Bounce Juggling by Bronkar Circus of Sound, Aerial Silks by Naomi & Andrew, Acrobatic Light Spinning by Fire Pixie and Dancing by Orchid Belly Dance.  Also included: hula hoop dancing, contortion, comedy magic, stilt Walkers, Accordion Players, Balloon Artists and more!

This is sure to be an amazing evening filled with fun, food, drink and breathtaking acts of beauty, and certainly worth the ticket price.  PLUS you’ll be helping to educate our valley’s youth.  Don’t miss this rare chance to be thoroughly entertained while also doing quite a bit of good in this world.

When: Tuesday, June 28
Where: San Jose Repertory Theatre101 Paseo De San Antonio, San José
Time: 6:30 p.m. Reception and silent auction, 7:30 p.m. Show

Tickets: Buy online
Phone: 408-367-7255
Orchestra: $125
Parterre: $100
Balcony: $80
View seating chart
A portion of every ticket is a tax-deductible contribution to the SJSU Alumni Association Scholarship fund. For each ticket, $70 is tax-deductible in Orchestra seating, $45 on Parterre seating and $25 on Balcony seating.

SJSU Professor Cathleen Miller brings an amazing story to Cinequest

Many of us have heard of the book Desert Flower, the story of model Waris Dirie.  Just 12 years old when she ran away from Somali to avoid an arranged marriage, she eventually became an international model, but it was her experience with female genital mutilation that brought Dirie to the world’s attention.  Now her story has been made into a film that is showing at Cinequest tonight only, at the California Theater.  But did any of you realize the book was written with the help of our own Cathleen Miller, an English professor at San Jose State University?

I asked Professor Miller to give us her own story of how she became involved with Dirie.  Following are her own words about a series of events Professor Miller refers to as “destiny”.   The film DESERT FLOWER plays at the California Theater tonight at 7pm.  Buy your tickets early to assure a seat, and there will be a Q&A session after the film.

When I first heard of Waris Dirie I was living in rural Pennsylvania, and I’d just graduated from the MFA program at Penn State with a specialization in creative nonfiction. Like many people in the post-grad transition—especially in the arts—I had no idea what I was going to do next to earn money. I had moved from San Francisco to Zion, PA. Now I was living in an old farmhouse in the midst of Amish farms, surrounded by 300 acres of corn, and I’d written a memoir about this experience and shopped it around to some literary agents in NYC. To my surprise, one of them signed me on.

A couple of weeks later the agent called and said, “I have a strange proposition for you. How would you like to write the life story of a supermodel?” I thought, yeah, here’s Satan tempting me to see how committed I am to being a serious writer, but when she began to tell me Waris’s story—a Somali nomad who was circumcised as a little girl, runs away from her parents by walking across the desert alone, makes her way to London and works as a maid, is discovered and becomes a model—I thought, ‘my God, there’s no way I can write a bad book with this material.’

I also realized it was an opportunity to be involved in a great humanitarian effort, because Waris had decided she wanted to tell her story to publicize the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM). Then the agent broke the other news: “Oh, and you have a deadline to deliver the manuscript in six months.” (more…)

Not your grandma’s Shakespeare

Anyone who still had their doubts about injecting steampunk into one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies had their fears quelled instantly at the opening night of SJSU‘s Twelfth Night. Excitement started growing as soon as we were let into the University Theatre and saw the grand beach scene with what appeared to be the skeletal remains of a downed zeppelin.  The logic of the steampunk theme became clear when we meet Viola on the beach (and later Sebastian).  Viola and Sebastian clearly come from Shakespeare’s time.  It is the fictional Illyria, where they had been shipwrecked, that was filled with fantastical steampunk characters.  This is a world where women rule their own lives and have (somewhat) control over their men.  It is a world of mischievous antics, sexual innuendos and games, much drink, music and dancing, and, most important, fun.  It’s a land that draws in the audience, and one that we definitely did not want to leave.

I knew I had been taking a chance in promoting this show before it opened, but I had been intrigued from the moment I had heard “steampunk + Shakespeare”.  However, my own high expectations were so far exceeded that all I can say is this is the must-see production of the year in San Jose.  I had more fun in this show than at any other show I’ve seen in recent memory and plan to see it again.  The audience — packed full of SJSU students, professors of Shakespearian literature, theater fans, and even dressed up characters from the Bay Area Steampunk Association (yes, it’s a real thing) – all had a blast as we danced along with the music, lusted after the corseted women, laughed at Sir Toby and Malvolio, and simply enjoyed Shakespeare the way the Bard himself would have wanted us to.

There was some questioning of the portrayal of Orsino as an emo rock star with “a posse”, but in this imaginative interpretation it still worked – and even the Shakespeare experts in the audience gave the show a thumbs up overall.  My guest at the show had never seen Twelfth Night or even read the play, but he loved it so much he plans to read the play now.  What more can you ask?  The steampunk theme was used partly as a way to bring Shakespeare to a new audience, to show how much fun it can be, and this production passed with flying colors on all counts.  Not only was the audience packed in both Friday and Saturday, but they had the highest grossing opening night in the last four years.

Although the set design, lighting, costumes and excellent choices in music (White Wedding! Dubstep! RAP!) were all outstanding, a drama production always rests on the actors.  With this fantastic group it is very hard to single anyone out, but I would be remiss in not mentioning three specific stand-out roles:

Kayleigh Larner as the sexy Maria was my favorite.  It is quite a feat to be so brilliant in her comedy while simultaneously making hearts pound as she strutted the stage in her corset, playfully whacking Sir Toby with her riding crop.  I could watch a whole show starring only Kayleigh Larner as Maria.

The recipient of those crop swats was the lucky David Scott, and his drunken portrayal of Sir Toby was both fun and slightly creepy.  Drunk through most if not all of the show, Sir Toby was playful, mischievous, and yet in full control of his senses.  Scott took his character right to the limits of bawdy humor but never once went over the top.  It was barely restrained perfection.

And finally, no review of this show will go by without mention of Drew Jones as Malvolio.  This man has been honing his comedic genius in other plays I have seen and is ALWAYS a stand-out and major scene-stealer.  As each scene goes by, the audience wants more and more of Malvolio, and the yellow stockings scene is just something…  that can’t… be missed.

Congrats to Director Kathleen Normington for putting together a fantastical and original interpretation of Twelfth Night, and for all the help given the production by Dramaturge Dr. Adrienne Eastwood.   There was an incredible amount of work put into this show by a very large group of set designers, costumers and makeup artists, and every bit of that work shows and is appreciated.

You still have a chance to see this OUTSTANDING production, and I stake my reputation as a drama reviewer that you will not be disappointed.  Whether you are a steampunk fan, a lover of Shakespeare, ordinary theater goer, or just looking for something to do, you will not be disappointed.  You certainly can’t beat the price, and after Thursday’s show there will be a chance to ask questions of the actors, director, and dramaturge.  Don’t miss it!

Twelfth Night
November 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20 7pm
SJSU University Theatre
Fifth and San Fernando next to the San Jose Public Library
Tickets $10 students/seniors; $20 general admission
Tickets Online
Or call 408 924-4555
Wheelchair Admissable

Why is Metblogs so excited about SJSU’s steampunk Twelfth Night?

SJSU’s steampunk version of Twelfth Night starts this Friday, and the excitement and buzz before the show even opens is tremendous.  I have been lucky enough to preview a few rehearsals and am happy to say this show looks VERY entertaining yet also true to Shakespeare’s word.  The SJSU Theatre Department does not get much press but they should, because the productions I have seen there have met or exceeded the quality of any professional theater company in this area.  And with a ticket price of $10 for students/seniors and $20 general admission, one can hardly go wrong.

I asked director Kathleen Normington and dramaturge Dr. Adrienne Eastwood to talk a bit about this steampunk version of Twelfth Night.   If you are interested in steampunk, or question the decision to bring steampunk to Shakespeare, I recommend reading their answers below.

First, Director Normington commented on the interesting music choices and the striking visual aesthetics.

Director Normington:  Music choices are very untraditional and were inspired from my 16 year old son’s playlist. He introduced me to “dubstep” music and that became a key sound component for the show. It has an edgy, harsh quality that seems to fit the world of the play that we have created, most especially in the character of Orsino, the drug-addled, love-crazed “Duke.” I worked with a student who created some original dubstep music for the production and we threw in some trance and the music of Dirty Three, Bassnectar, and Moby. An eclectic mix that seems to help tell the story of the play for me.

On scenic design: This comedy, like many of Shakespeare’s comedies, places the main characters in a natural environment and I wanted to expand that for the setting. Many of the scenes occur outdoors and the beach became the dominant design concept for the entire play. I wanted a contrast between a completely realistic and natural environment with the metal, wood, and metallics of steampunk that is most revealed in the costumes and props. Steampunk became a style choice that grew out of the main themes of the play: time, disguise, and the intersection of a modern sensibility and the romance of a Victorian past. I had no idea at the time I was forming these ideas that steampunk had such a devoted cult following.

I then asked Dr. Eastwood to justify the decision to take this fascinating steampunk concept and meld it with the famous work by William Shakespeare:

One of the first decisions a director of a Shakespeare play has to make is whether or not to produce the play in period—using Elizabethan costumes.  Many directors eschew the traditional Renaissance modes in order to update the play’s themes or make them palatable for contemporary audiences.  Such an idea marries the old with the new—the historical with the modern—a concept that is in itself very Shakespearean, since his plays are meaningful in both historical and universal contexts. Twelfth Night, as with many of Shakespeare’s other plays, is both of its age and for all time.  A steampunk Twelfth Night merges the old with the new in exciting and deeply resonant ways.

Illyria, the world of the play, is a fictional place.  No such country exists on any known map.  And time moves differently in Illyria—along the familiar linear trajectory, but also in a cyclical motion, ebbing and flowing, folding the past into the present.  Indeed, for the festive characters like Sir Toby, time seems to stand still—another drink, another song, another practical joke.  But for the besotted lovers, time must untangle the knot of misapplied affections.  How will this fadge? Time will tell.

Steampunk similarly collapses time, blending the past with the [future].  With an aesthetic based nineteenth century England but reaching toward a fantastical future, we see time both moving forward and looking back; it exists both as a historical moment and beyond it.  The steam technology and bizarre, archaic optical gear, put to use in unfamiliar ways also suggest that ordinary rules don’t apply in a steampunk setting.  The atmosphere created by the steampunk aesthetic underscores the temporally topsy-turvy Illyria, a place where the festive powers of timlessness will join forces to try and rid their world of darkness and grief.  But as Shakespeare ensures in his play, disruptive forces are powerful ones, and in the end, audiences leave anxiously hoping that true love and friendship did indeed prevail.

Interested Shakespeare lovers can read Dr. Eastwood’s study guide to prepare for the show.

I’ll be there opening night ready to review the show.  I hope to see you there as well.  Not just to support our local University Theatre students, but because SJSU has consistently produced outstanding stage productions, and I don’t think they’re going to let us down this time either.

Twelfth Night
November 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20 7pm

SJSU University Theatre
Fifth and San Fernando next to the San Jose Public Library
Tickets $10 students/seniors; $20 general admission
Tickets Online
Or call 408 924-4555

Wheelchair Admissable

It’s time to start planning your November show nights!

We survived the many great October shows, now we have an even more packed November!  This month I can honestly say I am VERY excited about every one of these shows.  These are the ones we are set to review this month – get your tickets now!

The Flying Karamazov Brothers
The San Jose Repertory Company
November 10 – 14
Welcome to the zany world of The Flying Karamazov Brothers, where the daring and goofy take center stage. This ground-breaking blend of nouveau cirque, comedy, theatre, music, and, of course, juggling is nothing short of genius. Innovative and unique, they display their juggling prowess in such show stopping numbers as “The Gambler.” In this daring act, the Karamozov champion Dimitri will juggle three items presented to him by audience members. If the champion succeeds he gets a standing ovation. If he fails, he gets a pie in the face! This exuberant and hilarious off-Broadway rave is full of fast-paced virtuosity and fun as the four brothers deliver a stupendously entertaining evening like you’ve never experienced.

As if that wasn’t fun enough: The audience is encouraged to bring zany items to the theater for the Karamazov champion to juggle!

Twelfth Night
San Jose State University Theatre
November 12 – 20
Theater director Kathleen Normington and English Professor Dr. Adrienne Eastwood are continuing to draw a great deal of attention with their provocative steampunk Shakespeare production.  Director Normington intends to use the steampunk aesthetic to style the production and highlight some of the themes of disguise and gender ambiguity within the play.  Dr. Eastwood, as dramaturge, is helping to guide the marriage of steampunk visuals with Shakespeare’s written words into the creation of a beautiful new version of the play.  This combination is sure to bring Twelfth Night’s message to a wider audience in unexpected ways.  DO NOT MISS this innovative vision that will stay true to its original ideas.

Tosca
Opera San Jose
November 13 – 28
She’s a superstar: brilliant, beautiful, and spoiled. Yet Floria Tosca, despite her wealth and privilege, cannot save her aristocratic lover without consenting to debase herself. An opera diva as wildly popular in 1800 Rome as any rock or movie icon today, she finds that living for “art, love, and prayer” isn’t enough to protect her in a society run by wicked, powerful men. She is a beauty pursued by a beast determined to have her, and killing her stalker – chief of the secret police, Baron Scarpia – still doesn’t end her suffering. Suicide is her final act of defiance

The Color Purple
Broadway San Jose
November 23 – 28
A soul-stirring musical based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the moving film by Steven Spielberg. It is the unforgettable and inspiring story of a woman named Celie, who finds her unique voice in the world. Nominated for eleven Tony® Awards, THE COLOR PURPLE is a landmark theatrical event, a celebration of love, and a Broadway phenomenon. With a joyous GRAMMY®-nominated score featuring jazz, gospel and blues, THE COLOR PURPLE is capturing the hearts of young and old, and uniting audiences in a community of joy.


Backwards in High Heels
The San Jose Repertory Company
November 24 – December 19
The remarkable life of the legendary actress Ginger Rogers comes to life onstage!
This intimate musical dances its way through Ginger’s life with unforgettable music, show-stopping dance numbers and a captivating story that chronicles her journey from hometown to Hollywood and from one love affair to another. Best known as Fred Astaire’s dance partner, Ginger defied her overly-protective mother to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and one of the industry’s first women to demand equal pay. Funny, moving and a visual feast, Backwards In High Heels is a toe-tapping, swirling, gliding account of her ambitious public and private life.

A Wonderful Life (MUSICAL)
Hillbarn Theatre
December 2 – 19
Although this show starts in December I want to make sure you are all notified in time.  Hillbarn has been putting on consistently fantastic productions, and has been selling out of many shows.  I’ve had my fill of Wonderful Life over the years, but I am truly excited to see Hillbarn’s new musical version.  I’m sure it will be a Don’t Miss production!

Steampunk + Shakespeare? Just might work!

If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.
Twelfth Night, 3. 4


Fantastic news coming out of the San Jose State University theatre department!  Fans of the steampunk genre and scholars of Shakespeare will unite under one roof when Twelfth Night premieres on November 12.  Director Kathleen Normington, SJSU Theatre faculty since 1999, is bringing a new vision to the play in the hopes of introducing Shakespeare to a wider audience, reaching both students and the population at large.

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most well known and oft produced dramas, focusing on themes of illusion and reality.  Steampunk is a popular sub-genre of science fiction, usually set in an historical time period featuring futuristic technology.  While Shakespeare and steampunk may seem to have nothing in common, the melding of steampunk visuals with Shakespeare’s written words will consummate into a beautiful rendition of the play that might actually help bring across the themes of Twelfth Night in unexpected ways.

The intention is to use the steampunk aesthetic to style the production and to highlight some of the themes of disguise and gender ambiguity within the play.  All signs are pointing to a visually striking production, and Kathleen notes that “especially at a university where our audience is young and fearful of Shakespeare, […] we need to capture them visually and then hope that the language and character will keep them involved.”

But Shakespeare purists have nothing to fear as Dr. Adrienne Eastwood from the SJSU English department has been brought in as dramaturge.  Dr. Eastwood has a Ph.D. from UC San Diego and recently published “Between Wedding and Bedding: The Epithalamic Sub-genre in Shakespeare’s Comedies” in Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.   She is excited to help in assuring that aside from the exciting visual aspects, the direction of the production will remain true to the themes and messages that Twelfth Night should be sending.  Both current and previous students will agree that this show will only shine with Dr. Eastwood involved.

Having these two great scholars come together to integrate these two fascinating ideas might be one of the most exciting things to happen to the SJSU Theatre Department.  The play will open on November 12, and you should all mark your calendars now as this electrifying play has already been generating a lot of buzz.  You will not want to miss out on your chance to see this unique production!

Twelfth Night
San Jose State University Theatre
November 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20 at 7pm
Students/Seniors $10
General admission $20
Tickets Available Online, or call 408 924-4555.

Michael Moore: “In the Souls of the People”

Love him or hate him, Michael Moore is headed to San Jose to receive the Steinbeck Award.

Academy Award-Winning Filmmaker and Social Activist Michael Moore will receive the John Steinbeck Award “In the Souls of the People” from noted author and son of John Steinbeck, Thomas Steinbeck.  Moore will be in conversation with Dan Pulcrano, Executive Editor of Metro.  It should be a fascinating evening for anyone interested in Michael Moore’s thoughts and ideas.  The event is hosted by Thomas Steinbeck and Catherine Busalacchi of the SJSU Student Union, and it benefits the Center for Steinbeck Studies.

October 14, 2010
Starts 7:00 PM, doors open 6:00 PM.
Morris Dailey Auditorium on the SJSU campus
For more information, contact the Center: 408-808-2067
or email: mhccfss@gmail.com.
Tickets: SJSU’s Ticketmaster.

Councilman Pete Constant to Take On Mongolian Wrestlers

I hope that everyone has agreed to leave Mr.Constant alone so that he can train just as hard as Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) did in the The Karate Kid. He will need to be in top form when he and the San Jose State University wrestling club go at it with the Bukhs from Mongolia.

I can’t wait to tell people what I will be doing for my lunch hour tomorrow!

Mongolian Wrestling ~ Dance ~ Rituals

Free and Open to the Public

Noon – Tuesday, June 22

The Tech Museum
201 S. Market St, San Jose

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