Hit musical throws the ‘Book’ at religion
by Larry Nichols
Aug 21, 2014 | 62 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“The Book of Mormon” is living up to its reputation, as the Tony Award-winning musical is enjoying a wildly successful run in Philadelphia at The Forrest Theatre through Sept. 14. Written by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and “Avenue Q” creator Robert Lopez, it tells the story of two Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda to spread the word about their religion. Grey Henson, who plays the character Elder McKinley, said fans of both “Avenue Q” and “South Park” will definitely appreciate the brutally satirical nature of “The Book of Mormon,” but there is a finely crafted musical underneath the humor. “It’s definitely in the same vein of those shows but it has its own voice all together,” Henson said. “As crude and wild and blasphemous as people like to say that it is, it’s really a beautiful piece of musical theater and that is why people love it. It’s not what you expect it to be. People are surprised by the dancing and the choreography. It’s really smartly done and it’s completely original and different.” Any time you combine religion and humor, there is bound to be some controversy. But Henson said the humor in the show isn’t necessarily always at the expense of Mormonism. “The story is surrounding this religion but the show makes fun of everybody,” Henson said. “It’s one of those shows where, if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at, because at some point you are going to be lampooned. It’s about these boys that go to Africa from America and they think they can fix everything. They just assume life is just like it is in Salt Lake City. They don’t realize people in the world really suffer. Then they get this major truth-bomb thrown at them. It makes you question your own values. It shows how silly some of the things in the religion might seem to people, but it is definitely not necessarily lampooning the Mormon religion. I think the show is Trey Parker’s and Matt Stone’s atheist love letter to religion. At the end of the show, it puts faith and spirituality on a pedestal. One of the boys ends up making up his own religion that the Africans believe in and it really gives them hope. It’s a sweet message.” Henson added that, while some in the Mormon community aren’t happy about the show, others are using its success as an opportunity to introduce people to their faith. “Some Mormons of course think that it paints them in a bad light but [for the most part] they’ve been kind of jumping on the success of the show,” Henson said. “They advertise in all our playbills. Everywhere we go there are full-page ads saying, ‘You’ve seen the play, now read the book’ and ‘The book is always better.’ They’ve been really smart about it. Almost every show, we have real Mormon missionaries standing outside of the theater handing out Mormon literature and talking to people about the actual religion. The religion, now more than ever, has been in the forefront of the media and the news because of the show, and they are excited about it. They are such a wonderful, sweet group of people as a whole, the Mormons that I have met touring across the country for two years. They are interested in what we do as actors. We’ve gone the whole nine yards when it comes to learning about Mormons, and they are great and they love that we are doing the show.” The show also broaches the subject of sexuality and religion through the character of Elder McKinley, who is gay but is in denial about his sexuality. “I think McKinley is really complex,” Henson said. “He’s got a lot of interesting layers. He’s a really troubled person because he’s trying to repress all these feelings. The thing that’s most important for him is being a good Mormon. He’s very passionate about that. He cares so much about being a good Mormon but he just can’t. So there’s the tragic flaw of being gay, which is kind of frustrating for him. That is interesting to play with every night. The most important number-one thing for him is being a good Mormon and being in charge of this mission.” Henson added that he often meets fans of the show who identify with the internal conflict between sexuality and spirituality his character goes through. “A lot of audience members come up to me telling me how much they relate to McKinley because they went through that,” Henson said. “I think there’s a huge group of people thinking they couldn’t be themselves. A lot of it had to do with their religion. I think McKinley’s journey is a very small one. The song I sing, ‘Turn It Off,’ is an anthem to suppression. In some way, shape or form, the LGBT community has felt things feeling and that is what people relate to in the show. There’s been a moment in everyone’s life, no matter how wonderful their parents were with their coming out, that they felt like they have to turn it off and shut down certain truthful feelings they were having. Hopefully it’s not as difficult as it is for McKinley because he just flat-out says that being gay is bad. It’s sad and it is tragic and I hope nobody goes through that, but that is something a lot of people relate to. And it’s all positive because I do think there is a light at the end of the tunnel for McKinley by the end of the show. It’s not very clear and laid out, but there is hope for him and hopefully for anyone else who has ever had to turn it off.” The Kimmel Center presents “The Book of Mormon” through Sept. 14 at The Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut St. For more information or tickets, call 215-923-1515 or visit www.kimmelcenter.org/events/?id=4676.
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Out & About: Aug. 22-28
Aug 21, 2014 | 23 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fri. 08/22 Retro Futura Tour The Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Howard Jones with Ultravox’s Midge Ure, China Crisis and Katrina (ex-Katrina & The Waves) perform an ’80s reunion show, 7:30 p.m. at Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave.; 215-572-7650. Chicago and REO Speedwagon The classic-rock bands perform 8 p.m. at the Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa Event Center, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, N.J.; 609-317-1000. The Smiths Social The party celebrating the music of The Smiths starts 8 p.m. at Trocadero Theatre, 1003 Arch St.; 215-922-6888. Howie Mandel The comedian performs 9 p.m. at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa Music Box, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, N.J.; 609-317-1000. Rocky Horror Picture Show The cult classic is screened with all the usual fanfare 11:30 p.m. at Ritz Bourse, 400 Ramstead St.; 215-925-7900. Sat. 08/23 Anna Crusis Women’s Choir Auditions The choir is looking for a few good women 9:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m. at Friends Center, 1501 Cherry St.; www.annacrusis.com. Motley Crue and Alice Cooper The hard-rock bands perform 7 p.m. at Susquehanna Bank Center, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden, N.J.; 856-365-1300. Chris Tucker The comedian performs 8 p.m. at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa Event Center, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, N.J.; 609-317-1000. Credence Clearwater Revisited The classic-rock group performs 8 p.m. at Tropicana Showroom, 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.; 800- 843-8767. Yanni The acclaimed singer performs 8 p.m. at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave.; 800-745-3000. Artie Lange The comedian performs 9 p.m. at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa Music Box, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, N.J.; 609-317-1000. Samantha Ronson The out DJ takes control of the music 10 p.m. at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa Mur Mur Nightclub Box, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, N.J.; 609-317-1000. Sun. 08/24 The Grand Illusion The 1937 war film is screened 2 p.m. at Colonial Theatre, 227 Bridge St., Phoenixville; 610-917-0223. Mon. 08/25 Saturday Night Fever The blockbuster disco film is screened 8 p.m. at the Trocadero Theatre, 1003 Arch St.; 215-922-6888. Tue. 08/26 Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival A festival of hard-rock bands, including Godsmack, Seether, Buckcherry and more, performs 2 p.m. at Susquehanna Bank Center, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden, N.J.; 856-365-1300. Long Long Time: A Historic Tribute to Billy Joel Joel’s original 1971-72 rock band performs 7 p.m. at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St.; 215-222-1400. First Person StorySlam The monthly spoken-word performance event, 7:30 p.m. at L’Etage, 624 S. Bainbridge St.; 215-592-0626. Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang The rock bassist and Primus frontman performs 8 p.m. at World Cafe Live at the Queen, 500 N. Market St., Wilmington, Del.; 302-994-1400. Sleep The alt-rock band performs 8:30 p.m. at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St.; 215-232-2100. Wed. 08/27 Josh Groban The acclaimed singer performs 8 p.m. at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave.; 800-745-3000. The Polyphonic Spree The psychedelic choral-rock group performs 8 p.m. at Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St.; 215-972-1000. Toon In A celebration of all things animated hosted by Brooklyn Ford and Lady Poison, featuring drag performances by Maria TopCatt, Iris Spectre and Jenna Tall, 8 p.m. at Voyeur Nightclub, 1221 St. James St.; 215-732-5772. Thu. 08/28 X The pioneering punk band performs 8 p.m. at Trocadero Theatre, 1003 Arch St.; 215-922-6888. The Burlesque Show The naughty fun begins 9 p.m. at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa Music Box, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, N.J.; 609-317-1000. Fri. 08/29 Kenny Wayne Sheppard The rock guitarist performs 8 p.m. at Tropicana Showroom, 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.; 800- 843-8767. Opening Deray Davis The comedian seen on Comedy Central and in “Barbershop” performs Aug. 28-31 at Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St.; 215-496-9001. Exalted Nature: The Real and Fantastic World of Charles Burchfield The Brandywine River Museum of Art presents an exhibition of visionary landscapes by Burchfield (1893-1967), featuring more than 50 paintings borrowed from important public and private collections across the United States, Aug. 23-Nov. 16, 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford; www.brandywinemuseum.org. Continuing Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Tony Award-winning musical about the golden age of jazz in Harlem runs through Sept. 7 at Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S. Main St., New Hope; 215-862-2121. The Book of Mormon The Tony Award-winning musical comedy by the creator of “South Park” runs through Sept. 19 at The Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut St.; 215-923-1515. In Dialogue: Wolfgang Tillmans Philadelphia Museum of Art presents an exhibition of images by the European photographer through Oct. 26, 26th Street and the Parkway; 215-763-8100. Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Philadelphia Museum of Art presents an exhibition of the comprehensive design for the renewal and expansion of the museum by the internationally celebrated architect through Sept. 1, 26th Street and the Parkway; 215-763-8100. Oblivious Muse Gallery presents an exhibition of paintings by Carolyn Cohen through Aug. 31, 52 N. Second St.; 215-627-5310. Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love Philadelphia Museum of Art presents an exhibition highlighting the works of the famed fashion designer through Nov. 30, 26th Street and the Parkway; 215-763-8100. That’s So Gay: Outing Early America The Library Company of Philadelphia presents the exhibition exploring gay culture through Oct. 17, 1314 Locust St.; 215-546-3181. The Main Dish Philadelphia Museum of Art presents an exhibition of modern and contemporary kitchenware through Sept. 28, 26th Street and the Parkway; 215-763-8100. Closing A Divine Evening With Charles Busch Accompanied By Tom Judson The cabaret singer performs through Aug. 23 at the Rrazz Room, in The Ramada New Hope, 6426 Lower York Road, New Hope; 888-596-1027. GayFest! Quince Productions presents a festival of gay-themed productions, plays and shows in various locations through Aug. 23; www.quinceproductions.com.
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Elizabeth Granaham: Charting a course into the old boys club
by Suzi Nash
Aug 21, 2014 | 29 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening — and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” — Arnold Palmer “Golf is a game of coordination, rhythm and grace; women have these to a high degree.” — Babe Didrikson Zaharias Golf is a game of low scores, but this week’s portrait, Elizabeth Granahan, has racked up quite a high number of accomplishments — including as president of the G2 Golf Group, director of instruction of “G2-The Granahan Golf Academy” and director of instruction in residence at Chester Valley Golf Club in Malvern. Granahan is the only woman in the 90-plus-year history of the Philadelphia Section of Professional Golfers’ Association to have been awarded “Teacher of the Year” honors, and is likely the most-decorated woman instructor in the history of the Philadelphia Section PGA. In 2010, she was a National PGA “Teacher of the Year” Award Nominee and in 2011 was on Golf Digest’s list of “100 Best Clubfitters” and served as one of eight elite instructors from around the country invited to coach at the Inaugural Junior Ryder Cup Academy. Her teaching awards number too many to print here. An industry trailblazer, she remains the only woman golf professional to have served on staff at the prestigious Merion Golf Club. I met Granahan and her partner in business and life, Michele Gajderowicz, at an Independence Business Alliance function a little while ago, as they were pitching a new concept. Gajderowicz, also the recipient of numerous national and regional business awards, is an entrepreneur who has been a business strategist, golf industry executive and journalist for more than 25 years. She has been quoted in Crain’s New York Business, Golf Magazine, GolfWeek, The Philadelphia Business Journal and many other publications. Together, the two make a dynamic duo on and off the grass. PGN: Do you remember the first time you picked up a golf club? EG: Yes, actually. I was in college when I first started playing, which is pretty late by most standards. Before that, I played softball, basketball, tennis, all competitively. It was during my senior year at Rutgers University when I “walked on” the golf team. PGN: What does “walked on” the team mean? EG: It means I wasn’t recruited to play. Most college athletes are recruited out of high school to play specific sports but I’d never golfed before. I just tried out for the team and made it, a “walk on.” I went to Rutgers to study animal sciences and discovered a whole new career. PGN: Do you come from a family of athletes? EG: [Laughs] No, not at all. My mother was a homemaker and my dad, who passed last year, was a policeman. PGN: So tell me a little about your company. EG: My partner Michele Gajderowicz and I own G2-The Granahan Golf Academy. The company is now four years old. Michele handles the business side of things — the website, the marketing and advertising and general day-to-day functions — and I do all the golf instruction, etc. We do private lessons, corporate functions, golf clinics. We work with individuals and professionals to handle golf travel. I do lectures and seminars. We cover a wide range of things, all golf-related. In September we’re going to the Ryder Cup in Scotland, which is a bi-annual match originally between the United States, Great Britain and Ireland. The Ryder Cup, and its counterpart the Presidents Cup are special within the world of professional sports because the players receive no prize money, despite the contests being high-profile events. We also have the G2 Speaker series where we bring in people from the golf industry to speak on a variety of topics. They’re open to the public so anyone, not just our students, can take advantage of it. PGN: Your website says, “G2 Takes a New Approach to the Game of Golf.” Explain. EG: A lot of people think they just want a quick lesson and that’s it. That’s not us. Playing golf is like playing an instrument: It takes a long time to become accomplished. A lot of places market in such a way that gives you the impression that you can become a golfer with a few easy lessons, but that’s not how we operate. I’m interested in having long-term relationships with my students, taking them on a journey. I want them to fully enjoy and understand and appreciate the game. We come from a holistic approach; we talk about golf fitness and proper equipment and golf nutrition. I strive to be a source of information for my students. PGN: For a lay person like me who thinks, OK, you hit a little ball with a cane-shaped stick, how much does that take?, school me in the athletics of the game. EG: The golf swing is actually the most complicated sports motion there is. When you watch someone who’s really good at it, it doesn’t look like it. It’s like watching a thoroughbred run; if they’re really good, it looks smooth and graceful and effortless. But it takes a lot to get to that level. Part of the problem with golf is that most people are introduced to it by being taken to a golf course and told to play when they have absolutely no skill sets at all. If you want to be successful and learn to enjoy it, you really need to be introduced through some sort of instructional program so you can learn properly and build your game. If you’re just thrown out on a course with a set of clubs, it can be frustrating and demoralizing and aggravating. I hate to see people walk away from the game because they weren’t introduced properly. PGN: It seems that, like most sports now, there’s a lot more that goes into making a professional — cross training and nutrition, etc. EG: Sure, golf fitness has become a big part of the game. Players are much more specifically fit than you saw before. It’s raised the level of the game for everyone. And technology has changed the game too; it makes it a little easier and more enjoyable for people who are weekend warriors to play. PGN: I read that you are the only female recipient of Teacher of the Year and the first and only female golf pro at Merion. Is there still a lot of sexism in golf? EG: Uh, well, I’m a member of the PGA, the Professional Golfers Association. There are 27,000 members, OK, and of those 27,000, only 1,000 are women. When I play tournaments, I’m usually playing with all men, usually white guys. Sooo ... It’s changing, but there’s still a way to go. PGN: From what I understand, an important reason for women to get involved, aside from the health benefits and the joy of the game, is that, as a business person, a lot of the wheeling and dealing in big business happens on the course. EG: For sure, and at G2 it’s one of the things we promote. Michele has done a lot of research on the topic. We have clinics and seminars for women in business because it really can help break through that glass ceiling a little bit. It is where a lot of the conversations happen and where deals are made. If you’re not there for the conversation, you’re losing out. There are so many women working their way up the chain in business who just can’t seem to get a seat at the table. We work on the specific skill sets women need to get out there where a lot of the relationships are being forged that can help you in advancing your career. We’ve found that women who have the knowledge and conversation and skills have an entrée that others don’t. Certainly in Michele’s career, it changed her route to the top. When the guys found out she played golf, all of a sudden she was being invited to go off to different junkets instead of being left behind at the office. It opened up conversations and developed new relationships. For us, there’s also an untapped resource that a lot of the golf industry is missing out on. There are a lot of women with disposable dollars who make a nice living who might enjoy the game of golf if given a chance. There’s golf equipment and club memberships, clothing and golf trips and other ancillary spending, but they’re just not being considered by the industry. It’s changing, but there’s still a lot of old boy mentality. PGN: How did you and Michele meet? EG: Through golf. She used to be the vice president and chief marketing officer with a big golf conglomerate and has been a business strategist and golf-industry executive for over 25 years. She was also an executive producer of a golf pilot, “The Red Zone Challenge.” If you’re two successful women in the professional golf world, you are likely going to cross paths eventually; it’s a pretty small group. We did and we’ve been together for seven years, married for four. PGN: Was the wedding on a golf course? EG: No! Nope. The wedding was in Vermont. PGN: Do you think it was your similarities or your differences that attracted you to each other? EG: I’d have to say both. I think that’s why our business is so successful. Our interests are similar but our skill sets are different and so well-matched. I know what she’s great at and she knows what I’m great at and we collaborate on everything. She has a fantastic business mind and I do my thing and it works really well. We’re together essentially 24/7 and we love it. We choose to do it that way as a couple because we wanted to work together. PGN: I recall at the IBA event that you’re introducing a new DIY product. EG: Oh yes, it’s the “Academy in a Can.” We built the entire G2 Academy from the ground up — as in, we actually did the hammer and nails part ourselves when the contractor we hired didn’t show up. We designed the academy from scratch because there was no one in the industry doing it like we wanted to. So we came up with the concept, designed it and then built it ourselves. It took about 16 weeks to build, and we learned a lot along the way. We decided to use our experience to help others start their own academies without having to go through what we did. The whole product is in an actual paint can; a complete set of architectural drawings, budget worksheets, all the vendors we used, all the permits needed, a list of “do’s and don’ts,” everything necessary to get started. It’s a cool little product. PGN: As a golf professional, what were your best and worst moments? EG: The biggest joy for me is sharing my knowledge and love for the game and watching my students develop as players, seeing their love and enjoyment of the game increase over the years. The majority of my clients have been with me for 10 years or more. They’ve started as students and become my friends. Everyone has different goals and some of them originally tried for goals they thought were so high they’d never meet them. To see them succeed is really gratifying. It’s the best. PGN: I remember years ago seeing a movie about the golfer Babe Didrikson Zaharias. There was a scene where she spent hours trying to hit a ball stuck in a sand trap. I asked Michele if you’d had one of those moments and she said no, that you were the person to chip it out in one shot. Ever have one of those days? EG: Ha, when you love the sport as much as I do, it’s hard to have a bad moment. I’m lucky enough to be in that small group of people who loves what I do every day. Regardless of what happens, it’s all part of the process. PGN: Out of you and Michele, who’s the worst back-seat driver? EG: I don’t know. We’re both so laid back, I don’t think either of us. PGN: If you could do something dangerous just once with no risk (other than sky diving), what would you do? EG: Ride in an F-16 fighter jet. I’d do that in a heartbeat. PGN: Dave Barry joked, “Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.” What’s the ugliest or wackiest golf outfit you’ve seen? EG: Oh my gosh. I’ve probably worn it! I don’t know, a lot of mainstream clothing is now accepted as golf attire. But there’s a really cool line of golf clothing called “Loud Mouth.” They have really bright colors and big, bold patterns. They specialize in flag patterns too, flag pants and flag shorts. Anything from them would probably qualify. PGN: What habit would you like to break? EG: I used to be a nail biter but I stopped it years ago. PGN: What’s a conversation piece in your house? EG: Probably our deck of conversation-starter cards! PGN: What possession of your partner’s would you like to throw away? EG: Hmmn, I can’t think of anything. She’s so intelligent and has so many interests. She’s outdoorsy but is always appropriately dressed for any occasion, whether it’s on a bike trail or in a boardroom. I’m usually borrowing something from her! She’s the coolest person I know. PGN: Then it’s a good thing you married her! EG: [Laughs] I know! I had to catch her before she got away. PGN: What advice would you give the you of 10 years ago? EG: I would say, “Keep going, you’re on the right track. Keep persevering, it’s going to turn out great!” For more information, visit www.theg2golfgroup.com. To suggest a community member for Family Portrait, email portraits05@aol.com.
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Azie: so Far (East), so good
by Larry Nichols
Aug 21, 2014 | 17 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<b>NEW PHILLY SUSHI ROLL</b> Photo: Larry Nichols
NEW PHILLY SUSHI ROLL Photo: Larry Nichols
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Perched in a picturesque second-floor space in an upscale shopping complex in a bucolic section of Villanova, Azie on Main has its look and location together. And its menu of Asian-fusion dishes definitely has the flair and sophistication to match the restaurant’s aesthetic. The menu does a great job of balancing the familiar with the adventurous and exotic. It’s easy to see why the Azie rock shrimp ($13) is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. The shrimp are abundant and flawlessly fried, crisp on the outside and juicy inside. The sauce has just the right amount of spicy and sweet notes to keep more sophisticated palettes interested, without scaring off those with more mainstream tastes. Normally, a bowl of edamame would be in order but for some reason we went with the unorthodox and got the truffle fries ($5), which complemented the shrimp quite nicely. Azie has a colorful array of sushi rolls on offer. There is also a secret sushi roll of the evening that is not on the menu that more daring diners might want to ask about. We opted not to because we just had to try the New Philly roll ($13). On paper, it really, really, really should not work as a sushi roll: tempura shrimp on the inside with the outside wrapped in Kobe beef and drizzled with cheese and eel sauce. But somehow the unholy convergence of Japan and South Street works, creating a surf-and-turf synergy you have to try to believe. So much so, we’re thinking of asking Ishkabibble’s and Jim’s to start offering eel sauce as a condiment. They’re going to stare at us like we’re crazy, but who cares. Things really heat up with the Toban Yaki, a sizzling hot plate piled high with an assortment of seafood and/or steak or tofu. The all-seafood ($28) version of the dish was bright and flavorful, with crisp roasted veggies and healthy portions of scallops, shrimp, whitefish and lobster tail. The potatoes, Brussels sprouts and carrots were no slouches either. Dessert was damn-near magical. The mini banana beignets ($13) may not seem like the most Asian-influenced of desserts, but they belong on the menu all day, every day. They are perfect by themselves, with a satisfying crunch on the exterior and hot banana nirvana on the inside. The dipping sauces of raspberry, fudge and nougat were nice and upped the decadence factor, but the beignets needed no assistance. With its excellent mix of classic Asian fare and modern, outside-the-box influences, Azie on Main has no shortage of ways to keep things exciting.
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