Life is a cabaret ‘ol friend, come to the cabaret

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What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play!

Another smash hit has reached the stage as curtain’s went up last night on the latest production from the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society: Cabaret.

“The contrast between the over the top musical numbers and the stark reality of the injustices occurring outside the cabaret captivated my attention [years ago] as it still does today,” said Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. “We need to be leaders and speak out in defence of human rights. Cabaret has given us all that opportunity.”

Once again, it’s hard to believe that this is local, community theatre as the entire production, from costumes, set and design, to choreography, acting and live music exceed expectations by leaps and bounds.

Cabaret is not for the light-hearted. The theme is raw with drama and emotion in pre-war Germany. The burlesque-style night club acts are raunchy and lewd. The actors play with your spirits from eccentric to despair, from hopeful to hopeless.

“…There was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany and it was the end of the world…”, wrote lead actor Calder Levine who played the role of of wide-eyed American Cliff Bradshaw. His command performance in portraying his love for the English Berlin nightclub doll, Sally Bowles, played by the extraordinary Jeanne Motulsky, was musical and magical.

Jeanne Motulsky

Speaking of music and magic, the ever so talented Motulsky returns for her sixth show with the CSLDS. The Communications grad from Concordia University is headed towards production in film and television. As I wrote following her stellar performance in last year’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, “her future looks bright.” Motulsky captured the audience with her incredible voice and stage presence, particularly performing “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Cabaret”. Sensational.

The entire show is tied together by the unbelievably talented Craig Dalley who plays The Emcee. Returning for his fourth show with CSLDS, Dalley captivates your attention from the upbeat beginning, singing the well-known, “Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome” opening theme to Cabaret, right to the very end, deep in the darkest places humanity has gone, some 80-plus years ago.

Dalley’s talent, not to mention his sexually provocative leather clothing, profane language and naughty gestures will have you laughing, and then crying. What a job he did with Money Makes the World Go Round! He can sing. He can dance. And he can control the audience and the stage. Fantastic.

Linda Babins (Fraulein Schneider) and John Kovac (Herr Schultz) play an adoring, mature, tentative couple. Babins is a longtime member of the CSLDS team while Kovac returns to theatre after a 40 year hiatus. The two hit it off in song and dance with an air of confidence – she as a stodgy, serious German woman and he as a whimsical, fun-loving older gentleman – a German Jew. You’d never know he stepped off the stage for four decades but thankfully he’s back!

While it was hard to cozy up with Edward Le Vasseur who played the role of red armband toting Nazi, Ernst Ludwig, I’ll admit that he was faithful to his increasingly angry character and the more I despised him the more I realized what a strong actor he was.

Finally, Maria Jimenez deserves praise for her beautiful voice as her back lit profile steamed out from an old fashioned gramophone. Dreamy staging indeed. In the role of Fraulein Kost, a bit of a loose lady (as if any of them was anything less) she was very funny as her many sailor boys sauntered out of her room.

Artistic Director Anisa Cameron with CSL Mayor and CSLDS Founder Mitchell Brownstein

There are so many more praiseworthy cast members who entertained the gala night audience with impressive choreography and delightful musical numbers.

The five-piece live band adds to the experience and really gives the feeling of actually being in a live cabaret. They were great.

A show like this, especially community theatre, doesn’t just come together with a heck of a lot of hard work and incredible talent by the creative and production teams under the direction of the absolutely incredible, dedicated and tremendously talented Anisa Cameron.

(Mini shout-out to backstage crew members Nicole Nashen and Naomi Salama).

“As a theatre director, I felt compelled to produce this show. It seems Cabaret has only become more and more relevant to what is tragically happening in our own province and country, in North America and around the globe. Cabaret stands as a seductive, staggering and stark lesson in the dangers of complacency, denial and willful ignorance in the face of unbridled nationalism and the rise of a fascist tide. Never again is now, said Cameron.

CSLDS partnered with the Montreal Holocaust Museum in providing educational panels to understand the historical context in which Cabaret takes place.

Israeli Consul General David Levy was also instrumental in providing informational panels about diplomats from several countries who went against their orders and laws in doing the “right thing”, in rescuing thousands of Jews from the grips of the Holocaust.

CSLDS’s Cabaret is sure to be another sold-out smash success, worthy of an eventual Montreal English Theatre Award for its production value, quality musical arrangements and its thought-provoking message of using the past to influence the future.

So what good is sitting alone in your room? Come to the Cabaret!!

Cabaret runs through June 16 at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium in Cote Saint-Luc City Hall on Cavendish Boulevard. Tickets and information at CSLDramaticSociety.com.

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Cote St. Luc Dramatic Society Spring production of Cabaret

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May 10, 2019

The Montreal Times, by Stuart Nulman, EntertainmentTheater

For this year’s edition of their annual spring production, the Cote St. Luc Dramatic Society (CSLDS) will present an acclaimed Broadway musical with a more somber, adult twist to it, as it takes place in Berlin circa 1931, during a time when Germany and the rest of the world were in the grip of the Great Depression, was facing the steady, violent rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, but at the same time was enjoying a thriving – yet decadent – entertainment scene.

“Cabaret”, which was originally produced on Broadway during the mid-1960s and became an Oscar-winning film in 1972, will run for 21 performances at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium, 5801 Cavendish Boulevard, from May 29 to June 16.

Based on the stories of Christopher Isherwood, “Cabaret” focuses on Sally Bowles, an expatriate American singer who is the star attraction at the Kit Kat Club, which is the focal point of her world during these turbulent times in Berlin.

“Cabaret is one of my favorite shows. I love the club scenes and the musical numbers there. However, I felt compelled to produce the show since 2017 in the wake of what happened in Charlottesville,” said Anisa Cameron, the CSLDS’ longtime director who is helming this production. “I find Cabaret more relevant right now because it answers the question of what I can do as an artist to make much more sense in today’s world. This is the perfect show that illustrates what can happen in the face of the apathy and willful ignorance that affects events which are swirling around us.”

Cote St. Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, who also doubles as a producer for the CSLDS, will not perform onstage for the first time in a long time, as was his custom. This time, owing to the serious nature of the historical context of “Cabaret”, has engineered a partnership with the Montreal Holocaust Museum to help create more awareness of the events in Germany that led to the rise of Hitler, and the start of World War II and the Holocaust.

“The Montreal Holocaust Museum will set up an exhibit in the front of the lobby with photos to show what really happened in Germany during the period that Cabaret takes place in,” he said. “We are also having high school and CEGEP students attend performances of the show, in which they will also get the chance to meet with Holocaust survivors following each show. Cote St. Luc has always been a leader when it comes to protecting human rights, because we believe that diversity creates a better world. And education is very important to reach out and show people what lessons history can teach us.”

Ms. Cameron is quite impressed with the overall feel of “Cabaret”, especially the musical numbers that are performed by the eight women, three men and one non-gender binary transgender man who make up the club’s chorus. “The numbers will definitely knock your socks off,” she added. “And to really help create a genuine feel for the Kit Kat Club in Berlin during the early 30s, audience members will have the option of purchasing special tickets that will give them access to actual cabaret-style seating, which will include beverage service and an opportunity to interact with the cast during the show.”

To create a buzz for “Cabaret” before opening night, members of the troupe will be performing a selection of musical numbers from the show at certain senior residences in the area, including Maimonides, as well as special preview mini performances at the Beth Zion Synagogue on May 21 and the Cote St. Luc Men’s Club.

And on May 29, the CSLDS will kick off its run of “Cabaret” with a Gala evening that starts at 6 p.m. at the Cote St. Luc Council Chamber. The opening performance of “Cabaret” will be preceded by a presentation of live musical numbers of certain songs from previous CSLDS productions, as well as a screening of a video featuring 96-year-old Holocaust survivor Margaret Newman, who will be present at the Gala to answer questions following the screening. Tickets for the May 29 Gala are $150, and proceeds will be used towards the cost of bringing high school and CEGEP students to see “Cabaret” during the run of the show. To purchase tickets to this event, go to bit.ly/CSLDSTickets, or call Ryan Nemeroff at 514-485-6806, ext. 2022 or via email at rnemeroff@cotesaintluc.org.

For information about “Cabaret”, or how to buy tickets, go to www.CSLDramaticSociety.org.

The driving force of a Mensch: Harold Cammy

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Harold Cammy (right) with McDonald’s entrepreneur and philanthropist Pierre Brunet at surprise retirement party, Dec. 2018

Much has been said about Harold Cammy who takes his retirement after serving the city of Cote Saint-Luc for a remarkable 45 years. I’ve known Harold for most of my life and he has known my family for just as long. My reminiscence here is upon Harold, the character, as there’s not much I can add to the long list of accomplishments and achievements which can be read at some of the links below.

I begin my comment with Harold’s concluding ones, in his farewell address posted online:

We have the ability to be “kind” to people, to be “responsive” to people, to “support and assist” people because that is what a City and its staff should be doing. Making someone’s day just a little bit better…a little more enjoyable.

It doesn’t take a great effort to be kind and helpful…it just takes a little empathy, compassion and understanding of human behaviour.

“People will not always remember all the good things you do for them, but they will always remember how you made them feel about themselves”.

Harold and Beverly Cammy

We can learn a lot from Harold’s wise words. They are prophetic and introspective, philosophical and visionary. He lead his career, and obviously leads his life by these words. Many of us would be better off if we walked in Harold’s direction.

Indeed, whenever I would come across Harold during my many years as a City Councillor there was always a positive, cheery exchange. Always smiling, he would have the uncanny knack of making you feel important in his world, and invariably you’d walk away being a bit happier yourself.

A people-person by nature, Harold wouldn’t forget to ask how the family was doing, usually by name. ‘How’s George?’, he’d ask about my father. ‘Send him my regards,’ he’d say. ‘Say hello to Judy,’ my wife.

I was most always on the receiving end of peppy one-liners, a quick joke, a greeting or a comment from Harold. I’m sure he had plenty of reason to be gloomy or dreary over the years, but he chose the path of positive reinforcement: A firm handshake, eye-to-eye contact and a warm smile. He chose kindness and compassion. He chose to be charitable and he brought us all along. He was and is a real Mensch.

I salute Harold not only for his praiseworthy efforts for the residents of Cote Saint-Luc over these past 45 years, but for his kinder, gentler and humbler ways. This unpretentious career professional touched more lives than we can imagine. We’re all lucky to have benefited from his generosity of spirit and his acts of kindness.

Judy and I wish you a wonderful retirement, Harold, and many years of good health and continued happiness for you, Beverly and Lacey. I will always remember how you made me feel.

 

N

 

 

Read more:

Mike Cohen’s blog and Harold’s retirement memories

Canadian Jewish News, Jan. 10, 2019

 

100 Years of Remembrance and Saluting my dad for his service

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This Remembrance Day marks 100 years since the end of hostility in World War I, the War to End All Wars.

This week we also mark 80 years since Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which notoriously was the beginning of what became known as the Holocaust, or Shoah.

Sergeant George Nashen, Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944

My father, George Nashen, 95, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from December 1942 to April 1946 and was stationed at RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London, England for nearly three years. Luckily, he was not called up to the front lines. But his buddies were. Some never returned.

My father enlisted in December 1942 with several of his friends from Baron Byng High School, and was shipped off for two months of basic training in Toronto where the RCAF had taken over the CNE Fairgrounds. From there he was stationed at the Rockcliffe Airbase in Ottawa from February until August 1942 and then to Halifax where they boarded the Queen Mary cruise ship that had been commandeered to transport troops.

“We were 26,000 troops and 1,000 crew members crammed into the ship for the four day crossing to London, England,” my father told me. “There were 54 troops to a room and we took turns sleeping, 27 at a time slept on the hammocks lined up three high in nine columns,” he said. “It was so uncomfortable and there were so many disturbances that I chose to sleep in the hallways and stairwells. But the ship would list from one side to the other every seven minutes as it curved to avoid sailing in a straight line to escape any pursuing German U-boats. I remember the empty Coke bottles rolling bake and forth in the halls and hitting the walls preventing any rest there as well,” my dad said.

RCAF Aircraftsman 2nd Class, George Nashen (1943)

“In London, we slept in the Canadian Legion Hall until we could find an apartment,” my dad reminisced. There were no barracks in the city as they couldn’t chance losing so many soldiers in a targeted German bombing raid. “One night a bomb fell right outside the Legion Hall and blew in the doors and windows. As the glass flew and the ceiling collapsed I immediately rolled under my bed to take cover,” he said. “I yelled out to my buddy, Mel Nicol. ‘Are you alright Nic?’ Mel Nicol was real joker and responded, ‘I’m not sure, I’m looking for my leg’. Of course, he was just fine,” George said.

George and Mel eventually rented an apartment at Queens Gate Gardens about a 30 minute walk from Harrods, where the RCAF set up their administration and accounting division. We often joke that my father served in women’s lingerie during WW II, in reference to the department in Harrods where the Accounting Office was located. They were paid $2.50 per day subsistence allowance for their lodging and another $1 for food.

As an Aircraftsman 2nd Class they received $1.30 per day. Dad used to send $10 per month back to his Mom in  Montreal to save for him. Upon his return, three-and-a-half years later he had saved up about $300.

George Nashen in front of the Cote Saint-Luc cenotaph in Veterans Park 2012

One night they were awakened by a bomb blast and heard that the nearby hospital was hit. Mel and George raced over to offer their assistance only to find out that 30 babies had been tragically killed. “It was the saddest day of my life,” my father said.

Back at Harrods he was busy taking care of Airman Pay Accounts to ensure each of the troops received their salary. Daily Routine Orders were meticulously entered for the tens of thousands of airmens’ accounts, all manually, of course.

My dad lost his best friend in battle. “Jay Singer was like a brother to me,” my father recounts. “Jay and I were inseparable from kindergarten through Baron Byng High School. Jay was an air force pilot from the age of 19. His plane went missing while laying mines in the Baltic Sea on June 15, 1944. Jay was just 22 year’s old when he died in service. I’ll never forget him.”

Jay Singer

Jay Singer

 

My father endured the bombardments and hardship of everyday life in London but fortunately was safe relative to so many others. The thick, dark clouds that hung over the city many nights from fog made it impossible to see right in front of you. My father recounts as he would feel his way along the walls of the buildings on his way home, counting off the number of doors and turns in the road to find his way home.

One night a bomb fell at a pub just outside of Harrods and some Londoners were killed. The next day, a young Princess Elizabeth, came by to visit and offer her support. My father watched excitedly from the window as the future Queen made her way along the street.

My father returned home in April 1946.

Three generations of Cote Saint-Lucers: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen 2013

Each year, I ask dad to take out his medals and his beret and to teach my own kids what it meant to serve Canada as a soldier.  They listen in amazement at his stories of 70 years ago, as they reflect on their lives in the best country to live in, Canada.

WWII veteran George Nashen, 93, deposits the wreath on behalf of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97 at the Cote Saint-Luc Cenotaph in Veterans Park. Accompanied by his grandson Cory, son Jeff and vCOP Phil Mayman. (Photo: Darryl Levine, CSL).

Each year on Remembrance Day, I salute my dad, and all those who served, who paid the ultimate price, who sustained injury and who were lucky to return just like George. His bravery and commitment, and theirs, to stand on guard, to liberating those who had their freedom taken from them so many years ago, to keeping Canada glorious and free, shines like a beacon to my kids and our entire family.

With my dad on Remembrance Day (Jewish General Hospital, 2014)

We’re proud of his accomplishments and grateful to still have him, and my mother, as our bridge between our past and our future.

 

George and Phyllis Nashen at their 95th and 90th birthday party (June 2018)

 

 

More:

A day of remembrance, honour and appreciation in CSL

In tribute to my father, the soldier

Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog

The JGH Remembers

Canada apologizes to Jewish community for “None is Too Many”, turning back refugees to Hitler’s Nazi Germany

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This was a historic, monumental day not only for Canadian Jews, but for Canada. Today’s apology by the Government of Canada for turning away the 907 Jews fleeing the Holocaust aboard the ill-fated MS. Saint Louis was long overdue. In issuing today’s apology Canada has solidified its place as a tolerant, peace-loving and safe land. The Prime Minister has committed to doing more to safeguard places of worship and to fight antisemitism.

Thank you to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his eloquent and emotional words of accountability and apology. Your words, Mr. Prime Minister, are powerful and meaningful and will be felt for generations. Thank you to the Government of Canada and to all Members of Parliament for standing in solidarity, united across party lines, to acknowledge the failures of the past and to take corrective actions to secure our future. The occasion was made even more powerful by the solemn remarks by the leaders of the Conservative Party, NDP and Green Party.

Thank you as well to our honourable and outstanding Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, Anthony Housefather, for his leadership role in today’s declaration. Anthony has worked tirelessly on behalf of not only his constituents but all Canadians in ensuring the Government of Canada support its Jewish Communities, fight against BDS, denounce antisemitic acts of hate and support the Jewish State of Israel.

Canada has taken a major step in ensuring ‘Never Again’ resonates from coast to coast to coast.


Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer taking part in the Canadian government’s official apology for the 1939 decision to turn away the MS St. Louis and its 907 German Jewish passengers fleeing the Nazi Regime. 10:43


The NDP’s Guy Caron taking part in the Canadian government’s official apology for the 1939 decision to turn away the MS St. Louis and its 907 German Jewish passengers fleeing the Nazi Regime. 9:36


Green Party Leader Elizabeth May taking part in the Canadian government’s official apology for the 1939 decision to turn away the MS St. Louis and its 907 German Jewish passengers fleeing the Nazi Regime. 7:19

A Bintel Brief: Yiddish Theatre alive and well in Montreal

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A review by Glenn J. Nashen

NEW: Now featured in the Jewish Standard Magazine!

 

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre opened its 60th season this week with its latest production of A Bintel Brief. This performance at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts  is brought back to the stage after it originally opened in Montreal in the 1970s. It is a story based upon real letters to the editor of a Yiddish language daily newspaper in New York City in the early 1900s.

 

The production is composed of a series of true stories of Jewish immigrants coming to America and trying to adapt to their new world. It not only connects the stories of immigrants in the early 20th century to their former lives in Russia and Europe but it also connects them to their descendants 100 years later.

 

A Bintel Brief peeks inside the immigrant experience of long ago and reminds us that little has changed and that the struggles and efforts made are both timeless and universal.

 

The show is brought to life by budding director Michelle Heisler who has previously acted in the DWYT and works with young children’s theatre. Heisler is a talented actor and singer having performed on stage across Canada, the United States and Europe.

 

The cast is an energetic and spirited group of youngsters, young adults and older folk who come together as though they were a true family.

Sam Stein and Aron Gonshor (Courtesy CJNews.com)

Aron Gonshor and Sam Stein are iconic in the DWYT and for good reason. Their vaudeville singing and dancing with old-fashioned, side-splitting humour kept the audience in tears of laughter. Their shtick was out of Wayne and Shuster and they were classic funnymen. They also took on serious roles in skits ranging in theme from overworked and underpaid, depressed immigrants to tragic episodes involving loss of life and great despair. If there are lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance in Yiddish theatre this duo is certainly right for the prize.

 

Mikey Samra is known for  his many performances in the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society but his stage presence in Yiddish was equally spectacular. He is a compelling young actor who will continue to flourish in whatever language he chooses.

 

Jodi Lackman has played at the Segal before but her performance in A Bintel Brief takes the cake. Her facial expressions and shrieking voice at learning her husband has another wife and children, her melodramatic overtones in yearning for her secret lover and her comedic expressions are worthy of praise and applause.

 

The list of talented and dedicated young actors who have put in tremendous effort to speak a language that is probably quite foreign to most of them is long and impressive. Kudos to all of them for entertaining the audience with song and dance, with drama and comedy and by keeping the language and rich history alive.

 

One particular skit involves a class of immigrants trying to learn to speak English. It is ridiculously funny with mispronunciation and misunderstanding. I could just imagine my Bubby and Zaida in such a class with their thick yiddishe accents trying to learn their new language. Indeed, I still remember the words of my very funny Russian-born Zaida who’d say, “I speak 12 languages and don’t understand any of them!”

 

The stage was simple and old fashion in the Segal Centre’s smaller theatre. Presented with English and French supertitles it is an easy-to-understand show even if you’re not fluent in mama-loschen. The four piece band was fun and lively under the musical direction of Nick Burgess.

 

Despite the young children who sing and dance in the first act (they leave at intermission to get home for bedtime) the heavy adult themes would give this musical performance a PG-13 rating, not age appropriate for pre-teens.

 

DWYT President Ben Gonshor thanked the capacity opening-night audience for continuing to support community theatre, particularly in Yiddish. With such great benefactors such as Alvin Segal, Barbara Seal and the Azrielli Foundation and Federation CJA Montrealers are fortunate in that they will continue to be treated to such memorable and entertaining evenings for years to come.

 

A Bintel Brief continues at the Segal Centre though October 21. Tickets are available at SegalCentre.org or by calling 514-739-7944.

 

Birnbaum announces a new Liberal government will support relocation, expansion of Montreal Holocaust Museum

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D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum speaks to a group of supporters at the Gelber Conference Centre

D’Arcy-McGee Liberal MNA and candidate David Birnbaum confirmed that a re-elected Liberal government will be a financial partner in the planned relocation and expansion of the Montreal Holocaust Museum. The Museum leadership has already secured a major lead donation and completed a feasibility study for the ambitious project, evaluated at about $45 million. The Museum, Canada’s only one uniquely focused on Holocaust remembrance and human rights education, is recognized the world over for the quality of its exhibits and its outreach programs. It has also long been recognized that the museum needs more space than available at its current location in the Jewish Community Campus on Côte Ste-Catherine Rd.

“I am so proud that the Premier has made this commitment, which is profoundly important to our Jewish community but also significant for all Quebecers,” Birnbaum noted. He first briefed the Premier on the project in late Spring. “The Museum, with the help of courageous survivors, reaches out to schools, in French and English, to ensure that the terrible lessons of the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated.’’ Montreal is home to the third-largest population of Holocaust survivors and children of survivors in the world.

Mr. Couillard, whose own family was deeply implicated in the French resistance, had a brief discussion about the project with Museum Director Alice Herscovitch when he accompanied Mr. Birnbaum for the second time during this mandate to the annual commemorative service on Yom Hashoah at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Synagogue.

“We are very encouraged by this news,’’ said Alice Herscovitch, Executive Director. “It is deeply important that all Quebecers have access to a modern and accessible museum that embodies messages of courage in the face of inhumanity and helps Quebecers and people the world over understand the importance and responsibility we all have to prevent racism and genocide. Our museum will be so much more able to deliver those messages to schools and adults alike through an expansion.”

Quebec Liberal leader Dr. Philippe Couillard introduces D’Arcy McGee candidate David Birnbaum (2014)

The Museum is seeking a site in downtown Montreal, and the support of all levels of government. Treasury Board President and Mont-Royal-Outremont candidate Pierre Arcand currently serves the territory where the museum is situated. It will find itself in D’Arcy-McGee after the election.

“In my ministerial role, I see and evaluate each day the many difficult and important choices a government must make in allocating public funds. Of course, schools, health care and other services are essential but so are the Quebec institutions that identify and transmit our vision of humanity, of our responsibility to each other and to the wider world. This commitment is a meaningful example of that vision.”

Birnbaum noted that an initial analysis of the Museum project is already underway by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, with the details and modalities of the provincial government partnership still to be determined.

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