Troupes [A-F]

Ada Delroy to Buffalo Female Minstrels ……. p.1
Cameo Revue Co to Th’ Drolls ……. p.2
Edward Branscombe’s Dandies to Futurists ……. p.3

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CAMEO REVUE CO / THE GAIETIES

(1934-35) The Cameo Revue Company played only Western Australia during its brief period together. Produced by A. Brewer, directed initially by Elton Black, the Perth season was mostly staged at the Ritz (beginning Aug. 1934), with occasional engagements in Fremantle and nearby communities. The 22-member company featured Black, Fred and Ern Paulasto and Alice Bennetto. In early September the Cameos returned to the Ritz from Fremantle as The Gaieties, and with a new line-up. After ending its Perth season in early January 1935 the troupe undertook a regional tour through the state.

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THE CAMEOS

aka Cameos Revue and Musical Company

Cameos - ad [LROA 17 Sept 1935, 5](1935) Put together by William Stewart (and financed by his mother) for a tour of south-western New South Wales the Cameos toured under Stewart’s direction and was headlined by pianist/comedian Nat Hanley. The troupe played Forbes, Parkes, Cootamundra, Lockhart and Berrigan in September, then Deniliquin in early October before Stewart was forced by financial difficulties to hand over the management to a Mr Coleman. He then re-organised the itinerary, touring the Cameos through several Victorian towns, then Wagga Wagga and finally Cootamundra for a return season (beginning 23 October). At this point the troupe refused to continue due to continuing issues with their salaries. Several performers were subsequently stranded in the town.

1: The line-up comprised Nat Hanley, Eileen Burke, the Scott Brothers, the Three Melo-dears, Julie “Poppy” Poppy Adair, Al Moran, Hard and Co, the Hymans (acrobats), the Trampolinis, Juan and Juan (Adagio exponents), and the Cameo Ballet (six dancers/singers). The music director was Irwin Perry. Len Buderick was engaged as tour manager.
2: The New South Wales Attorney General sued Stewart’s mother, Annie Cheffins, in the Supreme Court in 1937 for non-payment of a permit bond for the tour (the Crown was awarded the verdict). Interestingly the jury said the Department of Labour and Industry was open to grave censure in relation to several documents issued under the Industrial Arbitration (Theatrical Agencies and Employers; Licensing) Act, 1935. The Chief Justice was also scathing of the Department (see Research Notes for further details).
Image source: Lockhart Review and Oaklands Advertiser (NSW) 17 Sept. (1935), 5.

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CAMPBELL’S MINSTRELS [1]

(1858-1859) The first minstrel troupe to use the name Campbell in Australia, this amateur company comprised local performers from Hobart. Led by a Mr J. Campbell its earliest known engagement was on 14 July 1858 before 200 to 300 people in the Alliance Rooms. A second performance on 26 August was accompanied by the Hobart Town Orchestral Union. Campbell’s Minstrels are also recorded as having performed for officers at the Tasman Peninsula penal settlement in December 1858 and performed aboard a board in the Derwent River as part of an official farewell the Governor-in-Chief (Jan. 1859). The troupe’s last reported performances occurred on 26 May 1859.

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CAMPBELL’S MINSTRELS [2]

aka The Original Campbell’s Minstrels

(1863-1865) One of several minstrel troupes to tour Australia using the name Campbell (at least nine Campbell Minstrels were based in the USA), this particular company travelled from San Francisco in mid-1863, opening at Melbourne’s Alhambra Theatre on 28 July. Although billing themselves as “Original,” and with “20 years standing,” both claims were very likely publicity exaggerations. Over the next two years the troupe re-organised its line-upon several occasions, with several local performers being engaged. During that time engagements were played in regional Victoria, Adelaide, regional South Australia, Melbourne (return), Brisbane, and regional Queensland and New South Wales. In addition to minstrelsy the troupe also presented pantomime (notably Jack of Clubs, 1863).

Known members of the troupe were: Edward Harvey, Max Irwin (aka Paul Maxey), John Pell, Alfred Pierce, Richard Sanford, Vincent Templeton, George Chittendon, G. Kingsworth. W. Horace Bent, Louis Braham, Walter Howson, and Billy Barlow.

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CHARLES GODFREY VAUDEVILLE Co

(1896-97)  After touring Australia in early 1896 for Harry Rickards, British music hall star Charles Godfrey took his own company around the Antipodes between August and December. Among the artists engaged were J.C. Bain, the Bovis Brothers, Ada Baker and the Lingard Sisters. The New Zealand leg saw Godfrey become the first manager to exhibit a programme of films in that country. When he returned to Australia Godfrey toured another company for Rickards. Although not billed as the Godfrey Vaudeville Company, the troupe was still effectively his own combination.

Image: Charles Godfrey courtesy of http://www.musichallstudies.co.uk

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CHEEVERS, KENNEDY AND BENT’S MINSTRELS

(1878-79) J.E. Cheevers, E. Kennedy and W. Horace Bent formed their minstrel company in February to play engagements in regional Victoria, interrupted by a brief season in Melbourne  as the C.K.B.R. Minstrels (with Thomas Rainford). They later toured New Zealand (July-Nov.) before returning to Australia to play Sydney. In addition to its leaders, the line-up included vocalists T. Campbell, Vernon Reid, and violinist Charles Austin (who later became music director for Frank Smith). Manger Martin Simonsen (violin) also appeared on stage with the troupe.  In February 1879 F. E. Hiscocks and Alf Hayman took over the company’s management for a tour of the colonies, America and Britain. It was renamed Mammoth Minstrels (aka Hiscocks and Hayman’s Mammoth Minstrels).

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CHRISTY MINSTRELS. By  the early 1860s the terms “Christy” and “Original Christy” were being used by numerous minstrel troupes around the world, few of which had any connection to the one founded by Edwin Christy in 1843. As a writer for the Geelong Advertiser noted in 1863 “the style and title of Christy’s” appears to have become “generic instead of specific” (26 Jan. 1863, 2). This observation is supported by the fact that many Australian-based “Christy Minstrels” (some billing themselves as Amateur Christy Minstrels) formed during the 1860s. Most of these appear to have staged their entertainments to local audiences rather than undertake tours.  The terms “Christy” and “Christy’s” were used interchangeably.
Christy Minstrel sheet music and songsters had become increasingly available in Australia since the early 1850s, with the earliest known publication here being “Old Folk’s at Home” (available from ca. April 1853). In 1861 the Christy Minstrel Songbook was released in Australia.

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CHRISTY’S MINSTRELS [1]

(1862-) The second Australian-based troupe to have used Christy in its name, and the first to be known as Christy’s Minstrels, little is also known about this company’s origins or line-up. It may in fact have been an amateur ensemble that drew largely on the latest Christy Minstrel Songbook for its entertainment. The troupe’s first performances are recorded in the Illawarra Mercury issue of 8 August 1862 as having taken place at Currie’s Hotel, Jamberoo . A later season was undertaken at Nowra. No further details have yet been located.

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CHRISTY’S ORIGINAL SABLE OPERA TROUPE

(1861) Possibly the first Australian-based troupe to use “Christy” in its name, Christy’s Original Sable Opera Troupe is only known to have played one engagement, however – at Toogood’s Saloon, Sydney in late August 1861. While advertisements claim that the troupe was from Melbourne, no record of any Christy’s troupe has yet been identified in Melbourne or elsewhere prior to the Sydney season. It is possible that some or all of its members had been associated with either the San Francisco Minstrels [1] or the Sable Opera troupe. Both companies had been touring the Australasian region around that period, including Victoria in 1861.

A Sable Opera Troupe, billed as “the largest… ever seen in Melbourne” appeared on the bill at benefit held at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Melbourne on 12 January 1861. While no details regarding this company have yet been located it possibly comprised individual artists and members of various troupes.

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CHRISTY MINSTRELS: See also Bachelder’s Anglo-American Christy Minstrels • Bent & Bachelder’s Anglo-American Christy Minstrels

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CLARK & SHINE’S ALL-STAR Co

(1904) American entrepreneur Frank Clark and English comedian Harry Shine briefly joined forces in mid-1904 to take a company to Ballarat in regional Victoria. The line-up included Clark, Shine, Jackson and Pagden, Wal Cottier, Minnie Edwards, Lily De Vere, Leslie Morton, Octavia and Warne, Freda Maher, Lily Linton, and the Sinnas. A selection of moving pictures were also exhibited. After leaving Melbourne the company played a couple of warm-up engagements (including Geelong, 21-22 June) before opening at the Ballarat Mechanic’s Institute on 27 June. The season ran until 8 August. One of the features of the entertainment during the season was reportedly Clark’s burlesque on Australian Rules called “Our Footballers.”

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CLASSICS OF 1923

 aka Rawdon Blandford’s Classics of 1923 / Rawdon Blandford’s New English Comedy Co

(1923) Rawdon Blandford’s Classics of 1923 opened Brisbane’s newly built al fresco theatre, the Bohemia in March 1923. Under the direction of comedian Elton Black the entertainment was devised on the same lines Edward Branscombe’s Dandies [below], the Courtiers [below] and Town Topics companies and included a number of high profile variety artists, notably Fred and Gus Bluett, Sadie Gale, Alice Bennetto, Charles Albert, Arthur Aldridge, Victor Gouriet and Vera Cornock. The season closed in mid-December, possibly in response to competition from the Famous Diggers which opened at the nearby Cremorne Theatre in November.

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CLAY’S WAXWORKS & VAUDEVILLE Co

aka Clay’s Waxworks & Comedy Co / Harry Clay’s Company / Harry Clay’s Musical Revue & Vaudeville Company

clays-wxworks-gt-4-apr-1901-2(1900-1918, 1922, 1927, 1929) Harry Clay sent his first company on tour through Queensland via several New South Wales towns in December 1900, and continued to do this annually until 1918. As competition from film exhibitors and other variety companies increased, he would contract the length of his seasons in each town and expanding into new areas. After the 1919 flu epidemic forced the cancellation of that year’s tour, Clay concentrated on his steadily-growing Sydney and regional N.S.W. circuits. He revived the Queensland tour as a one-off in 1922. Two additional tours were also mounted after his death in 1925. The first (1927) was headlined by Nellie Kolle, and the second, Roy Rene‘s Merrymaker’s 1929 tour, saw the company involved as producer.

  • For further details see: Harry Clay entry (includes “Harry Clay’s Annual New South Wales and Queensland tours” PDF).
1: More than 200 performers, musicians, and sundry managers and crew (including projectionists) were employed during the course of these tours. Among the best known artists engaged were Roy Rene (1913), Kate Clay, Essie Clay, Wally Edwards, Arthur Tauchert, Amy Rochelle, Slavin and Thompson, Joe Rox, Ted Tutty, Will Rollow, Essie Jennings, Desmond and Jansen, Billy Maloney and Alf “Redhead” Wilson, and the Phillips Sisters.
2: The tours generally lasted around six to eight months (roughly March to August/September). Clay would reorganise the line-up in far-north Queensland so as the give most of the original artists a break and to also maximize public interest for the return leg.
Image source: Gympie Times (Qld) 4 Apr. (1901), 2.

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THE CONGO MINSTRELS

(1849-1850) Possibly based in (or out of) Launceston, Tasmania, and likely an amateur ensemble, the Congo Minstrels played its first show on 28 November 1849 at the Royal Olympic Theatre. A notice regarding “the admired Congo Minstrels” appeared in Launceston’s Cornwall Chronicle on 27 April the following year in connection with a forthcoming benefit put on for one of its members – Mr Golding. No further details are currently known about the troupe.

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COSMOPOLITAN BAND AND COLOURED OPERA TROUPE

aka Coloured Opera Troupe

(1862-1863) First identified touring New Zealand between ca. March and August 1862, the Cosmopolitan Band claimed to have had already had “great success in Australia.” However, no record of such a tour has yet been located. The earliest (and possibly only) Australian engagements appear to have been in Sydney in September 1862. While its movements over the next 12 months are yet to be established, several advertisements published towards the end of the New Zealand tour claim the troupe intended travelling to England. Despite its grandiose name the troupe’s repertoire comprised typical minstrels turns – songs, glees, trios, burlesque scenas, dancing and Negro eccentricities

The six member troupe comprised George Ellis, Charles Reeves (also manager), P.J. Luntley (also agent), James Fleming, Charles Battle, and James Johnston. Reeves and Luntley came back to Australia in 1863 as members of the Baltimore Minstrels.

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COURTIERS COSTUME COMEDY Co

McCallum's Courtiers(1917-18) Associated only with John N. McCallum‘s Cremorne Gardens (Brisbane), the Courtiers followed Edward Branscombe’s Orange Dandies’ [below] 1916-1917 season. Operating along similar lines, the Courtiers’ featured “concerted items” such as solos, duets, trios and quartets, as well as popular ballads, humorous songs and refined comedy sketches. The company’s season ended in 1918 when the theatre closed for its annual winter break. Among the artists engaged were George Edwards, Harry Borrodale, Joe Brennan, Colin Crane, Linda Dale, Arthur Hemsley and Elsa May (aka Brull and Hemsley). The company’s director was Sydney Mannering.

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DAN BARRY’S WORLD-WIDE WONDER SHOW

dan-barrys-wwws-hs-30-mar-1907-3

(1906-1907) Dan Barry established two bio-pictures and vaudeville companies in late-1906. The first Wonder Show opened Colac, Victoria in early-October, and initially  toured through Victoria and South Australia. The second company made its debut in Hobart on Boxing Night, and from February 1907 travelled around Victoria and South Australia while the first company went north through New South Wales and south-western Queensland. Barry’s early advertising stated that Wonder Shows comprised “Absolutely the Most Perfect, Most Entrancing, and Most Realistic [Bio-Pictures] ever introduced to the Southern Hemisphere… The Latest and Most Charming Pictures Songs will be rendered by favourite vocalists, illustrated by slides of surpassing loveliness, and Specialty Acts, Refined and Delightful Sketches and Humorous Songs” (Camperdown Chronicle 6 Oct. 1906, 3).

1: The first company’s itinerary included: 1906 – Colac, Camperdown, Portland (Vic), Narracoorte (SA), Albury, Beechworth (Vic), Corowa (NSW), Yea, Mildura (Vic), Deniliquin (NSW), Echuca, Castlemaine, Bairnsdale, Sale, Maffra, Traralgon (Vic); 1907 – Warragul, Morwell, Cobram, Numurkah, Euroa, Benalla, Katamatite, Yackandanda (Vic); Wagga Wagga, Gundagai, Wyalong, Cootamundra, Wollondilly, Bowral, Murrurundi, Singleton, Walcha, Armidale, Tenterfield (NSW), Warwick, Toowoomba (Qld), Inverell, Moree, Manilla, Scone, Muswellbrook, Lithgow, Parkes, Dubbo and Wollongong (NSW).
2: The second company’s 1906-1907 Tasmanian itinerary included: Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Latrobe, Ulverstone, Somerset, Waratah, Zeehan, Burnie. Many of the Victorian and South Australian towns played by the first company were revisited by this company in 1907. It also played seasons in Adelaide and Geelong.
3: The vaudeville artists engaged by Barry included Will Rhodesbury, W. Francis, The Two Macks, Les Coney, Alice Braund, Claude Gray, Bob Fordham, Ormond, and Prof. Blondi. The second company’s pianist was John O’Kane.
4: 15 year-old Les Coney was engaged for the Tasmanian tour. Barry’s publicity falsely stated that the juvenile comedian/singer had been brought to Australia from London where he was a big star. Coney was in fact born and raised in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran, and had been performing locally as an amateur since 1902 (aged eleven). He made his professional debut in Melbourne in September 1906.
Image source: Hamilton Speculator (Victoria) 30 Mar. (1907), 3.

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DANDIES OF 1923

aka The New Dandies / Claude Dampier’s Dandies

(1923-1924) On 25 January 1923 Claude Dampier began a season at Adelaide’s Austral Gardens with his own company – the Dandies of 1923. Co-produced with Leonard Durrell and Alf J. Lawrance (music director), the entertainment was a return to the type of show staged by Dampier during his time with Edward Branscombe. The Adelaide season, which ran until 21 March, was followed by two weeks at the Crystal Gardens, Broken Hill (24 Mar. – 7 Apr.). Dampier revived the company in late-August the same year to tour Queensland under his own management (in association with Birch, Carroll and Coyle). The New Dandies then played the Northern Rivers and mid-North coast of New South Wales from early February 1924 and until late-May. Dampier disbanded the company prior to resigning with the Fullers‘ circuit in early June.

1: The Dandies of 1923 line-up included: Claude Dampier, Hilda Attenboro, Nell Crane, Ruth Phillips, Myrtle Barry, Florence Barry, Charles Howley, Mona Thomas, Ilma Cooke, Eveline Claridge, Maisie Kandy, Arthur Beveridge, Leslie Holmes, Bernard Collins, Clifton Keat, Alex McAllister, Alf J. Lawrance, and M. Vladinoff.
2. The New Dandies line-up included Claude Dampier, Hilda Attenboro, Nell Crane, Peggy peat, Grace Funston, Marion De Saxe, Evaline Claridge, Dorothy Huxley, Sydney Hollister, Eddie Martyn, Bernard Barraclough, Dave Loffman, Charles Laurie, Arthur Allen and Alf J. Lawrence (music director/performer)
3: Queensland tour began in Townsville on 1 September and ended in Brisbane in early-February 1924. Towns visited included Charters Towers, Cairns, Mackay, Bowen, Rockhampton, Maryborough, Bundaberg, and Ipswich.
4: The New South Wales itinerary included Murwillumbah, Lismore, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Kempsey, Port Macquarie, Wingham, Dungog, Gloucester and Taree.

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A DAY IN DOGTOWN Co

Day in Dogtown [Recorder PP 9 Mar 1927, 2]

(1922-ca. 1936) Joseph Rinaldo (aka Flaneur) established his “Day in Dogtown” vaudeville act in Australia in 1919, and soon afterwards toured New Zealand and Australia for the Fullers’ Theatres and Harry Rickards Tivoli Theatres. In early-1922 he and Freda Cuthbert established their own independent variety/animal troupe and focused on regional touring. For much of its life the company was known as A Day in Dogtown. The human performers included: Rinaldo/Flaneur (with his comedy dogs);” Dulcie Wynn, the dancing juggler (with her Pomeranians); and Cuthbert in specialty items (including dog routines). Other part-time stars were Cleo the lion and Mahu the African Baboon. From the late-1920s Cuthbert and Rinaldo expanded and contracted their operations according to the availability of engagements, sometimes touring a company and at other times an act (primarily for film exhibitors).

1: Although he reportedly came to Australia from England (1921 Tivoli advertising), Rinaldo had actually been living in Wellington, New Zealand, with his first wife when war was declared in 1914. As an Austrian he was subsequently interned on Somes Island. In 1919 he applied for and was eventually granted permission to immigrate to Australia.
2: Another artist to appear with Rinaldo and Cuthbert was Namoi (the enchantress). Dulcie Wynn continued to be associated with the Rinaldos until at least 1936.
Image source: Recorder (Port Pirie, S.A.) 9 Mar. (1927), 2.

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DEVEREAUX’S WORLD’S BIOTINT ENTERTAINERS

(1906) Former Kate Howarde advance rep and occasional performer Charles L. Devereaux secured a similar position with Percy Verto in 1905. In May the following year he established a film and variety company in his own right after Verto and his wife decided to take a break from touring. Several members of Vero’s troupe were engaged and it is likely that Devereaux leased Verto’s Biotint projector and films. The venture was short-lived, however, as Devereaux was offered an advance rep position with Lilian Meyer’s Dramatic Company a few months later. The company is known to have played the south-western New South Wales region, including towns like Parkes, Forbes, Peak Hill and Trundle.

1:The artists engaged for the World’s Biotint Entertainers tour included Harry Rocks, Will Bracey, Leslie Forest, Harry Harrison, Venetta Huxley, May Meredith, Cel Delwyn and Miss Fielder (music director).
2: The name Banjo Paterson is recorded as being the advance for at least two engagements – Forbes and Peak Hill. As the Australian Variety Theatre Archive has discovered, however, “Banjo” was used by several other people named Paterson during the early-1900s, one of whom was a variety performer. It is unclear, then, if Devereaux’s agent was poet Andrew Barton Paterson or someone else. Interestingly the tour’s itinerary took it close to Binalong, where Paterson grew up, and Wee Jasper, where he ran a 40,000 acre property ca. 1908-11. While it is feasible that Paterson temporarily “moon-lighted” as an advance agent during one of his visits to the area this “possibility” is yet to be confirmed.

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DIAMOND MINSTREL & VARIETY Co

(aka The Diamonds)

(1895) Established by Dan Scullien, the Diamond Variety Company was a loosely organised minstrel troupe that was active around Melbourne’s suburbs in 1895. Several members of the company had previously been involved in another Scullien company, the Brooklyn Entertainers (1893-94). Among the Diamonds known engagements were concerts in Prahran, South Yarra (Centennial Hall), Richmond, and St Kilda (Alfred Hall). Members of the troupe also appeared at smoke nights and as entertainment at lodges etc. Scullien acted as general manager and performer. Several members later became high-profile professional entertainers, including Fred Bluett and Ward Lear.

  • See also The Brooklyn Entertainers [above]
Other known performers were Robert (Bob) Boyd, Bracken and Hawke (musical act), Fred Burrowes, Nina Christie, Fred Cochran, Charlie Denton, V. Hale, Ethel Harvey, Eva Harvey, Ted Harvey, Will Hulme, Harry Lewis, Olive Lyndale, Hugh McCartney, C. Myers, Monty Myers, W. Norris, G. Quintrell, Dick Parker, A. Parks, Bob Parks, Tom Reid, Testro (juggler), Lizzie Thomas, Hilda Tronson, Tom Wilkinson, Miss E. Williams.

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TH’ DROLLS

(aka Bert Rache’s Th’ Drolls)

Drolls [MMCBA 2 Apr 1920, 3](1920-1923) Presenting a “pot pourri of high-class singing, dancing, sketches and novelty numbers,” Th’ Drolls vaudeville troupe was put together by Bert Rache once or twice a year for tours through Southern and South-western New South Wales. Among the best known performers to appear with the company were Wal Rockley, Billy Watson, the Arteens [2], Ted Stanley, Joe Rox, Trixie and Buttons, Kathleen Desbro, Grace Quine, Eurasian, and Warwick Lumley and Winnie Rhodes. Rache toured with the troupe as both a performer and music director.

Image: Manaro Mercury and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser 2 Apr. (1920), 3.

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Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on February 13, 2011 at 7:30 am  Comments Off on Troupes [A-F]