josh sweeney


Josh Groban singing Children Will Listen/Not While I’m Around from Into the Woods/Sweeney Todd at The Green Room 42 4/2/2017


It might not exactly be doctor’s orders, but it made perfect sense to Josh Sweeney.

“If you hit somebody, you feel a lot better,” he says, making his way off the ice from a grueling practice with the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey team – a sport also known as “murder-ball on ice.”

Sled hockey might be the fastest sport in the Paralympics; players strap on to a tiny sled perched a few inches off the ice, balanced on one double-runner skate. They use two short sticks like ski poles to fly across the ice. Then the sticks flip around, with a hockey blade on the tip. Players can switch the puck quickly between left and right, and shoot from either side.

The Paralympic movement started with disabled veterans after World War II. Today, there are many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in Sochi with the U.S. team; Sweeney is one of them.

From War In The Desert To ‘Murder Ball On Ice’

Photo Credit: David Gilkey/NPR

B is Brecht - For those of you who haven't researched him yet, I give you Bertolt Brecht

Michael Billington in the Guardian 21st December 2011

The German great was only secondly a Marxist. First and foremost he was a playwright of exceptional power and scope

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Is there room for a Marxist dramatist in the modern world? Since the collapse of communism, common sense might say no. But it would be madness to dismiss Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), and for a variety of reasons. He was a great German poet. His best plays transcend dogma. He wrote parts that actors will always be hungry to play. And his influence on modern theatre is still visible.

Predictable right-wing groans greet any Brecht revival, yet his core masterpieces remain indestructible. You may go in expecting to be given a political message, but what you get is contradiction. Life of Galileo(1937-9) is a decidedly equivocal portrait of a seeker after truth battling Catholic orthodoxy – Brecht endorses Galileo’s faith in reason, but sees his surrender to the Inquisition as proof of the scientist’s abdication of responsibility. Mother Courage and Her Children (1939) is even more complex. Everything in the play tells us we should condemn the heroine’s small-business ethic and belief that, by profiting from war, she can protect her three children, because what she fails to realise is that her little world is dependent on a corrupt big world. Yet I defy anyone to watch the play’s ending, in which the childless Courage trudges off hauling her cart, without a lump in the throat.

Brecht was a dramatist first and a Marxist second; by which I mean that, at his best, he was more fascinated by the human instinct for survival than by creating exemplary characters. He was also a great theatre-maker who understood the power of satire and ridicule: one of my favourite scenes in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941) shows the pseudo-Hitlerian gangster hero learning the arts of rhetoric and gesture from a ham Shakespearean actor.

Of course, you can easily make a case against Brecht. He was a shameless magpie who stole from everyone, often without acknowledgement. He deluded himself that he could provide an inner opposition to Ulbricht’s corrupt postwar East German regime while accepting its money to create the Berliner Ensemble. And although he championed the proletariat Brecht himself was, in the words of the critic Eric Bentley, “bottomlessly bourgeois”.

Yet his plays still have abundant vitality – and not just the acknowledged masterpieces. The Young Vic brilliantly revived a A Respectable Wedding and The Jewish Wife in 2007, and this summer Phil Willmott wittily staged The Mother, a play about a working-class woman roused from apathy to activism, in a London amphitheatre shadowed by the glittering towers of contemporary capitalism. I’d love to see more companies delve into the supposedly minor works.

In the end, whether you like Brecht or not, it’s impossible to deny that he had a galvanic impact on modern theatre. The famous visit of the Berliner Ensemble to London in 1956 had a transforming effect on British dramaturgy, direction and design, and a half-century later we’re still living with the consequences. Sean Holmes’s recent revival of Edward Bond’s Saved at the Lyric Hammersmith was a classic example of cool, spare Brechtian staging. Mike Bartlett’s 13 at the National had the epic sweep of a Brecht play. And Gillian Slovo’s The Riots at London’s Tricycle showed how theatre can become a form of political enquiry and stimulus to debate.

Brecht may be long dead but his ironic, inquisitive presence is absolutely with us.

Brecht’s Epic Theatre: 

What? Defined by the introduction of a narrator, whose function is to place the emphasis on the social and political message.
Why? To engage the audience’s reason rather than the emotions, excluding sympathy and identification with the drama. 
How? By using the narrator to; emphasise the scientific awareness of the action, to supple the background info, to unify the episodes of the play and to describe the interaction of the characters to enable the ‘jury’ or audience to analyse the sequence of events. 

Brecht theatre is all about alienation of the audience and gestus acting, it also includes montage.


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