by Graciela Becerra
Over the course of three days, the Blue Man Group performed a total of five shows at the college, but despite their busy schedules, two members of the group sat down with The Campus Ledger to discuss the show and their experiences as Blue Men.
Currently, the group is touring the United States while maintaining permanent productions in six other cities, raising the question of whether or not there is more than one Blue Man Group.
As it turns out, actors can audition to be a Blue Man just like they could for any other production. Hired actors then travel in fours, despite the fact the Blue Man Group consists of only three bald blue characters. The actors take turns participating in the show and even rotate roles.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact essence of what we do, but we just make sure people have a good time,” said Dan Carter, a member of the group for nine years. “That is really our job, is to get up there and bring people on a kind of journey so that as soon as you come into the theater you’re presented with something which is slightly different … than a traditional theatrical experience. People come and they have an experience which they never would have had before.”
Approaching their 25th year, the group has become wildly popular for their unique use of comedy, music and technology.
A member of the group who only goes by Meridian has been a Blue Man for 11 years and explains what it’s like performing in the one-of-a-kind production.
“The instruments we use in the show are unique to the show. We build all those ourselves,” said Meridian. “They were created by Blue Man Group for the Blue Man Group, so you have to learn how to adapt whatever musical skill you have to the instruments in the show.”
Carter agreed and spoke of about the instruments’ difficulty level.
“It’s not like we have a set of massive, big, ten-foot-long PVC pipes at home,” said Carter, referring to the drums used in the show. “You can’t go buy these in the store. … It’s a lot of hard work learning a very unusual instrument to play in a very specific way, to get the right sound, and I would say it even takes a good year of being a Blue Man before you can really play those instruments well.”
Aside from the exclusive instruments, audiences are also drawn to the show because there is no dialogue, making it accessible and relatable to every age, language and culture.
“They say that the majority of communication between people is actually nonverbal anyway,” said Meridian. “We’ve taken the show to other countries and there’s been no loss in the ability to communicate in those other cultures where they don’t speak English and where we didn’t have to translate anything, because it’s automatic. We’re able to communicate in a way that’s more universal … You can read surprised looks on everyone’s face, you can read emotion in other people without needing any words.”
The distinctive Blue Man character is achieved in a way that actors must wear bald caps and then use grease paint that never dries in order to maintain the gooey, wet effect throughout the show. Developing the Blue Man’s personality is a much longer process.
“We think of him as somebody with a childlike curiosity, [a] thirst for discovery,” said Carter. “But he’s also a scientist who experiments with stuff, he’s a clown, he’s a trickster that is going to play jokes on other people just to see what the reaction is. … In my opinion, the childlike quality is perhaps the most important because there’s an innocence there that is fundamental to the character.”
Although the character is known worldwide, the actors are not, but Carter and Meridian simultaneously agreed that this was for the best.
“If it became something like ‘Oh, that’s Meridian right there’ or if the character became something connected to a specific person, I think it would undermine our ability to reach people in a universal way,” said Meridian. “I think it would undermine that because then it would be about the individual instead of it being about connecting with everyone.”
Fans that have followed the show since its beginnings in 1991 may be curious to know what became of Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, the original Blue Man Group and initial developers.
“We’re all trained by the original guys and by the guys that were the very first Blue Men after them,” said Carter. “They still create new material. It’s their show, and that’s why we feel so personally connected to the show as well, because we love those guys. We’ve all got connections to them and to the show.”
Speaking of the show’s longevity, Meridian expressed why he believes audiences worldwide love the show.
“I think, universally, everyone who sees the show has a great experience of feeling connected and … in touch with their own sense of joy and their own sense of curiosity and their own sense of creativity,” said Meridian. “For the people who have lost touch with it, to get to be back in touch with it, I think that’s why they keep coming back.”
The Blue Man Group’s next performances in Kansas are scheduled for April 26–27 in Wichita and April 28 in Topeka. For more information and for full tour dates, visit https://www.blueman.com.