Blue Man Group
‘Blue, Blue, Positively Electric Blue’
Known more readily as either ‘The Intel Guys’ or ‘Those bald blue guys with no ears,’ the Blue Man Group was founded in 1987 by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink and first made waves in the underground performance art scene in New York City. Donning identical black jumpsuits, skullcaps, and vivid blue greasepaint, the trio performed regularly in Central Park, Dixon Place, Performance Space 122, and the Wooster Group's Performing Garage.
In Early 1991, The Blue Man Group premiered "Tubes" at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club on the Lower East side of New York City. La MaMa is a facility that was founded in 1961 with the mission to develop, support, produce, and present new/original work by artists of all nations and cultures. The indescribable combination of theatre production, concert, and sketch comedy was a hit, and by the end of the year they had moved to the Astor Place Theatre at 434 Lafayette St; where they currently reside today. For their efforts, they were presented with the Village Voice OBIE Award (Off-Broadway Theatre's highest honor) for the year of 1990-91.
Today, The Blue Man Group operates out of four venues: The Astor Place Theatre, NY; The Charles Playhouse, Boston; The Briar Street Theatre, Chicago; and The Luxor Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas. They currently have one album and one DVD, both entitled "Audio" and they are scheduled to release a second album in late 2002. The Blue Men have also recently appeared in television commercials, music videos, sitcoms, and late-night talk shows and are undoubtedly taking the world by storm minute by minute.
Chatting with the three men now responsible for the Rock Concert audio tour that is currently playing its way through the land via way of Moby’s ‘Area Two Tour,’ longtime buddies Jeffrey Boornbos, Chris Bowen and Scott Briansu are more than willing to answer each and every question surrounding the infamously-created characters. So, first on my mind was just how many ‘Blue Men’ there were running around out there ?! (Jeffrey Boornbos) ”We have different casts in different cities and the three of us together with two other guys from New York, – Randall Jones and Michael Ballam – the five of us have been with the company for quite a while. We used to perform in the shows full-time and then what happened is we have sort of now become the guys who help train the new guys. We kinda go to the other cities and watch what’s going on, take some notes and get some feedback. We also help them develop the new material which is part of the reason we’re on this tour so that we can kinda get feedback on what was working, what wasn’t working. This tour is basically a prequel to our tour coming next year. So, I guess that kinda defines the five of us specifically, but there are about forty ‘Blue Men’ in total in the four shows plus the five of us. It’s a pretty tight-knit group actually and so it’s pretty cool. It’s fun.”
Reveal all about the now infamous ‘blue look’ ! (Scott Briansu) ”Latex bald cap that covers our hair. We glue it on which takes anywhere from forty minutes to an hour and a half, depending what the circumstances are … and I do it twice a day ! In the summer it’s a two hour process, but in theatre it’s about a forty-five minute process. And then everything else just gets covered with blue grease paint … and it stays on forever,” he laughs, showing me his freshly washed hands that still manage to glow pale blue !
How does playing a concert venue like this differ from the show at, say, the Luxor ? (JB) ”Well, the show in Vegas is just the group with an established audience, trying to establish a connection, trying to get to a place where there’s some kind of celebration. So, there’s an art to the show and it’s funny because as we approach every one in a different way because there’s scenes that we do that are very interactive so it’s got a development. What we do at these concerts is kinda where it takes off from the end of those shows. This music is a celebration and is all about the visceral nature of rock music and is one big party. And is more about what goes on in the Blue Man’s world and the things that the Blue Man enjoys.”
Sum up the mission of a Blue Man (Chris Bowen) ”Well, in this kinda show, the Blue Man tends to explore the world around him and sort of intentional get in touch with the audience. He assesses the situation and then, understanding the parts, is able to put it back together again and create his magic. He’s trying to be constructive in figuring out what this paradigm is and how he can operate within it.”
Why was it named the ‘Blue Man Group’ in the first place ? (SB) ”Well, it seems to be some mystical image that was born out of deep meditation or something like that,” he laughs. ”No, I’m not really sure, but there are many different rumors and theories but nobody really knows except the three that originated the company.”
Hmmm, that doesn’t help me much ! (JB) ”Well, it looks nice … and I also think there’s a universal quality to blue which is not as associative as most other colors and that’s kinda important AND , it looks good ! It really does. It brings out interesting features in people’s faces.”
Do you have names for the ‘invented instruments’ that you use on stage ?! (JB) ”Yeah, there’s names like the ‘PVC instrument,’ but that’s one of only the few mundane names. There’s ‘Tubeulum’ which I think is a take off on ‘Symbolum’ which we play. We have a ‘Dogulum,’ but we don’t bring it on tour with us because it’s a little Dachshund that you hold next to you and you get good vibes from the dog,” he laughs. ”Man, has this interview suddenly turned weird ! We also have the ‘Pianosnatcher,’ the ‘Drumbones’; which is a sort of percussive trombone and of course, we have the ‘Angle Poles,’ ‘Sword Poles’ and ‘Air Poles.’”
What’s the good word on this next audio album, tentatively entitled ‘Complex,’ and does it feature any of you guys ? (CB) ”Well, it’s untitled as of right now, but they’ll pull people in to track things, but we do a kick-ass version of ‘Baba O’Reilly’ actually. So, it’s just kinda like whoever’s around as it’s a really fluid, organic kinda project.”
What’s the most interesting thing to know about the ‘Blue Man Group’ ? (CB) ”I would say that these rock shows, with the new stuff kicks ass ! This stuff hasn’t been previewed to anybody yet and it’s been getting great responses and we’re really excited about that.”
(JB) ”I think that the most interesting thing about the company is the evolutionary nature of the project. It started in 1988 and it’s now fourteen years later and every time we embark on a new facet of the project and open up a new show it evolves. It doesn’t start afresh, it just takes from what we’ve learned and it’s contemporary; it stays with the times and it’s modular. It’s got an ability to evolve and change as a company and with the people.”
Who comes up with all the innovative ideas ? (JB) ”We kinda have like an informal, unwritten sort of saying in the company where it seems to be that a great decision is best when it’s arrived at by consensus. Especially in our situation because most often it’s not a place where a dictatorship of one guy says that this is the way it’s gonna be and the other guys so okay ! There’s a real healthy sense of challenging the assumptions and working things out and what ends up happening is that we come up with material that everyone’s into throughout the company. So we figure if we’re into it we should be able to find some other people who are also into it … and it’s been working !”
Describe the Blue Man Group in three words ! (CB) ”Can I use four ?”
Sure ! ”Can of Whoop-Ass.”
What’s next for you three as the ‘Blue Man Group’ ? (JB) ”Well, what we’re doing now really bodes well for the tour that’s gonna follow this one when the CD is released. That will be a good time because then we will go out with a full-scale production which will be just our show … and then it’s gonna be the ‘Blue Mans’ day,” he laughs.
Interviewed By Russell A. Trunk
Catch the Blue Man Group in Chicago at the Briar Street Theater on October 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th, and the 2nd and 9th of November.
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