By Ellen Garnett, Lisa Nault
Explosions of color and mysterious blue men who have a fascination with Captain Crunch cereal and the number of marshmallows they are able to fit in their mouths. It may sound like an ecstasy-fueled trip, but the source of the adventure is the international and critically acclaimed Blue Man Group.
On October 8, writers from the Voice were invited to a magical night of adventure and wonder at the Charles Playhouse. The Voice was invited to College Media Night, where the Blue Man Group gave their fantastical, audience-engaging performance. It was the first time seeing the show for each writer and they were not disappointed.
The show, for those who have not seen, combines aesthetic colors, music, and hilarious skits to create a large interactive production. The show itself is an experience because you, as the audience, have a role to play in it. By the end of the evening, everyone was out of their seats and jumping up and down while dancing to the music. That is the atmosphere the Blue Man Group creates: one big party.
After the show, staff writers Ellen Garnett and Lisa Nault had the opportunity to meet with the full-time drummer for the Blue Man Group as well as one of the blue men out of costume to discuss what the Blue Man Group is all about.
The drummer, Randy Wooten, has been with the Blue Man Group for five years after his initial start in Boston. He has been playing the drums since he was 9-years-old and describes his work as being “a dream job.” As a member of the band, which is usually made up of two strings and one drummer, Wooten puts on his unique colorful and luminescent costume for every show.
“My look resembles a Shaman,” Wooten told the Voice. “I tell the story that connects to the characters every night.”
He is a storyteller while playing the drums because he is in control of building tension, adding comedic elements, and adding to a sense wonder to the performance. “Every night is a new show. Each one is different because the audience is different. We [the band] have templates of music to go off of but most of the show is ad lib. You must be flexible because you never do the same show twice.” Thus, the story being told is never the same.
It is clear that the audience impacts the performance, but why is that significant? Wooten explained that the Blue Man Group questions “the role of what spectatorship means.” The audience does not just observe the performance but are active participants in it. When people come to the show they “enter a cave and a transformation takes place. There is a realization that occurs and the audience leaves with a sense of wonder,” according to Wooten. The transformation is into your inner child: that sense of wonder and appreciation you have about the world that surrounds you.
Wooten’s favorite part of his job is the challenge of transformation each night. When Wooten plays the drums, he is brought back to his 9-year-old self, just learning to play, and feels that childlike euphoric bliss. That seems difficult to recreate in every audience member yet for the Voice staff we all marveled at what we were feeling and seeing. In our own ways, we were experiencing the euphoria Wooten talked about.
Wooten discussed what it was like working with the actors who played the Blue Men. They do a sound check every day and small tweaks can be made, but as a group there are no real practices or rehearsals. Everyone in the band and each blue man trust each other to do a good job and that is what the audience sees on stage. We could sense a type of intimacy and bond between all of these performers, yet what we were really seeing was connection through trust. But the theme of connection also extends to the audience.
“The fundamental theme of the Blue Man Group is about connection,” said blue man Adam Erdossy. “The way we connect is constantly changing, so our show is constantly changing as we play with the evolving ways in which we communicate in our culture.”
During the Blue Man Group’s performance, the audience feels a sense of wonder as the blue men go about their activities in an explorative, animalistic manner. Erdossy explained the significance of the audience in the show.
“New people fire up the characters. I get to connect with people in ways I would not outside the show. You can’t just stare at someone on the street otherwise you get pepper sprayed,” said Erdossy.
The blue men are curious and naive, which the audience can see in how they interact with their surroundings. They are exposed to smart phones, which share startling facts about our technological consumption. One of the main purposes of the show is to have the audience step back and reflect on the ways in which they interact with others. As the show progresses, the blue men engage members of the audience and eventually everyone in a sensory-overloaded party with lots of toilet paper, colorful lights and giant balloons.
The purpose of the blue men, according to Erdossy, is to encourage the audience to explore the way we interact with one another and to not be afraid to experiment.
“We tend to put up these walls between ourselves and others and the blue men allow for the audience and for ourselves to strip down those walls to enjoy,” said Erdossy.
Erdossy, who has played as a blue man for eight years, has traveled within the U.S. and even all the way to Australia and Japan to perform. He informed the Voice that there are blue men all over the world, despite the Santa-Claus-like nature of them to be in multiple places at once. The Blue Man Group has the ability to transcend international language barriers through the actions and can successfully portray this theme of connection.
Erdossy recollected his first show with Ellen and Lisa.
“It was petrifying but I enjoyed it immensely. You enjoy it more than anything else because you’re scared. I can’t recreate that experience. When I was done, I just couldn’t believe I get to do it again,” said Erdossy.
Unlike some other shows that are purely musical performances, the Blue Man Group offers its audience the chance to not just be spectators but also participants. By including the audience in the show, the blue men encourage active involvement instead of the idle spectatorship that our daily technology invites us to accept.
There will be shows at the Charles Playhouse throughout the next few months that you can get your tickets for early online. Also, there is a deal for students to get cheaper tickets. The deal is called Student Rush Tickets, and if you have $30 cash or credit and a valid college ID or ISIC card you could bring them to the box office two hours before the performance on the day of the show and receive a discounted ticket. However, not every performance has extra available tickets but if you check on twitter @BMGBoston they do update before the show. If you have nothing to do one night or have about 2-3 hours available, check for rush tickets because the Blue Man Group is an experience you do not want to miss.