The Blue Man Group Set To Perform At Schuster Center
September 29th, 2010
I somehow became fascinated with the Blue Man Group quite some time ago. It is an easy thing to do, what with the level of musicianship, production values and sheer creativity of the troupe. What fascinated me most, however, is that the basic premise of the Blue Man being the perfect empty vessel, the perfect blank screen on which countless elemental dreams could be projected upon. The music seems to serve as an insistent accompaniment for the journey.
I had heard that the Blue Man Group were creating a new production, so I secured an interview with Mark Frankel, one of the members of the Blue Man Group who will be appearing inDayton. I
“Yeah, we just finished a load-in and tech in Fayetteville,Arkansas and we were sort of working out the bugs. We did some previews there that showed us that we really have a great show on our hands.” Frankel went on to say that, “Fayetteville was exciting and inDallas, the opening has been really, really strong and then the next city isDayton. Daytonians are going to be some of the very first people to have a chance to see this show.”
What are the differences between this new show and the other tours that the Blue Man have embarked on?
“There will be some elements that you may recognize from the Vegas shows, but then there is some brand new content that is focusing on technology and our relationships to things like Facebook and our devices like iPhones and Blackberries…these devices that kind of put up barrier between us, so we’re taking a good look at it. If you go around outside and you’re walking with your kids and you’ll see a parent that’s got his face down into his Droid or whatever and looking at stuff on Facebook…he’s actually experiencing the world through this little two dimensional device when there is a whole three dimensional world right in front of him.”
So, if I’m connecting the dots correctly, a group of blue mutes are going to teach us something about communication?
“That’s a fair point. Yeah, but it speaks to the honest nature that the Blue Man communicates. Because he is silent, he is not bound to any sort of text that would dictate an emotion, the audience member can take away an experience that’s personal to them.” Frankel said. “It’s a very effective way to communicate an emotion as opposed to a play, where there’s lines that dictate, ‘I’m angry’ or ‘I’m sad.’ It’s a charm of the character and it’s a unique way to convey an idea.”
With technology and communication as a theme, have there been a lot more technological elements added to the show?
“With regards specifically with the new show, I think that there are some very, very exciting technical elements that really have never been tried before. I know that that is kind of trite to say, but truly, we are doing stuff where these systems had to be designed to do exactly what we wanted them to do, so it’s not just lights. We’re using video and lighting as well and the video screens are interactive with…the whole stage is part of what we are calling 2.5 D (two and a half dimensional).” Explaining further, Frankel said, “It’s a 3D show interacting with two dimensional video and we are kind of jumping between those two worlds a lot. Again, we are dealing with these two different worlds all the time and I think the lines are starting to blur. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.”
Sometimes, hiding in plain sight was the best way to show your true self, your actual nature. I wondered if Frankel had found this to be true from becoming his character.
“Yeah, that’s a very true part of this character…a truism, if you will. By putting on this mask, we’re actually able to be more honest. It’s not unlike, and I’m sure we’ve all had this experience, when you meet somebody and you know that this relationship is going to be finite and you know that you’ll probably never see this person again, you’re way more honest with them than someone with whom you would see again and who you’ll have consequences with. So, by the same stroke, with this mask, they don’t know who we are and they shouldn’t really care who we are: they’re just looking at this character and I can be totally myself with them. In fact, in a way, some people have said that with this character, that by putting on this mask, we’re not really putting on a mask, but that we’re taking away the normal mask that we wear and what you’re seeing with the Blue Man character is the layer beneath…maybe even several layers beneath.”
Frankel went deeper with his explanation of the Blue Man character by putting it in terms of everyday life.
“We all put on masks every day. You go to your job and we have to put on that smiling face for your boss and your co-workers and you go home and you have to pretend that the day hasn’t driven you nuts and you have to be a good dad or a good partner or whatever.” Frankel went on to say that, “These things, if you were really, really stripping them down and really being honest. The Blue Man is essentially taking the human condition and bringing it down to its basic elements: wonder, love, caring, humor, the hero, the shaman, anger happiness. All these things are arc of the show that the Blue Man is experiencing in a very open and a very clear way.”
The piercing lights and percussive sounds emanate from the stage, with frenetically moving figures silhouetted against a backdrop of flashing video screens as knurled and curled PVC instruments wend their way this way and that. This is the performance. This is the routine…but not the reality. The Blue Man Group, while being an entertaining and creative force, also serve as a microscope by which we can view our own relative existence from a very safe distance, allowing these blue mutants the luxury of exploring the outer fringes and base realities of the human condition.