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I met a Blue Man Out of Costume and Honestly I’m Still Shook

Photo by Caroline Talbot Photography

On April 26th, my roommate, Kate, and I were given the opportunity to interview one of the men from the iconic Blue Man Group, and attend both the soundcheck and show.  Before we get into that though, it’s important to know some of the history behind Blue Man Group.

The group has been performing since 1991, and with over 100 different actors adorning the stage, the performance still rakes in crowds from around the world.  Blue Man Group performs in over 20 different countries, as well as across the United States. The group has permanent performing spots in New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Orlando, Chicago, and Berlin.  Not near you? Have no fear, you can still catch these guys in a city near you as part of their world tour!

As we all know, the Blue Men don’t speak through their performance, which if I might add, is an even more spectacular component of this show than the pure fact that it exists, but that begs the question, how did the interview go?  We met with performer Mike Brown, one of the six Boston Blue Men (I know, we all thought it was the same three guys, but alas, it is not), before the show, and he let us in on some of the secrets behind Blue Man Group.

Photo Provided by Blue Man Group

During the interview, we wanted to know how Mike first found the group, and he explained that his first experience with the show was when he was in college when his professor took him to see the show back in 1998 (author’s note: this is the year I was born!?!).  Mike also added that he fell in love with it because of how different it was. His favorite part is that you don’t know what to expect, and you still really don’t know what exactly the Blue Men are no matter how many times you have seen the show (or in Mike’s case, have worked with the show).  After graduating college, he began working as a crew member for the show, and finally in 2003 he got his chance to audition for one of the Blue Men roles (known as Right, Center, and Left). He then went on to explain that there isn’t really a backstory to the Blue Men, really it is just a compilation of three men’s dreams come to life in a way that would remain mysterious for its full run.  They even started by going into restaurants and art shows to show off some of their talents. This got the group an off Broadway slot set to run for six months. “It’s gone way beyond seven months, I know that,” Mike laughs. He also talked about what it is like to play each of the different roles (Right, Center, and Left): “I was hired and trained into Right, but after a few years I was also trained in both Center and Left.  Center has a lot riding on his shoulders because he is between the other two. It’s not that he is a lead, but he is responsible for the pace and drive of the show. Left is more of a trickster guy, and is also involved with the pace in a more controlled way. Right is a bit more of a wild card and you don’t know what to expect from him. All of them have different, but important responsibilities throughout the show. They all have the same goal, but they all have different thoughts and ways of getting to that goal.”  He then challenged us to figure out which character he was playing that night when we went to see the show (we are pretty sure we are right in saying that he was playing Right…or Left…depending on which way you are looking at the stage, but to clarify, he was the one catching the gumballs!!)

After that we got to find out a little more about the process of becoming the characters we know today as Blue Man Group, starting of course with the training, which takes between four and eight weeks (Mike humbly announced his only took six weeks to complete).  After a new actor is hired, they learn the blocking for the stage and the music. “There is no written out music,” Mike explained, so if you want to learn the how to play it, you learn from the other members in the group and it has been passed down like this since the show began.  You are also taught about what the character thinks. Each of the characters has their own set of thinking, as Mike informed us, but “it’s up to everyone about who the Blue Men are and why they are here.” When we asked about how the Blue Men keep their own personal reactions at bay while acting in the show, Mike explained that they aren’t holding back their reactions, they are just reacting in a different way that is true to the character.  He explained that no matter how nervous he is inside, he isn’t going to show you that on stage. He also talked about the Blue Men in general, because they never call them aliens. Mike continued by talking about the fact that they aren’t aliens, but they aren’t quite humans either. “They are magnified people. They are people to such a level that they are completely different,” Mike said, “they have everything that makes them a human, including the bad and the good. They experience everything through that mentality. I can think anything I want as long as I have ‘eye-sparkle’ (the ability to act and react with the eyes).  It helps make really intense connections.”

Photo Provided by Blue Man Group

As we have already established, the Blue Men have distinctive characters, but how exactly do they become blue?  Of course we had the opportunity to ask, and we did just that. Mike explained to us that it is really quite simple.  They spend a few moments being painted after being fitted with a bald cap and they wear blue gloves (so they can still hold the drumsticks) which are accompanied with all black outfits.  Though, Mike made sure to point out that talking about the physical process makes the transformation sound mechanical, when it is really quite a lot more than that. There is a mentality that goes into becoming the character that they are playing for the night (whether it be Right, Center, or Left).  Mike explained that “when you become the Blue Man, you take away yourself, but you leave behind the parts that make you interested in things and fun to be around. When you hold on to those things as a Blue Man, you are able to give the character more spirit. You’re not driving blind; you are trying to be yourself through the eyes of this character.”  

We also asked about his favorite stories about being a Blue Man and Mike told us about this time where they were going through the audience to choose the woman that they bring up for the act entitled “Feast,” when he shared a moment with a little boy.  The boy wasn’t even paying attention, just fiddling around with some candy when Mike called the other Blue Men over to where the boy was seated. His dad gave the kid a nudge and he looked up and found the three men staring at him. He immediately reached up to hand them a gummy bear and Mike laughed about how his first thought in that moment was “he’s a better Blue Man than I am.”  Mike went on to explain that because the boy was just in the moment and wanted to share an experience is exactly what makes him a better Blue Man, as that is how they strive to experience the world (speaking from their character’s perspective). In addition to his favorite story, we also asked what his absolute favorite part of being a Blue Man was, and Mike informed us that his favorite part is that he gets to play the drums while acting and making connections with people every day.  He loves having people believe and buy into the character and he compared it to “believing in Santa Clause.” So frankly, his favorite part of being a Blue Man is…well…being a Blue Man! He explained it to us by saying that “being a Blue Man is like being a superhero, no one knows that I’m not just a normal guy, I’m the guy who helped them have that experience during the show.” Mike also took a moment to explain his favorite sketch, “Feast,” and how he loves it the most, because you never know what the woman’s reaction is going to be.  “We know what is going to happen,” he explained, “but you never know how she is going to react on stage, so anything can happen.”

Photo by Lindsey Best

After hearing about “Feast,” we decided to ask Mike how exactly the Blue Men choose their audience participants.  “We generally look for someone fun; someone you would want to hang out with and share an experience with. We always look for someone who won’t steal the show, but also someone who won’t shut down out of embarrassment.  We’re not in the embarrassment business. We are looking for someone who we can transcend into a different experience with. That person can also be someone who is a representative from the audience. If the audience is quiet or thoughtful, we might look for someone who is more loud.  That person can make other people feel like they can be like that to. Or exactly the opposite, if the audience is loud, we might look for someone who is more focused so they can change and that their energy is affecting people too. Basically someone who is fun, and in a weird way, we want to look for someone who is ticking and alive and ready.  We also like to look for people who are going to be a challenge to interact with and connect with because it is more rewarding.”

After talking with Mike, we realized we threw some pretty tough questions at him, so we wanted to end with a fun one: If you could be any other color besides blue, what color would you choose and why?  He joked about how if he was going to change the color, it would involve a LOT of marketing, but after joking about that, he talked about how his favorite color is red. He wouldn’t choose red, however, because that would make people feel a very different way than how the Blue Men want them to feel during the performance (happy rather than angry).  He then added that “to be green would make people think that the Blue Men were aliens, and the Blue Men aren’t aliens. Blue is something people always want to talk about and it is hard to answer. It’s simple and complex at the same time. It is a very peaceful, tranquil color, but it is still not normal. It is still ‘other.’ Some people are still cautious of it, but they don’t want to immediately push it away.”  I honestly couldn’t have a agreed more after hearing the reasoning behind Mike’s thoughts, although he did add that “purple might be cool.” So who knows, maybe in the future you’ll see some Purple Men on the stage of the Charles Playhouse, but I think for the time being, it is safe to say that the Blue Men are going to hold that stake for a long, long time.

After the interview, we were allowed to go into the soundcheck.  We got to see the behind the scene practice of some of the songs they play on the pipes, as well as hear the band warm up.  It was a little surreal to actually be part of the soundcheck, watching the performers practice before getting into costume and bringing the performance to life on stage.  I think we all have misconceptions about actors who have been performing the same show for a long period of time and that is that they have got to be perfect by this point.  It was incredibly humanizing to watch the soundcheck because it helped burst that stereotype open, because they are human just like us. They know their parts and their characters, but during soundcheck is their time to have a misstep or to miss a marshmallow.  While the men didn’t make many mistakes, we got to see some of what Mike was talking about when he said that they teach each other the different roles. The environment was still light and fun, even though they were about to perform. We also learned a fun tidbit about the band, so next time you go see the show, be sure to watch the band on stage during the end of the performance while the chaos ensues, you might just catch a little dance!  

After sound check, we milled around in the lobby until they opened the doors for the show, and while I was a little nervous about sitting in the poncho section, the only things you have to fear is paint, jello, and some minor twinkie vomit (no biggie).  We got to our seats and waited for the show to begin.

I was a little nervous about how the show would compare, as we had just learned all of the insider secrets to Blue Man Group’s show.  However, as soon as the lights went down and I saw the men transformed into their costumes, it was like I hadn’t just talked to Mike an hour before.  So even when you know the insider secrets, the show is still just as fun and magical as it is when you watch it for the first time, although, maybe even more magical because you know what to look out for.  After speaking with Mike, I was 99% convinced Kate and I might become targets for “Feast,” but thankfully, we didn’t have to worry about that for long. Even though we knew what to expect, the experience was still priceless, and I felt like I was able to make even more of a connection through the experience after having spoken with Mike.  While I’m sure you want to know more about the performance itself, I’m not giving away any major spoilers, so you’ll have to head over to the Charles Playhouse and get a ticket!

If you have never been to see Blue Man Group, whether in Boston or in any of their other show locations, I highly recommend taking the time to go and enjoy this life experience.  Who knows, you might even get pulled out of the audience to participate in “Feast!” For all of you college students in Boston who think prices are a little steep, make sure to bring your student ID to willcall and you can get your ticket for $30, which if you ask me, is totally worth it for the experience this show provides (oh, and don’t worry about where your seat is, there isn’t a bad seat in the Charles Playhouse).

I would also like to take a moment to personally thank Blue Man Group for giving us this opportunity, especially Blue Man Mike Brown, for sitting down and completing such a lengthy interview with us.  

Talia is the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Emerson. Talia is also a Chapter Advisor, Region Leader, and HSA Advisor. She has previously worked as an intern for the national headquarters of Her Campus in the community management department. Talia is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College in a 4+1 combined bachelor's and master's program in publishing. She is an aspiring writer and publisher. Talia is known for living life with her journal, a pen, and three lovely cats.
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