Blue Man Group Remembers Its Roots
About twenty years ago, three caterers developed a performance art piece that moved from the streets of Manhattan to venues such as La MaMa, P.S. 122 and Dixon Place, to name a few. Satirizing modern culture using rock & roll, handmade instruments created from found objects from junkyards and Materials for the Arts (including a lot of paint), their show Tubes moved from La MaMa to the Astor Place Theatre in 1991 and still runs today.
Blue Man Group has since expanded into an international cultural organization, extending performances to Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Berlin, Oberhausen, Orlando, Tokyo, Toronto and Stuttgart. In addition to international performances, the company has used their creative process to venture into music recording and a live tour. The Company has even developed the Blue Man Creativity Center as an independent school for children and families. The Blue Men have been featured and guest starred on a myriad of television shows and events and have even been Simpsonized.
Blue Man Group has become so ingrained in our popular culture that it’s hard to remember their innovative beginnings - thank goodness they do. We’re excited for the Blue Man Group to participate in The New York Innovative Theatre Awards’ 4th annual ceremony on September 22nd. I had the pleasure of meeting with two Blue Men to talk about their performance roots and what it’s like to be a Blue Man.
At the Blue Man offices, I was happy to encounter a real appreciation for inspiration from other work. Blue Men receive a 12-week leave of absence annually to work on other things, be that a show or making music. Traveling is encouraged within the company as well; both of the actors I spoke with – Peter Musante and Josh Elrod – have been in other cities with the company, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“They’re like creative pods – creative communities really thrive where a Blue Man Show goes,” said Peter. Peter Musante was raised in California’s Bay Area in a theatrical family; his mom was involved in improv with San Francisco’s BATS. He made his way south to UCLA and stayed for about 5 years participating heavily in LA’s 99 and under theatre scene. He found the Blue Man Group in Orlando, and has been a Blue Man in Orlando, Las Vegas and New York.
“Toronto was amazing,” said Josh Elrod. Originally from Tennessee, Josh arrived in New York by way of Chicago to pursue Art Direction in film, and found himself experimenting away from his visual background and into performance; playing music, waiting tables and taking acting classes. He auditioned for Blue Man and has traveled with the company to Boston, Toronto, and Amsterdam and is now back in New York. “I had a painting studio in Amsterdam,” said Josh. “They really encourage work on other things.” Josh continues to play music here in New York, and will in fact be playing a late show in the Lower East Side after the awards ceremony.
The guys were excited about what Blue Man has taught them about underground work all over the world, from rock & roll to theatre to circus arts. What they hadn’t been trained in they were eager to be introduced to and learn more about. When talking about art abroad Josh remarked, “Other countries support emerging artists, you know? It’s important. It needs to be nurtured.”
You can catch Blue Man Group at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 or almost anytime at the Astor Place Theatre, www.blueman.com