BWW Interviews: BLUE MAN GROUP's Kirk Massey Shares Details of Upcoming Pittsburgh Show
Kirk Massey, a seven year member of Blue Man Group, took time to speak to Broadwayworld about the evolution of BLUE MAN GROUP, and their upcoming Pittsburgh tour stop. BLUE MAN GROUP performs at Pittsburgh's Benedum Center May 15-20, 2012.
I guess there still might be a few people out there who don't know anything about Blue Man Group, so can you start out by describing what Blue Man is, and what you do?
The best way I can describe it is theatre, a rock concert, vaudevillian humor, modern science, technology and like a crazy dance party, and you kind of mix all that together and explode into a multimedia experience.
This Pittsburgh stop is part of Blue Man's first 'theatrical' tour. What impact does the 'theatrical' aspect have on the show? What can we expect?
It' s going to be a lot more like the standing shows (in New York, Las Vegas, etc). The reason we're saying it's our first theatrical tour is because we toured in the past, but it was a rock concert. We did this experiment like, what happens if we take the Blue Man and we put them into a rock concert. It was kind of a tongue in cheek look at the whole rock concert life.
Whereas now what we're doing, we are actually touring a version of our sit down theatrical shows. We've taken a lot of what's in our sit down productions, and added about 30 - 40% brand new content that was created just for this tour , as well as refreshed some of the more classic pieces. And we're now touring this show throughout the US and Canada, which is really cool to take Blue Man into some new, really non-traditional theaters.
Are there some challenges to taking the stage shows and making them movable and transportable?
A little bit, but one thing that came out of this, in the theaters it kind of created a new challenge as to how to create the set. So what we're doing is using technology in a way that I've seen before, but never on this scale. The vast majority of our entire set are LED curtains. It kind of created a new environment for Blue Man to live in, and an environment that has limitless possibilities because you can put anything up there around them. Some of the other challenges have been that the show can get messy at times, and the Blue Man goes into the audience to bring people to the stage in certain parts of the show, and... especially like older theaters that aren't used to having Blue Man walk on the back of the chairs that people are sitting in - it's like a new venture for some of these more traditional theaters.
If someone aspired to be a Blue Man, how would they best prepare? Study acting? Drumming?
What we look for is people who are definitely a very strong drummer, because there's obviously a lot of drumming, it's one of the primary ways Blue Man communicates. But also we look for really strong actors, because basically the character is using music to tell his story, it's to tell a story or for him to communicate or to get something across, so very much strong acting chops. It's kind of interesting how people find their way to Blue Man. We don't have any set path. We definitely have a lot of educated, experienced actors, guys who have Masters Degrees in acting. And we have guys from the other end who came from a music background, but through the training process have been able to find a way to make that work, just because it is a sort of a fringe genre of acting, it's sort of its own piece in terms of playing a character. We also have a guy on the road right now who was literally working in a biology lab. People take all kinds of paths on how to get in.
I've read that there are actually Blue Women. Is that true?
There's been one woman, who performed in the Boston production for a year or two. She's the one we've had so far, but they are constantly auditioning. It's a little bit more difficult because of the physical requirements of the role and the build required, at least 6'1" and athletic build. But we definitely had a woman in the past and she was phenomenal, and woman are very much always welcome to audition.
What is it about a member of the audience that leads you to choose them, above others, to interact with?
There's a lot of things that kind of go into it. One, we want somebody who looks like they're going to have a good time, somebody who looks like a little shy and nervous but who looks like they're going to come out of their shell. We look like somebody who's going to be a representative of whatever sort of vibe the audience has that night. We kind of decide while we're out there - it's all decided in the moment, and sometimes it's just completely random, it's on a whim, you just have a connection with somebody and say that's the person we're choosing.
Is it typically just one of you picking the audience member or are you making eye contact with the other Blue Men to make that decision?
It's definitely collaborative. We're constantly checking in with each other to get a feel about how everybody feels about each person.
Do you ever feel in hindsight that was a bad choice, or it doesn't work out - the person gets freaked out or just doesn't work out, and how do you deal with that?
Well that's what great about the show, nothing can really go wrong, there's not like an actual written down script that has to be followed word by word. That's what makes it fun and new all the time is that - whatever happens, that's the beauty of live theater and we just try and go with whatever happens. Somehow it all tends to work in a weird way even if it wasn't how you thought it might go. You just kind of like give in to what's going on.
We took some questions from Facebook, and one person ask that if you could say only one word during a performance, what would it be?
Wow, that's an incredible question, I've never gotten that question before. I think it would definitely depend on the particular night of the performance. I think maybe the simple word "wow" would work, the Blue Man is very much about discovering things for the first time. They almost have like a child-like innocence and about discovering things, I'm going to go with "wow".
Why blue, why not purple or green?
The answer we've come to is that one, blue seems to be a very neutral color, various other colors have connotations, like, if we we're green, it would be like "they're aliens", or we're red, "they're evil". Most of the colors have some sort of stigma related to them. Also I was told once that one of the Blue Man founders, one of the three original guys, had a dream and the blue character appeared to him in his dream, and that's why the character was and is the color he is.
There's a lot of curiosity about the makeup, in particular, since you guys are sweating and doing a lot with liquids, why doesn't the makeup come off?
It's just theatrical grease paint. The paint itself actually never dries. If you were to blue yourself and then touch something ten years later it would still come off on your hands. Because of that, it's sort of like a thick, wet paint anyway. Once it gets on something it's really hard to get off, we actually have a hard time getting it off at the end of the night as it is.
Have you been to Pittsburgh before? Do you have anything specific that you plan to see or do while you're here?
I was in Pittsburgh once before. We toured our Megastar rock tour through Pittsburgh, but we were only there for a night. This time we'll actually be there for an entire week, so I'm very much looking forward to getting around the city to any touristy sites that are there, and getting a feel for the city.
Blue Man Group started 25 years ago. How would you say it's evolved and changed over the years?
It definitely has evolved and changed. I think one reason is that it's never looked at as a complete production, it's never looked at like that's what it's always going to be. it's constantly being worked on and tweaked, and when new things are introduced into pop culture and technology, Blue Man is always looking at figuring out a way to put that into the show. For instance, the show that we're bringing has a whole section dealing with these three giant, giant iPad type things and Blue Man starts exploring to figure out how that works. It's always changing and evolving and I think it always will be.
Blue Man Group performs at the Benedum Center May 15-20, 2012. Tickets ($22-$86) are available by calling (412) 456-6666, visiting the Box Office at Theater Square (655 Penn Avenue) or online at www.trustarts.org. This tour is part of the PNC Broadway Across America-Pittsburgh series, presented by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Symphony and Broadway Across America. For more information about the PNC Broadway Across America-Pittsburgh subscription series, please call (412) 456-1390. Groups of 10 or more may call 412-471-6930.