BWW Interviews: BLUE MAN GROUP's Mike Brown Talks This Week's Durham Engagement
Durham is about to get Blue! The Blue Man Group comes to town this Thursday. In anticipation of their arrival, I chatted with Blue Man Mike Brown about exactly what Blue Men do, what it takes to be a Blue Man, and what audiences can expect when they see a Blue Man Group show.
Being a Blue Man Group newbie myself, Brown first gave me a quick run-down of what Blue Man Group is and what they do. Brown described Blue Man Group as a "multi-media theatrical event" in which "three unique characters interact with their surroundings ...with the goal of creating a larger sense of community within the space, within the theater, within everybody." He went on to add that "the Blue Men don't speak - they use other ways to communicate, particularly music, mainly in the use of percussion-based instruments because percussion speaks to the heart of rhythm, and that is something that really connects to life in general. People can really feel that instrument," Brown also added that the Blue Men use their eyes and actions to communicate.
The Blue Man Group has been around for quite some time now. I was curious about how the show has changed and evolved over the years, and it seems like technology and culture have been driving forces in shaping the Blue Man Group show. As Brown puts it, "the show has changed as Blue Man's interest in his surroundings has changed. We've implemented new tools recently which resemble giant iPhones, that the Blue Men interact with - and an iPhone, I don't think you could pick a better symbol to define a culture. [It is] a culture that Blue Man is interested in and wants to interact with."
Brown added that there are other themes pulsing through the show, and he stressed the importance of creating a sense of community through the performance. Brown eloquently stated, "Blue Man's not out there to do something that has been done before. A theme is to really push the boundaries of what is possible through theater."
So, what does it take to be a Blue Man? I askEd Brown all about how someone becomes a Blue Man, the training involved, and the process of becoming part of the group. He noted that there are certain requirements of all Blue Men - a height requirement, for example, which provides a continuity of appearance amongst members onstage. Being able to "communicate with your eyes" is a must, and it doesn't hurt if you're already adept at catching things in your mouth. The most important thing about being a Blue Man? According to Brown, "you have to have sort of a charisma about you - usually people who are more outgoing or willing to be silly, they end up being comfortable in the role of the Blue Man." Brown himself is largely a self-taught percussionist, having played in bands with friends in high school and college, and his educational background is in theater. He got his foot in the door, as he says, with the Blue Man group by initially working for them behind the scenes. When an open call for the group came up, he auditioned and became a Blue Man himself.
Since Brown comes from a background in theater, I wondered if that was typical for Blue Men. Brown shared with me that there are Blue Men who are trained in theater, who learn the percussion elements once they begin the process of being a Blue Man (during the audition or rehearsal phases), and that there are also Blue Men whose training is in percussion, who learn the theatrical elements of the role on the job.
Brown is passionate about the ability of percussion (and the Blue Man performance as a whole) to speak to people across generations and cultures, noting that Blue Man Group "is for everyone, young and old, because there's no spoken words. Culturally [speaking], you can be from anywhere and still connect to things within the show."
When asked what audiences can expect at a Blue Man Group performance, Brown says, "you can expect to have a lot of fun, you can expect to be completely wowed by what you're going to see. You can definitely expect to be surprised and amazed, by not only the theatrical pieces we perform, but also how the show can make you feel."
The Blue Man Group will be performing at the Durham Performing Arts Center this week, from September 5 - 8. For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.