A printing company executive might refer to the color as cyan while a climatologist might opt for the term cerulean. A men's pants manufacturer would call it navy and a jeweler's choice would be sapphire.
But for the trio of men who perform in what has become one of the most popular touring groups in recent years, the choice is simple: blue. The ensemble, of course, is the Blue Man Group. Presented by Celebrity Attractions, Blue Man Group brings its eclectic show to Oklahoma City this week for five performances.
The Blue Man Group's routines are quirky, unconventional and rather noisy. Varying lengths of PVC pipe become musical instruments when struck. In another sketch, the cast gobbles up some Cap'n Crunch cereal which creates an audible rhythm when their chewing is amplified.
Created in 1991 by Chris Wink, Philip Stanton and Matt Goldman, Blue Man Group is an innovative form of performance art. The performers wear bald skull caps that cover their ears and most of their faces. The remaining area is coated with blue greasepaint.
The result gives the performers a unified look that some might consider confining. Actually, the opposite is true; the performers achieve a sense of freedom in much the same way a stage actor disappears into character.
“When you're in full makeup, it helps you get into the head space of the characters and the show,” said Blue Man Group performer Kirk Massey. “We call it ‘getting bald and blue.' We also share dressing rooms which allows us to hang out and bond with each other.”
But unlike actors cast in a comedy, drama or musical, the performers in Blue Man Group don't speak. Much like the world of ballet, the performers must convey changing moods and emotions without the benefit of speech.
“When you don't have to worry about lines, it frees you in a way,” Massey explained. “Your actions must speak for themselves and it forces you to be as honest as possible. It's like two friends in a meeting who shoot each other a look and know what the other is thinking. It's really fun to get into that aspect of acting.”
The training to become a Blue Man member requires weeks spent with a director who works on skills ranging from throwing and catching objects with precision, to spitting paint at a rotating canvas. Massey calls it “boot camp for special skills.”
“It's pretty intensive but it's also dealing with things completely outside the box,” Massey said. “We also explore character study and learn about interacting with the audience. In a Blue Man show, there is no fourth wall. We depend on getting authentic responses from an audience. How they react influences what we do. Everything is tailored just for the people in the hall that night.”
In the two decades since Blue Man Group was formed, advances in technology have had a dramatic impact on countless areas of society, from changes in the way we communicate (Twitter, Facebook) to how we keep up on current events (videographers now capture political events as they unfold and the internet provides unrestricted access to sites that deal with the dissemination of news both popular and arcane).
Not surprisingly, Blue Man Group has incorporated new forms of technology into its shows, from LED lighting to projections of images on screens and walls. Unlike a pure theatrical performance, the Blue Man Group's presentations evolve in tandem with technology.
“Technology has given the Blue Man Group an infinite landscape to play in,” Massey said. “It's about experiencing the world in its current state. What would a Blue Man do with a giant iPad? Our shows are not tightly scripted, which means there are always opportunities for improvisation.
“Taking a journey together is the driving force behind a Blue Man Group show. We get instant feedback which means we often get to ride the wave of an audience's laughter. Our hope is that an audience has an hour and a half of fun. If that happens, we feel like our mission has been accomplished.”