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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide

The Blue Man Group makes a two-show stop at Green Bay's Radisson Three Clans Ballroom on Tuesday. (PHOTO: Darbe Rotach)

Blue Man talks makeup, music and about the show


In 1991, the show that is now known as The Blue Man Group opened in New York's Astor Place Theatre as a show called "Tubes." The performance evolved and today, Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin and Tokyo house permanent Blue Man Group shows and the traveling show continues to visit hundreds of cities every year.

The Blue Man Group travels to Green Bay's Radisson Three Clans Ballroom on Tuesday, Aug. 11 for shows at 4 and 8 p.m.

The Blue Man Group is a performance art troupe and musical group featuring a cast of actors / musicians who appear in black clothing, blue grease-painted faces and bald heads. The Blue Men do not speak, but are extremely expressive with their faces, body language and instruments.

The traveling show, which includes the two performances scheduled in Green Bay, is a one-hour compilation featuring many of the Blue Man group's funniest and most popular performance pieces along with new material.

Traditionally, The Blue Man Group invites audience members to participate in some of the pieces that comment on science and technology, innocence, information overload, modern art and more.

Recently, OnMilwaukee.com spoke to traveling performer Jeffrey Brown about his experiences in the shade of blue.

OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you been a Blue Man?

Jeffrey Brown: I have been a Blue Man for 10 years this month.

OMC: Have you always been part of a traveling show?

JB: I was in a sit-down show for a year in New York, actually at the Astor Place Theatre where the show originated. Then I performed in the Vegas show for three years and have been traveling since then.

OMC: What was your audition like for the Blue Man Group?

JB: Ten years ago, I answered an open call that was printed in the San Francisco Chronicle. I was an actor and a drummer, so this sounded like a great fit for me. I got an audition, and they had me look into camera as if I had never seen it before and stare into the camera very deeply and express with my eyes and face, "What is this?"

I was called back the next day, and was asked to tell a story without talking. The story line they gave me was, "Oh my God. Something horrible. Wait, it's actually good. Something wonderful is going to happen." I told that story with my eyes.

Then I flew out to New York for two weeks and learned some of the pieces -- the Cap'n Crunch piece, the paint drumming piece -- and they put me in the makeup and I performed for a team of directors. This was the most intense part of the audition process. It was like a two-week reality show, you didn't know if you were staying or leaving. You could get cut at any time.

OMC: So, all of the Blue Men are drummers?

JB: For the most part. You have to be a drummer and an actor -- some of us are more one than the other -- but the drumming skills are extremely important. I had drummed with bands beforeI joined Blue Man Group.

OMC: How long does it take to put on your makeup? What's it like wearing all of that makeup?

JB: It take about 40 minutes to apply the makeup, and that's with one person helping out. Your skin gets used to the makeup; it's the bald cap that's more of a problem. You have to glue it on, so taking it on and off is definitely more of a problem.

OMC: Is the Blue Man Group performance art?

JB: Absolutely. My understanding is performance art is anything that doesn't fit into a traditional performance genre, like a play, and because this show is so unique it falls into the performance art category.

OMC: Why is this show so popular?

JB: It is universal on so many levels. It's funny -- both in a slapstick and and an intellectual way -- and the music is amazing. There is so much to get out of it, and yet there isn't any language. We don't speak, which allows this show to communicate to people around the world. We communicate with out eyes and our bodies and it absolutely amazing how well it translates.

OMC: What exactly are the Blue Men?

JB: They are the human experience. They aren't aliens or robots, and this is clear in the show. They are so human, which is so much a part of why people love it so much.

OMC: Is this show appropriate for children?

JB: Yes! Children -- especially those 7 and older -- love the show, because they see us as cartoon characters, and the show is filled with so much color and sound. But there are so many layers to the show, which is why adults enjoy it, too. They understand what we're really commenting on, whether it's the information age or art, and they get a whole different experience. The show really brings people together in a unique way.

OMC: I remember going to the show about a decade ago in Chicago and the people in the front row had to wear plastic ponchos because paint splattered from the stage. Is the traveling show as messy as the permanent shows?

JB: No, we don't need the ponchos for the traveling show. For the sit-down shows we give the audience members in the first row ponchos because some of the pieces are pretty messy. But the touring show is not as messy, because we need to travel a little lighter and can't bring as much stuff on the road.

OMC: Which Blue Man are you?

JB: Our roles are interchangeable. There are three of us, and every night is a different show, so we change parts to keep it exciting and fresh. The band does the same thing.

OMC: Has a female ever been cast in the show? Is there a Blue Woman?

JB: There was a Blue Woman in the Boston show. She performed for two or three years. I got to perform with her for a week once and she was great. Women audition for the show -- and they are encouraged to do so -- but it's difficult to find the perfect combination of a woman who is an actor, a drummer and the right height.


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