Blue Man Group Pounds the Pavement, Too

Special Features   Blue Man Group Pounds the Pavement, Too


Few productions have been as ripe for mass saturation of the world than Blue Man Group Tubes. After all, this hip performance art event--featuring visual gags, physical stunts, percussive free-for-alls and satirical assaults on art pretentiousness--has been playing at New York's Astor Place Theatre for four successful years now.

The capacity crowds have included an international bevy of tourists, particularly since the largely non-verbal show--the brainchild of Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink--is especially adept at crossing the language barrier. The high-brow comedy mixes with infantile regression to come up with drip paintings created by spraying paint off kettle drums and food fights featuring whipped cream spurting from the Blue Man's chest.

Since the show opened in New York, producers have been banging down the door, pleading for the rights to bring "Tubes" to the rest of the world. Yet Blue Man branched out only last October, setting up their first beachhead at Boston's Charles Playhouse. So, what took so long?

"Control," says Matt Goldman. "It would have been the end of the project if we had factorized it," adds the 34-year-old former waiter who in 1987 began improvising the street theatre, which evolved into Tubes with some college buddies. "We feel very protective about Blue Man." Indeed, the trio insisted on waiting until the original producers' rights ran out and reverted to them before making a move to expand. What came first was a series of long and involved auditions to augment the original cast. "We're not just looking for another employee," says Goldman. "This is our extended family, and the role demands a unique combination of skills--most stringently, acting skills--with an ability to drum well."

Blue Man Group has now expanded to 11 members--they are looking for one more--who rotate between the two cities. "We have a single project but with two playgrounds," says Goldman. "Both shows are getting stronger by taking on the strengths of their individual venues."

In New York that means the raw, narrow space of the 300-seat Astor Place Theatre, above which are Blue Man's headquarters. In Boston the 525-seat Charles Playhouse has been renovated expressly for Tubes, with a steel structural grid and 275 lighting instruments.

The new audience is a well-heeled, intelligent one, given Boston's reputation as a college center. That is one reason Blue Man chose the city out of the many vying for the show. A smashing reception has followed, but even so, Goldman expresses caution in discussing any further branching out. "If we do, it'll be in a city that shares our fascination with pop culture and the development of the information society and a huge skepticism with it all," he says. "The important thing is that the project grow in the way we want it to, on our own terms."

-- By Patrick Pacheco

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