The Blue Man Group has a strange act: Three mute men, painted deep cerulean, perform sketch comedy and play percussion instruments that would look right at home under one of Dr. Seuss’ Who’s Christmas trees. The group has a successful act as well. Over 35 million people worldwide have so far watched the indigo avant garde trio in action, and quite a few more will join them over the course of the Speechless Tour. That show is coming to the State Theatre February 4th through 9th, so I asked long-standing Blue Man Group captain Meridian to break his silence.
How do you maintain that deadpan expression throughout so colorful an act?
That’s one of the greatest challenges of the job. We always have a lot of fun being Blue Men up on stage, as you can imagine, and a lot of the unexpected happens during every single performance. You just have to get used to keeping your face straight. Naturally you’re encouraged never to break character, but the Blue Man Group isn’t the kind of operation that would punish its performers too harshly just for cracking a smile.
What exactly is a Blue Man supposed to be? Some kind of alien?
We don’t think of the Blue Man as alien, no. To us, he represents the concept of “other” — something quite familiar, in some ways, but also entirely different in others. Ironically, we channel that “otherness” by finding the core of what makes us human, things like our shared desires to connect and to create. We perform mute to do away with extraneous noise in order to find that character.
Performing mute, and in blue, must have contributed to a lot of your success.
Absolutely. Doing away with language lets the Blue Man Group transcend culture to put on a show that anyone can appreciate. Whether we perform in Russia, Japan, or Minnesota, we always get a huge reaction. The blue paint isn’t just to make us look striking. It also makes that “otherness” quality easier to achieve by making us indistinguishable from one another, and anonymous. I think it might somehow confuse people if they knew who a Blue Man really is.
What’s the learning curve on one of those bizarre entanglements of PVC piping that you play on stage?
A pretty big one. In many cases no one has ever played our instruments before, so we have to teach them to ourselves. I think we do a pretty good job of it, though!
What can we expect at the Speechless Tour in Minneapolis?
I love this tour. Usually one of our shows takes on the premise of the Blue Men getting dropped off in an unfamiliar culture, and having to slowly and carefully figure it out. But in Speechless, the Blue Man space is dropped right into the theater, and we invite our audience into it. It’s like stumbling across an “other” place. There’s also a lot of audience participation in Speechless. It’s just a lot of fun, and we’re really looking forward to coming back to Minnesota!
Hopefully the Blue Man Group isn’t mistaken in Minneapolis for a bunch of guys who are merely freezing to death in our wonderful weather. That they’ve already survived Russia is, at least, encouraging. To learn more about the joyful experience that unites audiences of all ages, and purchase tickets to Speechless, you need only go to hennepintheatretrust.org.
The Blue Man Group at the State Theatre
Tue, Feb 4 @ 7:30pm
Wed, Feb 5 @ 7:30pm
Thu, Feb 6 @ 7:30pm
Fri, Feb 7 @ 8:00pm
Sat, Feb 8 @ 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Feb 9 @ 1:00pm & 6:30pm
By David Scheller