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Blue Man Group Comes to South Bend

Patrick McManus | Friday, April 20, 2012

South Bend is about to have a case of the blues.

This weekend, the Blue Man Group will be performing at the Morris Performing Arts Center.

The act is a performance-art troupe, whose theatrical shows include live music on conventional and invented instruments, slapstick comedy and multimedia elements.

The show features three men in bald caps, painted completely blue, who do not speak. The show has taken a variety of forms over the years, but it is always an entirely unique experience in the world of theatre.

In fact, it is an experience so unique, trying to articulate its elements is hardly worthwhile. The Blue Man Group’s theatrical performance is centered on character acting. It is rumored members of the Blue Man Group do not break character, even after a performance is over.

Though the setup behind the Blue Man Group is unique and their many shows vary, it may be telling that the area closest to the stage is called the “Poncho Section,” and ponchos are provided in case paint used onstage winds up in the audience.

Today, there are more than 70 Blue Men in a dozen shows around the globe. They perform in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas, as well as Boston, Orlando, Berlin and Tokyo.  Another group is currently performing on Norwegian Cruise Line.

The Blue Man Groups’ international reach is a far cry from their origins as a ragtag group of avant-garde performers, working out of small New York City venues in the early 1990s. Since the group opened an off-Broadway show in 1991, 17 million people have seen them perform, they have won a Drama Desk award, been nominated for a Grammy, appeared on “The Tonight Show” and done a series of Intel commercials.

One humorous way many people have been introduced to the Blue Man Group is through the sitcom “Arrested Development.” The character Tobias Fünke mistakes the performance troupe for a therapy group for sad men. Upon realizing his mistake, he decides to become a standby understudy. In the role he often paints himself blue, despite not formally being part of the group. This enables him to make inappropriate jokes about his role in the group.

Beyond all the mess and frivolity of a Blue Man Group show, the spectacle is meant to address certain themes. As one of the group’s founders, Matt Goldman, has said, “The Blue Man character is about universal human truths. When we got bald and blue for the first time, we knew instantly that we were on to something really special.”

One theme the Blue Men address involves the idea of the outsider, which is why Blue Men always appear in groups of three ¾ the smallest number that enables one to be an outsider. Much of the pathos of the performances comes from the empowerment of one person being singled out from the group. The Blue Men also play with themes of innocence and naiveté, especially in regard to technology and pop culture.

The Blue Man Group will be performing at the Morris Performing Arts Center tonight at 8 p.m, Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you are looking to see a unique and engaging piece of performance art, you should definitely consider checking out the Blue Man Group.