Blue Man Group brings avant-garde performance to National Theatre

Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik.
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik.
This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Everly Jazi.

Nearly three decades after Matt Goldman founded the Blue Man Group, the show’s underground and experimental feel endures.

The actor-musicians, wearing bald caps and blue makeup, came to the National Theatre on Tuesday for the first of eight performances. They played drums, painted and performed satirical skits on stage, often breaking down the “fourth wall” between themselves and the audience.

The group never talks, but Goldman said the main themes of the show are expression and communication.

“A lot of people think that being bald and blue is putting on a mask of sorts,” Goldman said. “We consider it the opposite, that we’re taking off the mask. Once you strip away the hair, the skin tone, the gender, the ears and have no particular style of clothing, what’s left? It’s really the rawest, purest form of what’s essentially human.”

Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik.
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik.

Late arrivals at the National Theatre show were shamed on a screen, with the performers stopping their acts to watch the audience members make their way inside.

Russell Rinker, a trained actor and musician from Virginia, is a member of the group that also includes professional dancers and clowns.

Rinker’s first experience with the Blue Man Group was as audience member, when he saw the show in Chicago. After he joined the group, he said he only expected to perform with the other men for a few years.

Almost ten years later, he’s still a part of the national touring group.

“The interesting part for me was to transition from an actor who, when you’re doing Shakespeare, you’re doing musicals, and light opera, it’s all voice, it’s all about the language,” Rinker said. “From doing that into something where you don’t use it at all was really good for me.”

Since he started to perform with the group, Rinker has presented an award with Tony Hawk and was featured on the show “Arrested Development.” He said working with these celebrities has given him a different perspective of his job.

“[Celebrities] always tell us that we’re so lucky that, you know, how we can take the makeup and bald cap off and then just go out in public and no one bothers [us],” Rinker said.

Compared to the bald cap that is glued onto his head, Rinker said the blue grease paint is relatively easy to get off him after a show.

He said the show is unique for every member of the audience, creating an experience that’s both exciting and reflective.

“Everyone’s kind of coming at it from different perspectives and it’s a very weird, kind of abstract thing to get,” Rinker said.

The post was updated May 14, 2014 at 11:56 a.m. to reflect the following:
Correction appended
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Russell Rinker presented an award to Tony Hawk. He actually presented an award with the former professional skateboarder. We regret this error.

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