Hearing that the Blue Man Group holds auditions each summer got us thinking: Who embodies a Blue Man? There's a real life school for that. As the production enters yet another year in Chicago, we look at the personalities and process driving this creative force.
Out of 77 Blue Man hopefuls who auditioned in Chicago in July 2013, only one gentleman moved on to Blue Man School in New York. Competition is fierce. “It’s such a long process that we’re always looking for somebody,” says Tom Galassi, a veteran Blue Man in Chicago since 1997, shortly after the show debuted here. “There have been years 150 people came through but nobody goes through to New York.”
“Blue” men come from all walks of life, and women are welcome to audition too. “There are a lot of Blue men that aren’t professional actors,” Galassi says. “Some are drummers for rock bands. Being a professional actor doesn’t always help. There’s so much to let go of. I did a lot of acting before, but there isn’t anything like this.”
So what exactly does it take to become a Blue Man? You have to be 5’10 to 6’1 and fairly athletic to fit the costume. Then there are the requisite drumming and acting skills, but there’s also a je ne sais quoi. “It’s so sort of surreal and gooey,” Galassi says. “It’s very individual and personal. We are unified but have different personalities. Our Blue Man characters are our own personalities, but heightened.”
It turns out, a Blue Man should be curious, have a passion for life, perhaps with a strong point of view and definitely a sense of humor. “The one thing everyone has is openness about who they are and what they feel,” Galassi says. “That sounds a little spacey but it’s the truth. Blue men try to find life force in things that are normal to us. Sometimes someone walks in and you talk to him for a few seconds and you know that he could be a Blue Man.”
That was the case for Nick Rush, who auditioned to be a Blue Man in June 2010. Within 48 hours of his initial audition, he was invited to Blue Man School in New York. Rush went to Blue Man School for eight weeks with four other hopefuls. Together, they spent the first two weeks learning the show, including spit painting and catching 35 marshmallows in their mouths. The second two weeks consisted of run-throughs in full costume and makeup. Then they had a “bald and blue” run-through for an invited audience at the theater in New York. The three that had not yet been cut started performing in New York for a final four weeks, until finally only Rush was offered a contract.
We talked to Rush about the experience: “We have unlimited access to the training space, so I would go in in the middle of the night,” he says. “The trickiest thing for me was trusting that I could tell a story without talking. It was a complete 180 to go into that world. Six months before I was doing Shakespeare, which was all about language.”
For future Blue men, Rush has one tip. “You can’t be stuck in your ways as an actor or musician,” he says. “You have to be completely open to trying something new.” The unique Blue Man Group performance proves it.