The visualization of sound
May 21, 2008 · 1:54 PM
Hereâs a chance to step into the mind of the famously intriguing Blue Man Group.
The grease-painted pioneers of stretching the boundaries between art, theater, music and science give performances around the world that are intellectually infatuating for adults and likewise fascinating for youngsters. But the Blue Man Group kids museum exhibit âMaking Wavesâ ââ¯which debuts at the Bainbridge Kids Discovery Museum this week ââ¯is a chance to step somewhat behind the scenes of the stage show.
Step into a place where you become the Blue Man.
Blue Man Group brings its kidsâ museum exhibit for a three-month stay at Bainbridge Islandâs KiDiMu, beginning May 22.
âItâs like a petting zoo for art and science, itâs like crawling into a fort of sounds,â Blue Man Group director, former Blue Man himself, Jeffrey Doornbos described the exhibit. âItâs all about taking this thing that we think of as invisible and making it into something very visible and tactile.â
A big part of what the Blue Man Group strives for in its extravagant performances of splattered paint, rhythmic percussion and extreme personality is the visualization of sound, Doornbos noted. So, when the Group was approached by the Boston Childrenâs Museum a few years ago with the idea of a âMaking Wavesâ kidsâ museum exhibit, it seemed a very logical step in the Blue Man progression.
âWeâre constantly looking for ways to reach beyond the entertainment aspect of the show,â Doornbos said. âOur understanding that kids really tap into this stuff really led to an explosion of new ideas.â
In the same way that the Blue Man stage show is catered for adults yet still accessible and exciting for kids, the museum exhibit, coming to KiDiMu, is catered for kids, but still something that adults will undoubtedly dig.
âThatâs really the focus of the museum,â KiDiMu executive director Art Burke noted. âItâs not a place for kids to be just dropped off here, we want kids and parents to come and experience together.â
This 1,500-square-foot âMaking Wavesâ exhibit, the largest and most elaborate KiDiMu has hosted in itâs five-year existence, is a perfect venue for that kind of interaction. It, too, was tailored around the idea of being more than just an individual experience.
âThat âah-haâ moment you get when you come in and see these things for the first time, when the kids will want to grab their parents or grandparents or whoever they came with and say, âlook what I found,â â KiDiMu Vice President Andrew Hill noted.
Opportunities for those âah-haâ moments in âMaking Wavesâ are ripe.
Kids will have the chance to play, and make their own signature Blue Man instruments ââ¯PVC pipes â while also learning how to use another of the Blue Man trademarksâ¯â the human body as a percussion instrument ââ¯with belly drumming. Around the corner, theyâll be able to actually see what sound looks like through virtue of the contraptions like the Theremin organ, an eerie-sounding instrument thatâs played by moving closer and further away, and a sand drum in which speakers mounted under a drum head produce aural vibrations that show up as patterns in sand laid on top.
âYou donât often get a chance to see all this gadgetry that brings sound to such a visual level,â Doornbos said. Other than, of course, at a Blue Man show.
THE LIVING, BREATHING AND EVOLVING BLUE MAN GROUP
Doornbos has a Blue Man for nearly a decade.
After finishing acting school in New York, he started with the company by answering a call to an ad in a trade magazine and in turn becoming one of the Blue Man performers. Over the years, heâs performed in shows around the world and made the segue from performer to director.
The Blue Man Group is actually comprised of more than the three eccentric fellows we see on stage.
Behind the scenes the Group is made up of more than 40 different actors/performers who make up the cast for confluent shows in cities around the United States and into Europe.
âItâs definitely a living, evolving organism,â Doornbos said of the Group. âWhatâs amazing to me about that is the consistency that we get from show to show with all these different performers.â
While Blue Man performances encompass a wide range of aspects from percussion to performance art, the science of sound to sci-fi-esque ideology, the biggest focus for the grease-painted performers, Doornbos noted, is the characterization of the Blue Man.
âPeople ask us all the time ... âAre you dancers, are you actors, musicians, magicians, clownsâ¯â whatâs your deal?ââ he said. âWe are actors ... and we just hope that the actors can play drums as well. Itâs definitely a tricky combination of skills that makes one a Blue Man.â
The Blue Man Group is doing much more than just making a rhythmic racket on stage. Each performer is inhabiting a character that has been alive since Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton founded the Group in the late 1980s, appearing on the streets and performing for passers by.
Even though the performances have moved into theaters, onto more massive stages and on T.V., the aesthetic, not to mention the striking appearance, of the Blue Man remains the same.
âThereâs a transformation that happens from the time we make our way into the theater to the time we go on stage,â Doornbos said. âWhatever happens to our external appearance is almost irrelevant.â
The Blue Man Group will be making a special appearance to unveil the âMaking Wavesâ exhibit at a reception from 5-7 p.m. May 22 for KiDiMu Members and VIP at the museum, 305 Madison Ave. N, suite C on Bainbridge. Thereâs still time to sign up for a KiDiMu membership in order to attend that event. The Blue Man Group will not be a part of the exhibit â which stays through the end of August âÂ otherwise. For more info on becoming a member, call (206) 855-4650.