Blue Man Group: ‘Trust is key’

Blue Man Group will kick off their first-ever drum off in New York City tomorrow.

Blue is my favourite colour. In my teenage years, I wore it a lot. Some people during that time wore blue contacts. I wasn’t as brave. However, I had blue hair and a plethora of Blue’s Clues dolls and a Smurf infatuation. Nonetheless, nothing compared to the similar hued faces I’d see ever so often. Therefore, I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t know what the Blue Man Group was—in full—until now.

After my research, I’ve found that the group has been around for 26 years. Presently, I’m 31. It is the longest running off-Broadway productions in New York City. The Blue Man Group has performed in more than twenty countries. Over thirty-five million people worldwide have experienced their live show. Personally, I think it is fascinating. I have yet to see the bizarre adventure.

In a deeper breakdown, the live occurrence is a culmination of art, comedy, music, and technology. Tomorrow (September 23), the band will play the first New York Drum Off, in partnership with Astor Alive! Festival.

Ahead of the announcement, Blue Man Group hosted a contest for drummers to create and submit a video showing off their skills. Each contestant had to upload their videos to YouTube or Vimeo with a branded hashtag—#BlueManDrumOff—and #Contest. Luckily, before all of the fun, I had the chance to speak with Mark Frankel from the legendary Blue Man Group. All things considered, read our conversation below.

Blue Man Group
Photo: Stage Entertainment

You’ve been part of the legendary group for thirteen years. What do you like most about the production?

Without a doubt, the amazing group of talented people that I get to work with every day.

Take us through your audition.

It was a long process with many steps and phases. The first day, they just wanted to see what I looked like and if I could convey emotion basically just using my eyes. I had no idea what I was doing, but I listened to the director and kept it simple. I wasn’t an actor, only a drummer. I thought I blew the audition, but they kept calling me back in. After about three callbacks, I got to get into character. It was only at that point that I thought I had a shot. Little did I know it would be another three months of an extended training/audition. It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. 

What makes the Drum Off special? Are you a drummer?

Drum solos! You’ll get to hear three great, but unknown drummers play their hearts out. It’s pure passion, and that’s always fun to see. Might want to bring some earplugs. I started playing the drums when I was very young and played professionally before I started as a Blue Man. In the show, we play the drums in a way that’s specific to the character, which is more about primal expression than finesse and subtlety. I really have to switch gears when I sit back down on the kit.

The colour blue is parallel to great qualities like trust, confidence, and loyalty. Would you say it is part of The Blue Man Group’s credo?

That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure the colour blue was initially chosen with those specific things in mind, but when I think about it, that speaks to the tribal nature that is at the core of the show. Trust is key; we have to trust each other as performers, and the audience has to trust us. It’s only on that foundation that we can create an environment that pulls you out of your reality and into ours. 

Has becoming a member of the group made you a better person?

No question. You know, in a way, the arc of a single blue man show is a depiction of the arc of a life. I know that sounds intense, but we start the show new and unsure of our surroundings, and by the end, we’ve ascended to this exalted place of deep connection and experience. I can extend that parallel to my time in this company and see how I’ve grown and built so many essential connections. I met my wife here and had a baby, made several very close friends and travelled the world. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about who I am, and have shed some stuff that I didn’t need to carry.

What can we expect from the show on the 23rd (tomorrow)?

A contest like this gives drummers a chance to think of their instrument as a singular form of musical expression. No accompaniment, just the drums themselves. It’s very challenging to create a piece of solo music on the kit without getting too caught up in a display of speed and chops. Those are definitely components of what kit drumming is comprised of, but it has to groove above all else. The contestants will have a chance to powwow, connect, listen, learn and be inspired. The winner will walk away with a great sense of accomplishment and a beautiful new kit. Cool!

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is the North American Press Agent and US Business Manager for Oxlade; Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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