This month marks two major milestones in one of Off-Broadway’s longest running and most successful productions since its debut at Astor Place Theatre in 1991. On Sunday, November 7, at 2 pm. the theatrical phenomenon Blue Man Group, owned and operated by Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, presented its 16,000th performance, and on Wednesday, November 17, it will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a week (November 15-20) of special birthday content.
Audiences at the November 17th show will receive a commemorative ‘90s throwback item after the performance. Additional festivities and special offers during the month include: $30 tickets for the first 30 purchasers through the website on Mondays in November, using the code “BDAY30” for any Blue Man Group New York performance through December 25, 2021; all audience members of every Friday evening performance at Astor Place Theatre in November will receive a surprise post-show giveaway item; audience members of all Saturday performances throughout the month can take advantage of Blue Man Group’s “World’s Best Double Chocolate Brownies” for 30 cents each; and Blue Man Group will make surprise appearances on dates throughout November at some of NYC’s top attractions, including One World Observatory on Thursday morning, November 11.
Known for its award-winning theatrical productions, iconic characters, and creative explorations appealing to a broad range of age groups and cultural backgrounds, Blue Man Group consists of three bald blue men fostering human connection through art, music, comedy, and non-verbal communication while considering today’s cultural norms with wonder, poking fun at the audience’s collective quirks, and reminding us how much we all have in common. The show is continually refreshed with new music, stories, custom instruments, and state-of-the-art technology.
The live show has expanded to additional domestic residencies in Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas, a European residency in Berlin, and multiple North American and international tours. Since its original premiere, Blue Man Group has thrown more than 560,000 marshmallows, shared more than 43,000 Twinkies with New York audiences, entertained nearly 50 million people in more than 15 countries, and encouraged fans everywhere to reconnect with their inner child to see the world through a new perspective.
Before the big anniversary week celebrations, General Manager Tim Aumiller spoke with me about his longtime association with Blue Man Group, what it means to him, and what he’s most looking forward to this month.
Tell us a little about how you became involved with the show and what you’ve enjoyed about working with it.
Tim: I first saw it in 1993, with theater professors from Kansas, where I’m from, and at the end of the decade I started working here. I lived in New York briefly after undergrad, then moved back in ’99. A good friend of mine was working in press and marketing when the Vegas show was getting ready to open – there was a steady ascension of the show – and because it was growing, she told me they’re looking for new people to work with them and I’d be perfect.
The first few years I was Assistant to the Artistic Director, working in NYC, Boston, and Chicago, all of which were basically the same set. Then in 2003, I moved into the position of Director of Performer Training, once the Blue Men were found. It’s a very intense eight-week process; I loved being in rehearsal and working with the actors. In 2010, I expanded into both casting and training, which had previously been two separate roles. I got to travel all over the world, to London, Berlin, Brazil – it was an incredible experience!
Can you describe the audition, rehearsal, and selection process for performers to become a Blue Man?
Tim: We start with group auditions, which is fairly unusual for most actors, and some non-verbal storytelling. When we are looking at them, we want to know what’s going on in their minds; do we believe there’s something in there? Then there’s a two-day call-back process for people we think have potential, working in groups of three, fundamentally to see that sense of play, give and take, and the basic mirroring exercise of taking charge and surrendering in equal parts. After that we pare down the group again and give them the drumming and music test, which we can teach, but requires a lot of independent effort. The ones who make the cut are invited in pools to classes, where we figure out the right fit.
The actors have always had to agree that they would be willing to relocate, because they might not be in the NYC production, they could be cast elsewhere. In the end, the three guys on stage are chosen out of 3,000, so each of them is 1 in 1,000, which guarantees the audience the best possible experience.
For those readers who haven’t seen Blue Man Group before and aren’t familiar with the performance, can you explain what audiences can expect and what you hope they take away from the 30th anniversary experience?
Tim: It’s still difficult for me to answer that question, even after eighteen years! It’s a lot of things; it’s physical comedy, non-verbal storytelling, music, and an audience-centered experience, which is what set it apart when it began in the ‘90s. We hope the audience feels a connection to that sense of play, childlike wonder, joy, and being silly, because we’re thrilled to be back!
Thank you, Tim, for sharing the background of Blue Man Group with us and congratulations on this major anniversary celebration!
Blue Man Group plays an open run at Astor Place Theatre, 434 Lafayette Street, NYC. For tickets, ranging from $66-102, go online. All audience members 12 years or older must show proof of full vaccination at check-in, in the form of the CDC card, a clear photocopy of the card, or a clear mobile phone photo, completed at least 2 weeks before attendance. Exceptions are being made for patrons with a medical condition or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination, who must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 6 hours. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test, presented on paper or digitally, must show your name, the date and time of the test, the type of test taken, and the results. Following CDC guidance, masks will be required for all patrons regardless of vaccination status.