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Beginning a Blue Streak

Blue Man
Photos by Dan Pulcrano

Blue Man Special: Is SF ready for the East Coast's wackiest performance group?

Can New York's strangest performance group find a second home in the City by the Bay?

By Christa Palmer

Mmembers of New York City's Blue Man Group performance company slipped into San Francisco a couple of weeks ago to scout out locations for a West Coast venue. But though they scoped out lots of interesting places to house their wildly popular three-man performance, Blue Man Group remains without a Bay Area home. While still relatively unknown here, the Blue Man Group has been an East Coast cult sensation since 1991, when they opened Tubes at New York's Astor Place Theatre. Blue Man routinely plays to sold-out houses every night of the week in New York as well as Boston, with audiences coming from all over the world to see them perform.

Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, three longtime friends, began doing their Blue Man act on the sidewalks of New York City in 1987. The strange phenomenon took off from there.

Blue Man

Like Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote about pornography, a Blue Man performance is nearly impossible to describe, but you certainly know one when you see it. Three bald-pated men, painted bluer than a band of Pictish warriors, move about on the stage in an eerie, wordless unison, oddly childlike, banging away at kettledrums while squeezing tubes of paint or stuffing handfuls of Cap'n Crunch cereal into their mouths to create a symphony of chomping.

They mix high technology with popular culture and in the process create a bigger mess than a cafeteria food fight. The troupe's 80-minute theater piece is littered with volcanic eruptions of paint, Twinkie cream, Jell-o, video cameras, crepe paper and, of course, blue makeup. The pranksters are known for such gags as enticing audience members onto the stage for a banquet of Twinkies or encasing one hapless person's head in a mold of orange Jell-o.

Manuel Igrejas, the group's public relations and marketing director, says that the Blue Man team which came out to San Francisco saw lots of opportunities within the local creative management scene, but after looking at about five to six different venues, the group's search still continues.

Blue Man

"Blue Man needs a theater where we can alter the lobby to make audiences feel as if they are in a different world, using props like talking paintings and tubes," Igrejas says. "We are also looking for a space that has a seating capacity of 500. Theatre on the Square is the closest we came to seeing a venue that would best suit the Blue Man show. But we still have not ruled out all the others that we looked at just yet either," says Igrejas, who raises the possibility of Blue Man bypassing San Francisco in favor of a certain lakeside city.

"Chicago is an interesting prospect as well, so if San Francisco is not the first city we venture into, then it will be the second," he continues. "There are a lot of us here at Blue Man who really like San Francisco and we've had a lot of offers from venues that would be very excited to have our show open there, so the door remains open. It's just a matter of deciding where and when."

For more information on Blue Man or to offer the group a venue, contact Astor Place Theatre, 434 Lafayette St., NY, NY 10003. Phone: 212/387-9415.

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From the November 1996 issue of SF Live

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