Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink are entrepreneurs who created and oversee the global Blue Man Group enterprise, which has brought joy to more than 17 million people. That these three bald and blue characters would become a cultural phenomenon is an idea that was all but unimaginable when these inscrutable beings first emerged.
“We weren’t really goal-oriented,” says Stanton. “When we started walking around [New York], we did it because we wanted to see how people reacted. And being bald and blue was our social life. We didn’t want to go to bars and be part of a singles scene. We wanted our social life to be somehow creative. We knew we would eventually do some kind of performance, but we never envisioned a commercial theater run.”
Blue Man Group’s wildly popular, always evolving theater piece has been a mainstay in New York, Boston and Chicago for years. Now touring the country for the first time, there are also productions in Las Vegas and Orlando, and there are or have been productions in Tokyo and throughout Europe.
The show is an absurd and wondrous blend of music, painting, science and technology, as the Blue Men silently engage in a variety of set pieces that run the gamut from primitive and childlike to witty and sophisticated.
Although the Blue Man been around for more than two decades, his founders still can’t entirely explain where he came from. Like the character himself, his origin is enigmatic.
“There really isn’t an explanation,” says Goldman. “Chris dug up a picture that he drew when he was five years old, and it had three blue men in it. And I had a thing in my wallet for years with a blue tribe in South America. I don’t know why it was there; I never put pictures in my wallet. We think the Blue Man has always been here. The best answer is that we found each other.”
The traits of the Blue Man developed gradually.
“We wanted to make a statement about community, about the power of a group, as opposed to the American individualist mentality,” says Stanton. “We thought the character would express community through something tribal, and drumming seemed the way to go. Chris had trained as a drummer, and I was from a really musical background. We wanted to draw from our own interests and backgrounds, and bring them into some kind of performance. We wanted to express something about the process, or the impulse to create.”
They developed material for three years, performing in downtown clubs and event spaces. In 1991, they were invited to perform at La MaMa, off-off-Broadway. The show created a buzz, and that summer Blue Man Group took part in Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun Festival. In the fall they moved off-Broadway to the Astor Place Theater, where they remain to this day.
The Blue Man Group plays the Fox Theatre from Jan. 18 to 23.