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Stockholm 2010, day five

Another great day, and tomorrow I’ll be on my way home. Even so, it does feel like I’ve been here for more than a week, and I certainly wished I had time to experience even more.

I didn’t get much done today, other than the last dose of Blue Man Group for a while.

I met up with the stage production supervisor (I believe his name is Richard Herrick – at least that’s what the program says, and it sounds about right) at 14:45 (or 2:45 PM for you 12-hour geeks out there), a little over an hour before the show would be starting. He had been at the Stockholm show for some time now, as he was training someone to take over the production supervision for the Stockholm show while he went to London. He usually travels around a bit, and is involved in every Blue Man Group stage production all over the world.

He took me backstage, and was told I would get some secrets to things behind the production. Just that bit of trust kept me from taking out my camera and snapping shots like mad. I’ll share some trivia tidbits with you, the blog readers, but I’ll keep some of the secrets to myself, to avoid spoiling too much of the fun.

I actually got to know a little about how Chris, Matt and Phil (the original three Blue Men – last names are Wink, Goldman and Stanton, in that order) got started in their stage production. They got their start in New York, which is also where the Blue Man Productions global headquarters are located, an organization which I believe turns 20 next year. In the beginning, these three were performing every single show themselves, but when Phil hurt his hand bad, it prevented him from drumming, a major part of the Blue Man character. One of their regular drummers had learned much of the show to heart, and they decided to give him a chance at taking Phil’s place in the performance of the show. This went over quite well, and it showed that anyone, with the right training (combined with the right height and build), can perform as a Blue Man, which in turn opened up for what would later be a global expansion. Today, there are permanent shows (more or less) in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin and Tokyo, with touring shows around the U.S. and around Europe (currently in Stockholm, but moving on to Vienna in November).

And as I figured out, the stage production supervisor is more or less like the director of the show, directing the pace of the show as it happens, and a direct line to each of the performers’ ears, to give directions and visual cues for the show elements.

I got to see the what the stage looks like before the show starts (mainly, what’s obscured by the big white screen when the audience is allowed to enter and find their seats), where I found some things I expected (like the “angel airpoles” seen as shadows at the very beginning), and some things that surprised me (I’m not telling). And a close view of the text board and the preparation of the cereal boxes. I got a closer look at the “main” PVC instrument (or, at least, one half of it), along with the props used in that exact half (several sets of paddles and lighters – yes, that half). I also got to see the paint drums up close, and the mechanics that drives the special effects associated with them (lights and the flow of paint). I even got to see the LED back wall up close (where some video is shown). Next, our focus turned to the prop room, which they take with them on the tour. This “kitchen” is where they prepare all of the props used in each show, along with a big fridge which keeps some elements cooled between each show. I got to see props for the shows, and one of the backpack tubulums, stored near the props station. I also got an unsold spin art from the day before, as well as drum sticks. These are the type of drum sticks used for the paint drumming. The soft spot at the end simply gets soaked by the paint, eventually to the point where the drum sticks are no longer usable, which was why I just got a pair.

Next, we headed off to the other side of the stage, where the TV heads, the other backpack tubulum, a few more props (close-up of the “gumballs”), and a make-up station for the Blue Men. This is where they come backstage at certain points to freshen up their blue make-up, and more or less vent at eachother (the Blue Man character doesn’t talk, so they get a chance to talk a little while there’s a video showing up on the large screen.

Another fun fact: for each show, the performers are assigned one of the three characters; left, center and right. Or Matt, Chris and Phil, as they’re also called (named after the original performers and founding members of Blue Man Group – not exactly in that order, but Chris was always the center one). Each of these characters have specific tasks during the show (which are usually improvised upon, depending on the situation). The original performers no longer perform at any of the shows, though, but they are more involved in the management and creative direction of the shows’ content.

The backstage tour was shorter than expected, but a fun experience. I was even introduced to several crew members as the backstage tour went along. The crew was from just about everywhere, some from Berlin, some picked up in Basel, Zurich, the US, just to mention a few.

The show itself was great as usual, but now it’s over for this round. Maybe I’ll be able to go the US of A again next year? You never know.

Now I just need to figure out how to get all of this with me back home…