News Column

Blue Man Group embraces audience [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

November 1, 2013

YellowBrix

Actor Benjamin Forster couldn't be happier being Blue.

He doesn't even mind the involved process of getting into his wardrobe and dabbing on the signature royal blue makeup before each Blue Man Group performance.

The makeup alone takes at least half an hour.

"First you shave all the hair off your face, then you apply a layer of glue, then the bald cap, and then the blue greasepaint and you're good to go," says Forster, a native of Lancaster County. Under his costume, he wears a variety of harnesses, wireless belt packs and headphones to enable him to perform the special effects in the show.

The three Blue Men onstage follow a script of sorts -- Forster calls it "a destination, but the journey's always different" -- and they don't say a word. Still, good communication is vital to the success of each high-energy performance.

"We can't talk, but we use a variety of storytelling techniques, comedy, music and technologies to communicate," says Forster, a member of Blue Man Group's touring company that stops in Greensburg for two shows Nov. 6 and 7. "The show is kind of a celebration of art, technology and music, and it's more of an experience than a show."

Forster says it's difficult to explain a typical Blue Man Group performance because each one is different. Basic components include original musical instruments, a live band, the loud beating of drums, audience interaction, multimedia theatrics and a party atmosphere.

"At the end of the show, we release helium balloons into the audience that are 6 feet in diameter. It's like a huge beach party," he says.

The audience plays a big role in the direction of the performances.

"It's strange how different groups of people behave," he says. "Some nights, the audience is quiet and tends to be listeners. Other nights, it's really apparent the audience is going bonkers and we have to rein them in. We like to embrace that."

Forster says one of his favorite aspects of his role as a Blue Man is experiencing the audience interaction that enables the removal of "the fourth wall," an imaginary division that separates theatergoers from characters onstage.

"We're not separated from the audience," he says. "It's rare that you get to do a theater show where you get to interact with the audience. There's no barrier in this show, and we're actually looking at the people and reacting to the people. That's the best."

Before he joined the cast of Blue Man Group, Forster portrayed Carruthers, a supporting character in an episode of Season 2 of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" in 2011. He graduated with honors from New York University with a double major in drama and urban design. His theater credits include John Jesurun's "Liz One" and "Shadowland" and Richard Foreman's "Astronome."

Following their traveling show, the Blue Men go back to any of the group's venues in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando and New York, or aboard a Norwegian cruise ship or to various European shows. Forster will return to his home base with Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

"I'm having a blast," he says.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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