(Thursday, October 28th, 2010)

Jordan Woods-Robinson

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Photo Credit: Joe Burke

How did I get the opportunity to interview a Blue Man? I asked.

My friend Brook had introduced me to her friend named Tisse, who had introduced me to her friend named Beth, who had questions about publishing and also happened to work behind the scenes of the Blue Man show. “Think a Blue Man would want to do an interview with me?” I asked. It was a question proposed on a whim. The next day she e-troduced me to Jordan through a Facebook message. Before long me and the Blue Man were exchanging messages about where we should meet up.

This interview happened at Dandelion Tea in the middle of the afternoon. It was two strangers meeting for the first time. Jordan was not blue at the time of this interview.

Jana: Did you always aspire to be a Blue Man? Or was it something that happened by chance?
Jordan: I saw the show for the first time in 2001-2002.  I went to visit a friend in New York. She took me to the show and was like, “This is gonna be right up your alley.” From the first time I saw it I loved it. There are certain things you experience and you immediately get. It just hits you somewhere inside.

I went to New York University for Theater. My acting studio was right next door to the [Blue Man] theater, like literally we shared a wall with them. Back then they had an ushering program, so that if you ushered the show you could watch it for free. You just had to give them your name and about two weeks notice, and they’d assign you a specific night.  After you ushered, you’d get a folding chair to sit in the back and watch. I did that four or five times.  Then, during my junior year, Julie, my girlfriend at the time, my wife now, said, “There’s an open call for Blue Man Group coming up and you have to go to it. Why not?” I was like, “Ugh. I’d have to skip class.” But I did. I played hooky and went to the audition. It was an open call with hundreds of people. And an open call in New York … there’s just a slim to no chance of getting anything out of it. But I did it. And about a month later I got a phone call from them saying they liked my open call and that they wanted me to come in and do an acting audition. So I did. When that was over, they said, “That was wonderful. We’re so excited, but we don’t want you to drop out of school to come into training with us. If something happened or you got cut during training … we just don’t want to ruin your life, pull you out of school and you don’t go back. Graduate. Do all of your work. And keep in touch with us.”

So I worked to graduate a semester early, keeping in touch with them the entire time. I’d send Christmas cards and stuff. [Laughs] Then they actually got back to me.

Two weeks before I was to graduate they called and said, “Hey, we heard you’re graduating. Do you wanna come in for training?” And that was it. I went in. Did the six weeks and made it through.  I got whisked out to Vegas to do some coverage out there for about eight months, and then came out to Orlando.

So the show is what moved you here?
Yeah. Julie had a similar story for Disney. She went to an open call in New York for Disney’s Finding Nemo Musical.  I was like, “Yeah, good luck getting that.” She was, “Wouldn’t it be great if I moved to Orlando for Disney and then you got Blue Man and we could all be in Orlando together?” I still was like, “Good luck with your open call that’s not only in New York but in Chicago, LA and all over.” She booked it though, and within her getting close to that I told Blue Man that I needed to go to Orlando.  They moved me down within a month of her getting here. It was perfect. And we’ve been here ever since.

What do you think of this city?
That seems like a weighted question. [Laughs] I don’t think I’d live in Florida if I hadn’t been sent here. I grew up in Tennessee, and even there I was always tired of the slower paced living, which isn’t necessarily the case here. There’s just a certain stagnant vibe too it.

The more I learn about Orlando, the more I like about it. Maybe that’s where we should start. [Laughs] I used to say it has absolutely no culture and there’s no art, but at the time I was living on I-Drive and working at a theme park. It was hard to feel a part of any community. It didn’t matter that I went to the same Publix every time, because I lived in a tourist trap it was assumed I was a tourist. Now, we have a house outside the city and I have more respect for everything. It’s homier. There’s community. Still, I can see the tentacles of Disney and the other theme parks wrapping around everything.

As an actor, you have a certain ego. It’s hard telling someone what you do, and having people say, “I’ve never heard of it.” Here, I’ve never had so many people say, “Oh, you’re an actor? That’s cool. My cousin plays Goofy.” I’m like, “You just completely demeaned me.” [Laughs] It’s not about whether or not you know the show or like the show, or even acknowledge that acting is a profession. It’s just “actors”—and I’ll use quotes here—are seen as a dime a dozen because Disney can put a Mouse head on anybody.

Tell me more about what it’s like being in actor in Orlando.
Before I came to Orlando, I never would have imagined that it was a good place for film and television. But it is.  Film companies are bringing their projects to the Southeast because it’s cheaper and the states are willing to help out more.  As a result, a lot of castings are out of Atlanta or Orlando, and it’s all considered one big melting pot of talent. There are lots of projects to have opportunities to work on.  It’s been a pleasant surprise. I never did film or TV when I was studying acting. When I got here, I found an agent and kind of flew by the seat of my pants. I’ve done well. It’s been a fun experience.

Does Blue Man allow you flexibility for other projects?
It’s fairly open. Fortunately, the company realizes that as an actor trying to recreate the exact same show every night, you sometimes need to get away for a little while.  Most of the time, they’re willing to accommodate that. We don’t have a set schedule. So when in a casting room, I can say, I have availability if I can know in advance.

I’m at Blue Man five days a week. There are five guys in town right now, so someone is always available to fill in at a show. We’re all currently working on other projects to keep our careers, or egos, going. Whatever you want to call it. [Laughs]  We really focus on it being a brotherhood.

How long does it take to get into costume?
You can do it in half an hour. We allow an hour so that we’re not rushed. Most of the time, it’s just sticking around waiting for the glue to dry. We have this strong glue that we put on and then a cap. It’s all hand made by this one family in the mid west somewhere. But we wait for the glue to dry, stick on the suit, and we have people around us to help cut it all down and make sure it’s smooth.

So it’s not all make-up, it’s like a skin?
Yeah. For the most part.

Does the glue eat away at your skin?
If you’re dry, you’re skin will really absorb the glue and it’s nearly impossible to get it off. We have a bunch of solvents we use. Everyone knows their skin and knows what’s best for them after doing so many shows. I’m always asked if my face breaks out. All we’re using on our face is grease paint. I actually like it because I get to exfoliate every day. You have to scrub your face with so much stuff. It works for me. I like how my skin feels after a show.

What’s the hardest part about staying in character?
The unexpected. The stories that we’re telling in our heads and that the Blue Men are trained into is very serious: life or death. So there’s no laughing, unless something completely unexpected happens. Then, we as humans, see how funny or how bizarre it is. If you don’t focus on staying in the character mindset then you’re like, “That was hilarious!”

Sometimes the guys will come up with stuff to make each other crack, for no other reason but to try and make each other laugh. It’s a fun game for us.

What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened on stage or during a performance?
Often, guys will hit themselves in the head with drumming mallets. There’s really nothing you can do since there’s only three of us in the show. There’s been times when a guy has gashed himself and he’s bleeding. So he’s had to walk off stage and cover it with blue.

Not too long ago, we had a funny thing where our lighting decided to just throw up all over the place. Our house lights came on and the audience was sitting there exposed. We could see everybody. At first, it was weird. But then it somehow it made the show more intimate.

There’s a strong story [to the show]. In the beginning, we’re isolated because we don’t understand each other. There’s not a fourth wall because we acknowledge the audience as that.  But all of that went out the window when the lights came on. It wasn’t a dark, mysterious void anymore. It was the entire audience staring at us. We didn’t have to try so hard to connect with everyone because we could see them. It was cool.

How did the Blue Man group start? I can’t remember. Was it a rock band or something?
The Blue Man Group started because of a group of people in New York. They were looking at art and artists, and it seemed that everyone was creating art to try to isolate themselves or isolate you. It was kind of elitist, like, “If you don’t understand my art it’s because you don’t understand me. You’ll never be able to understand me.” And that’s not what art should be. Art should bring people together.  It should start debate, conversation, communication and connection. It doesn’t have to be this long drawn out process. It can be spontaneous and a memory that everybody shares.

So a group of people got together to try and create that and bring it into this world. After many, many brainstorming sessions, The Blue Man Group came about. They started out doing guerilla-like stuff. Three guys would pop up in the New York streets, do something, and then disappear as randomly as they appeared. It wasn’t anything that they stuck around after to see what people thought. They just knew that those people, all 17, 23, or however many of them, would have this shared connection whether they realized it or not.

All the elements that came out of the show … like, the reason we throw things like marshmallows and gumballs that dissolve into paint across the stage and catch them in our mouths is because two of the original guys worked in catering together. And in the kitchen, they’d throw things to each other and catch them in their mouths.  It’s something that means nothing more than what it is.

Then one guy was a drummer, so … yeah, we drum.

Why the color blue do you think?
Blue. First of all, the specific shade of blue is called Yves Klein blue, which is after the painter Yves Klein. He had big parties where he’d bring in models and people, paint them blue, and slam them up against the canvas. It represented their life force, essence, at least it was one way of capturing it, ya know?

The blue itself is one of the only colors that doesn’t have a notion attached to it. If we were all green, people would say we’re aliens. Red represents anger. Yellow represents jealousy. Black, well that’s a whole ‘nother story we don’t want to get into. Blue is tranquil. It definitely doesn’t have any negative stigmas to it.

The thing with the blue paint is that it removes any sense of defining characteristics of the actors. If you saw all five actors lined up side by side, we all look extremely different. We don’t have the same facial type or anything like that. But you get us in blue, and people who don’t know us as individuals wouldn’t be able to tell us a part while we’re on stage. It’s an interesting phenomenon. It does a good job of wiping the slate clean so that all you have are eyes to really fixate on.

How many Blue Men are there?
Let’s just say how many shows we have. There are five of them in the US—Boston, Chicago, New York, Vegas and Orlando. We have a North American Tour that has a number of guys on that as well. There’s a cruise ship, European show and show in Japan, all of which have about four to eight guys, depending on the venue.

Why do you think this particular show has been so successful? It’s not like it’s changed at all.
That’s something we’ve talked about inside the company. We need change. The tour that just went out is mostly all new and cutting edge material. That’s where all the US cities are working towards, and these new show pieces and technology will be introduced in Orlando in the next year to year and half probably.

About its success, first of all, the show is universal. Everyone can watch it. Besides a couple of signs and a voice over, the audience doesn’t receive the story line through dialogue. There’s no language barrier. Music is the universal language and that’s pretty much all it is.  We have a rock band that underscores the entire show. We communicate through music.

I know you’re not suppose to talk, but if a Blue Man could what do you think he’d say?
[Laughs] That’s a good question. [Pauses] The three guys are supposed to be one organism, kind of like the three-headed dog. They all see things slightly different, like what should happen next or how they should achieve something, but still they need to work together. So first of all, what they’d be saying is something to get on board with each other. Something like, “What do you think? Good or bad? Good? Good, because that’s what I think. It’s two against one. Let’s try it. If it’s bad, we’ll take a step back and figure out a new plan.” That’d be the main thing.

But then to the audience it’s be, “We’re not so different. Look at us, and look at the person next to you with the same fascination and see them for the first time with open eyes. Let go of all those judgments and just talk to each other.” If you’re trying to play a Blue Man, it helps to practice the same fundamental ideas in real life. It’s hard. We’re flawed beings and that’s what’s cool about the Blue Man. He’s not an alien or someone from a different planet, he’s us, just stripped away of all the negative crap that gets in the way of experiencing. You know?  There’s no resentment or harboring old feelings.

Okay. One last question. Do you guys recycle the paper used during the show?
Yes. We use something ridiculous, like many miles of paper during one show. It’s all recycled. We only deal with one company, and we send it back to them. We strive to be as green as possible.

Even though you’re blue?
[Laughs] Um, yeah.

*Interview Date: October 21, 2010

Visit Jordan’s website to see his latest acting gigs. www.jordanwoods-robinson.com

Posted Thursday, October 28th, 2010 in Artists , Orlando InterviewsTags: , ,
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