Categorized | Arts & Culture, Reviews

Wharton Center goes Blue

Photo credit: Alex Tekip

“When meeting people from a foreign culture, offer a few gifts that reflect your interests as a gesture of friendship. Better yet, give things you’ve created yourself. Also, explore their interests and their culture. Ultimately, the best way to forge a lasting relationship is to create something together. Whether it is a meal, an art project, or a spontaneous dance party, when you create something with others, you build a connection that lasts a lifetime.”

These words, some borrowed from the International Diplomacy Guidebook, were graced upon a projector before Blue Man Group took the stage at Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall on Sunday, Feb. 22. These simple, powerful paragraph was only the starting point of a performance filled with culture, creativity, and chaos. It was almost as if these words sufficed as a  screenplay of sorts, embodying the entire philosophy of Blue Man Group and the ways in which they perform in a show that exceeded my expectations.

“When meeting people of a foreign culture, offer a few gifts that reflect your interests as a gesture of friendship. Better yet give them things you’ve created yourself.”

The Blue Man Group forms a culture of their own: one where they communicate without speech, motion with acknowledgement, and explore with constant curiosity. These characters understand each other, but do not understand the marvels of our modern society; therefore, they give gifts to reach out to the audience in an attempt to do so.

The Blue Man Group created art projects on stage, such as a pinwheel painting or a mini snowman, and gave them to random audience members. Gifts like these were openly accepted, whereas gifts such as “twinkie mush” in a takeout box (more details to be explained later) were taken very reluctantly.

However, it was not the gift that was important: it was the message behind the gift. It was almost as if the Blue Men were saying “this is what we like, this is a representation of our culture and ourselves, and we would like to share it with you” as a way to fully engage the audience in their creative endeavors. And it worked.

“Also, explore their interests and their culture.”

The Blue Man Group seemed to amazed yet questioning of the technological society that currently defines our culture: baffled and excited about all the things technology can do, yet dismayed at its effects on interaction and personal growth.

An act of the show with 2-d characters afraid to step out of their comfor zone and interact with one another in 3-D instead,effectively conveyed this message.

The performers also encouraged the audience to be aware of the effects technology can have on mental capacity and social interaction (another act where classic literature was dumbed down into tweet language in a fake iPhone app called “Twit that Lit!” was indicative of this).

The Blue Man Group found a less digitized way to interact with the audience based on the culture that we in the crowd were familiar with, col collaboratively playing  popular songs such as Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on a  xylophone.”  During group’s rendition of  “Bad Romance,” each Blue Man disappeared under the xylophone for a few seconds and came back up wearing some sort of headgear. The first two reappeared wearing over-the-top headdresses reminiscent of Gaga’s style, but the third one reappeared wearing a Spartan helmet. This provoked a roar of applause from the audience, one that lasted significantly longer than any cheering during the entire show. Through the simple gesture of putting on the helmet, the Blue Man was showing us that he knew what Michigan State valued, what was important to us, and that he understood our culture…so we welcomed the Blue Men.

“Ultimately, the best way to forge a lasting relationship is to create something together.”

The Blue Men didn’t just perform for the audience; they made the audience a part of their performance.

After giving a gift to an audience member, a Blue Man would raise the audience member’s hand and have the crowd cheer for him or her.

Blue Man Group also took audience members on stage in acts involving a dinner table setting and human painting.

During an act centered around setting a dinner table and eating a meal.  an audience member, presumably in her late teens or early twenties, taught the Blue Men her ways of eating while they taught her theirs-all without speaking. The Blue Men and the girl created a communication system to exchange cultural customs through working together, and a relationship was built.

Later in the show, an adult male audience member was taken backstage and covered in paint. He was then hung from the ceiling by his ankles and swung against a canvas by the Blue Men. The outline of his body was left on the canvas, which was then splattered with even more color. All of this was shown on a camera on the main stage as it was happening, and the man was able to keep the painting of himself that the Blue Men helped create- a memory to remember the moment of collaboration he had with them.

 “Whether it is a meal, an art project, or a spontaneous dance party…”

All of the act previously mentioned  lead up to the big finale of the show: a dance party to the Blue Man Group’s song “Shake Your Euphemism”.

Complete with a techno beat, bright digital images, and a giant dancing stick man operated by the Blue Men, the finale encouraged the audience to stand on their feet and shake their “rump,” “hindquarters,” “hippobottomus” as the Blue Men threw out streamers and giant lighted globes into the crowd.

This act was filled with  hilarity- I was thoroughly amazed at how many words could be used to describe one’s rear end. However, it also exemplified everything wonderful about the Blue Man Group’s performance: well-executed props, spectacular colorful lighting, creative music, unity, and fun. I found myself smiling throughout the entire song (even though I had to sit down after a while), and left the show in awe of the artistic capabilities of Blue Man Group.

“…when you create something with others, you build a connection that lasts a lifetime.”

Blue Man Group’s time at Wharton may have ended on the 24th, however the groups philosophy of unity through creativity remains. Working together to make something, no matter what that something is, is a lesson that can be taken beyond the world of the Blue Man. A Blue Man Group show is a truly unique, one of a kind experience that has the power to change one’s thinking in unexpected ways…and I can only hope that Wharton Center decides to go blue again in the near future.

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