The relationship between performer and spectator is a constant topic in theatre since audiences are essential to any performance. Some contemporary performances strive to blur the line between the two by allowing audiences to participate during the show. Often, audience participation is despised and therefore avoided by spectators and theatre practitioners. However, Blue Man Group thrives on it due to their authentic character, adaptable narrative, and accessible space. Through my examination of the show as an audience member, I theorize that these three elements control the audience's willingness to participate in the production and in turn make the entire experience more rewarding and memorable as performer and spectator share roles in order to create this performance. Chris Wink, Matt Goldman, and Phil Stanton co-founded Blue Man Group in 1987, and received their first official venue in 1991. Blue Man Group is a ninety-minute variety show that utilizes rock music, theatrical vignettes, and experiments with science, art, and modern technology to explore the ways in which humans express and communicate. This unprecedented show performs in multiple locations daily throughout the United States, Germany, and has also captivated audiences of all ages around the world. The most popular and recognizable element to the show is the humanoid Blue Man character. He does not speak or make large facial expressions. Instead, he mainly observes intently and follows commands, much like a spectator. His original physical attributes, honest behavior and communication, and authoritative presence through three performers grant him authenticity. His unique personality draws in an audience's interest and investment in the character and the entire production. The co-founders identify the Blue Man Group adaptable narrative as “Neo-Vaudeville”, mixing many forms of science and art together. The cast, crew, and audience take part in the show through tribal training, developing communitas as they watch and learn, call and respond, to the show's commands. The pieces that contain audience participation utilize various types of invitation, coaxing audiences into participation in effective ways. Through an exploration of visual and aural perception, spatial fluidity, and technology, Blue Man Group's use of space connects its audiences to the performance and helps them consider more deeply their connections with others. Thus people often participate during the show and enjoy doing so. This level of investment and excitement is necessary for successful audience participation. Thus Blue Man Group is a blue print for how live theatre can form a powerful relationship with audiences.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Theatre and Media Arts



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Blue Man Group, audience participation, character, narrative, space, Chris Wink, Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, communitas, technology