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variety Alexandria, 56308
Echo Press
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Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

By Christa Lawler

Forum News Service

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DULUTH -- They’re coated in blue paint, wear matching outfits and don’t say a word.

Their skills range from drumming to marshmallow sculpture making. They might take a member of the audience and turn him into a human paintbrush.

And by the end of the night, they’ve turned the floor into a scene from a rock ’n’ roll festival.

Blue Man Group brings its paint-splattering, gumball-catching show to Duluth for performances Friday and Saturday at Symphony Hall. It will be the national tour’s 1,000th performance.

There are about 60 to 80 blue men in the world, according to company member Ben Forster, and if you know what you’re looking for, you can spot one anywhere:

“All the blue men I’ve encountered have a little crazy in their eyes,” he said in a phone interview. “That’s something that is common throughout. They’re all in touch with their sense of play and inner child.

“We’re all such completely different people. We’re all completely different blue men on stage. One thing that ties us together — it’s the twinkle in the eye that you’re not sure if it’s charming or scary. It’s the strange X factor.”

Forster, 28, is part of the cast that will perform in Duluth. He will probably be catching gumballs in his mouth.

Being a Blue Man

Forster had just graduated after studying physical theater at New York University when he first saw a Blue Man Group performance.

“I had no idea what to expect and I was kind of blown away by the communication that was happening on stage without words,” he said. “I was kind of like, ‘Wow. These guys are good. This is really advanced storytelling with such a minimalistic way.’ That was pretty attractive to me.”

He auditioned for the company a few years later. Forster said strong acting skills and drumming skills are helpful.

“The big requirement is someone who is in touch with their sense of play and their inner child,” he said. “That characteristic is pervasive through all the blue men I’ve met and worked with.”

Forster’s group is based out of Las Vegas and plays about three shows a week. Unlike other stage performers, he’s able to wash off the grease paint and sightsee anonymously after performances — most of the time.

“People do recognize you out of the blue,” he said. “It’s surprising when it happens.”

Fan response varies. Some want to talk about Tobias Funke, the character from “Arrested Development” who aspired to be a part of Blue Man Group. Some want to get physical.

“People want to touch your face after the show,” Forster said. “They’re really curious about what it actually is. I think that people think we’re wearing an actual mask.

“People ask if we eat paint a lot, which you do, unfortunately; ingesting a lot of paint just from breathing it in. It’s part of the job.”

What to expect

Although they don’t speak, expect a lot of noise, flying paint and maybe even a spray of chewed cereal. There will be oversized beach balls, toilet paper, neon lights and scrolling dialogue.

There is a house band with makeup that rivals KISS.

For Forster, the best part is the interaction with the audience.

“With the standard play, you never get to acknowledge the audience is there until the end of the show at the bows,” he said. “With this show we’re constantly looking to the audience for the fuel to move on. There is a point where we go out and we’re face-to-face with the audience. It’s the most exciting part by far, (seeing) how excited, terrified and amused people are. They don’t know what to think. It’s great.”

GO SEE IT

What: Blue Man Group

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Symphony Hall, Duluth Entertainment Convention Center

Tickets: Start at $45 at Ticketmaster outlets, including ticketmaster.com and the DECC box office

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