WASHINGTON — Blue Man Group performer Russell Rinker strolled into the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center Wednesday morning wearing decidedly non-blue attire — black boots, dark jeans, button-down shirt.
The only thing giving away the former stage actor is his height and his strong jawline. Otherwise, Rinker could be any other visitor to the nation’s capital.
“I do have hair, and I do have ears, which the Blue Man has neither of those things,” he says. “People are always surprised to learn that.”
Rinker has been a Blue Man off and on since 2002. He decided to join the company after seeing a show in Chicago. A born performer, Rinker studied theater in college and had been playing the piano and drums since childhood. These skills were invaluable when it came time to audition, he says.
“We take all types of performers,” Rinker says. “We have actors who have never drummed, drummers who have never acted. It’s an abstract kind of skill set.”
Potential Blue Men must meet certain physical requirements. Cast members must be between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet, 2 inches tall. They can be any age, race or gender, but must be willing to wear a bald cap and blue paint.
Currently there are no female Blue Men, but there are female musicians in the band.
“We’re kind of like the Rockettes,” Rinker jokes, adding that the costume’s uniformity adds to the character’s humanity.
“Blue is a natural color — it’s the color of the sky and the ocean,” he says. “But as far as the skin tone, it has no connotations or association with any race or emotion.”
Watch an interview with Rinker below:
The Blue Man Group show is part rock show, part comedy sketch and part physical storytelling. Music is integral to the complete experience, says regional music director Jesse Nolan.
“Most musicals have a conductor that stands in front of the group, but not Blue Man,” he says. “Much of the show is cued by the musicians going off the story being told on stage.”
Because the Blue Men and musicians rely so much on each other, rehearsals are all about syncing movements and learning each other’s languages.
“The Blue Men learn to read our musical language through their ears, and we learn to read their body language from where we are,” he says.
“We try to just make the moment exciting every night.”
The audience is also central to the show, Rinker adds. They usually select one or two members from the crowd to participate during interactive portions of the show. But picking the right person isn’t necessarily easy.
“We do want someone that is kind of freaked out and doesn’t really know what’s going on,” Rinker says. “We are trying to conduct a science experiment.”