Matthew Banks, the only Canadian member of Blue Man Group and he had to bizarrely be from my home town, Milton, Ontario. Spoken like a true Miltonian, Banks mentions he used to live "behind the graveyard", and attend Milton District High School. Enough of small towns. Blue Man Group are big and blue and have become one of, if not the hottest performance art ticket to see whether you be in Boston, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, or Berlin and now Toronto gets a piece of the action.
With the show opening at the Panasonic Theatre (on the site of the old New Yorker Theatre) on June 19, Banks and the rest of the Blue Man cast promise to put audiences in a fresh frame of mind and become part of the landscape of Toronto. "The Toronto show is like a supped up, highly modernized version of the Chicago, Boston, and New York shows. I think we're calling it "Rewired". The way I interpret it is that your brain has a neuro-net of wiring, that we're all programmed to believe certain things we've learned from childhood. To see the show is to look at something new and change your perspective."
Banks has seen his share of reactions to the performances. Each night after the show the blue men go into the theatre lobby and do a "meet and greet" with the audience. "The show is almost an essential ingredient to evolution. It's definitely hilarious, the show rocks, but it's also a very deep, visceral, ritualistic experience. Last night a man came up to me after the show and said, 'next to my children being born, this is the most important experience I've ever had in my life.' Generally, I speak softly and suddenly to people who talk to me; I'm present, but not conversant. But this guy just broke me down, it was so touching."
Unlike Blue Man Group's experience on "The Complex" rock album tour, their new Toronto home will not be seeing the likes of such bands as Venus Hum perform with the group. However, Tom Galassi, who performed with Banks on "The Complex" tour, will be at the Toronto shows.
Banks began this wild ride with a confident acting ability, but agrees that he needed modest improvement with his drumming. "There's a 6 week training process, but there's also 2-3 workshops that were like half auditions, so overall, it was about 8 weeks in training before I did my very first performance. I right away got the acting part of it, but my high school drumming was pretty rusty at that point, and they asked me to go brush it up and send them the video of my improvement. When they saw the video they said, 'great, we're going to fly you to New York where you can learn more and do more, and we'll see what happens.'"
Blue Man Group is as unique in their medium as they are in their message. Banks says, "I don't really see anyone doing what we're doing. The closest thing I've seen to Blue Man Group are documentaries like What the Bleep Do We Know?, This Elegant Universe, and Waking Life. They really offer a new paradigm to be thinking, behaving, and choosing from. Blue Man Group is about community and social change÷There's more than just art references, there's science and a constant tone of community that is way more powerful and enriching than we may think about from day to day. And that's the thing with these three blue men; it always takes three of them to do something."
Blue Man Group take art to the next level starting June 19 in Toronto. For more information visit www.blueman.com.
Writer: Lindsay Whitfield