The question should not be, "why blue?" or "who is that underneath the paint?" Instead try "Who is the Blue Man to me?" According to Blue Man Mark Frankel, the Blue Man is the inspiration for all of us to dig deeper into ourselves, to discover who we really are underneath it all. He is there to remind you of your inner self and all of your childhood happiness, hopes and dreams. The Blue Man is the untainted beginning in all of us.
Creative Loafing: How long have you been a Blue Man?
Mark Frankel: About three years.
And what's your background before becoming a Blue Man?
I was doing a bunch of different things, but I've been a drummer my whole life. I've played some professionally, but then I went to NYU for recording engineering.
NYU. New York University. Sorry, I said it real fast. I was in the music technology program there. And so I got into recording engineering as a career and did that for awhile. And then I ended up teaching at NYU, teaching recording engineering at NYU and that's when I started auditioning for Blue Man through a weird sort of coincidental meeting at a party/industry event. So it was basically drumming, then recording engineering, then part time faculty, and then Blue Man.
So you had a meeting at a party that made you want to audition?
Yeah, I was at one of Blue Man's creative spaces in the East Village in New York City. They were having a party celebrating the release of a CD, and I just overheard a conversation about how there were people who were looking for a new Blue Man. I asked, "what does it take to become a Blue Man?" and that's what got the ball rolling. It was all on a lark. It was the longest of long shots and it just seemed to happen.
So would you say that you were familiar with Blue Man before?
Yeah. I'm from NYC originally, or the suburbs of NYC, so I definitely knew what it was about.
In terms of personal artistic satisfaction, you get a different side of that than you ever had before becoming a Blue Man.
Yea, I get to play drums professionally because there is a lot of drumming in the show. And it's a primal style of drumming. I was playing a lot of gigs as a drummer before where you have to be very sensitive to singers. I was doing a lot of cabaret stuff where essentially you're there to color, you know you're there to provide a certain [backdrop] to whatever song is being sung. But this is no holds, you play as loud and as hard as you can. It's a very primal, very visceral style of drumming akin to the Kodo style, the Japanese style of drumming. So it's kind of a thrill to come full till every night, you know?
Where the drumming really takes center stage?
Yes, definitely. In this show, we are playing on drums that are at the very front of the stage so the drumming is a feature rather than an aspect of the performance. If you're into drumming at all you will definitely get your fix by coming to this show
Tell me about the acting side of it for you.
Well, I grew up in a theater family. My mother is a retired Broadway actress; she had a long career performing in the '60s. My sister is currently in Spamalot on Broadway, and my mother runs a dance studio where I took lessons as a kid. So I kind of grew up around getting up on stage and performing in various ways, you know. I was in The Nutcracker as a kid, just skipping around, not really dancing (laughs) ... I was familiar with the art form and I guess at the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, it was just something that came naturally. And it felt really good to be able to express myself. It's a fantastic limitation to be able to act in this way, I think, to not be able to communicate verbally. So whatever emotions you want to convey, or you feel you are conveying, you can do it through subtle ways of -- the way your physical body is aligning itself -- or the way your eyes are looking without being extreme or without overstating anything. You want the audience, when they come to see the show, you want the audience to fill in the story -- they watch us -- subconsciously, they want to watch us and have their own story that's appropriate for them. And thus, if we are as open and as honest emotionally as we can be then that allows that. If we demonstrate too much it sort of interferes with that process. I think that's one of the keys of the Blue Man character, that before we get into the specifics of this particular show, it has this universal appeal to every human. It's sort of like if you were able to take away your business outfit, and your house and everything else and just get down to what it was like when you were just starting as a kid. Blue Man is a personification of that in a sense and I think that's one of the charms of the character, one of the attractions of the character.