Music major Craig Shields (’12) auditioned for the legendary Blue Man Group this fall, and he is on his way to performing with the company! Craig told us about the audition process and his next steps in his own words below:
“The whole Blue Man Group process started in mid-September, when I saw on the Blue Man Casting website that they would be holding auditions in Los Angeles on Wednesday, October 26. Some auditions will just be an open call for whoever wants to show up, but auditions in big cities like L.A. require that prospective auditionees send in their headshot and résumé before being invited to audition. I’ve always been a fan of Blue Man Group (having seen their Vegas show and a few of their DVDs) and have been looking at my post-Chapman options, so I thought, ‘Sure, why not?’ and sent in my stuff.
They got back to me a few weeks later (after I had forgotten about it, actually) and invited me to audition for them at the Hudson Mainstage Theater in L.A. (coincidentally, exactly the last stage on which I performed as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival last year). I got up early and left Orange at about 7:30 to have breakfast with my sister, who just started pursuing her B.F.A. in Musical Theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Hollywood. After breakfast, I nervously waited around in the theater’s attached café, filling out a form that asked for personal details like height, weight, and experience, as well as why my personal background compelled me to audition specifically to be a Blue Man. I grew up doing musicals with youth theater company Starlight Productions and have acted in a few Chapman student films, not to mention my pursuit of a degree in Percussion Performance, so the Blue Man experience is the perfect synthesis of these two passions. Besides, I had nothing to lose except a half-hour of my time (and a few skipped classes).
The first audition (about ten guys in my group, but over a hundred throughout the day) consisted of a variety of acting exercises that were all about conveying certain moods or emotions using only the eyes. In the first exercise, we had to enter the room and say hello to everyone while determining who was hiding some “great sadness.” The second exercise was much more involved and consisted of a heartwrenching revenge story, of which we had to hit four points of emotional reaction – again, all with our eyes. From my group of ten, they selected three of us to continue to the playing evaluation.
Thanks to my percussion training, the playing evaluation was a cakewalk. I went first out of my now-smaller group of three, and the other two (as well as the person doing the evaluation) were surprised to learn that I was a Percussion Performance major. The casting agent (who has been a performing Blue Man for twelve years) asked me, “So, do you play drumset or something?” I happily responded, “Well, I’m a Percussion Performance major. I play everything.” Thanks, Chapman!
After the playing evaluation, the casting team told us that they would call us by 6:00 that night about callbacks, which would be the next morning from 10:00 to noon. On the long drive home from L.A., slowly progressing through parking lot traffic on the 5, the anxiety built and built. I thought I had done a good job, but there’s always the speck of doubt that accompanies any audition experience. Finally, at 5:35, I received the phone call that I was invited to callbacks the next day.
The first callback opened with eighteen guys, down from the 100+ of the first day. We were organized into trios and completed exercises that had to do with acting as a trio, successfully completing the “mission” we were on (whether it was discovering alien life forms or successfully defusing a bomb), and conveying these things with only our eyes and limited body language. (Also of note is that during this portion of the callback, my glasses got stepped on and broke – alas, how I suffer for my art!) This lasted for about two hours, at which point they made another cut and called back twelve of us for a later portion that day, from 1:30 to 5. This was a complete surprise to me, and I had to scramble to call and e-mail my professors to let them know that I wouldn’t be in class that afternoon.
The second callback consisted of us learning one of the routines from the show, titled “Crunch”. This routine sometimes opens the show and is the audience’s first impression of the Blue Men. We were again organized into trios and each of us was given the specific characters of Left, Center, or Right, which correspond with the three Blue Men and have their individual character traits and emotional ranges. We learned the routine as these characters, performed the routine a few times while getting feedback from the three casting agents, and waited patiently at the end to see who would be called back for the final audition the next day. Lo and behold, six of us were invited to return.
The final audition was on Friday, October 28 from 10:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. After the third day in a row of getting up too many hours earlier than usual, crawling through freeway traffic, and practicing in a mirror how effectively I could use my eyebrows to convey a specific emotion, I arrived at the theater. We started with some warm-up exercises and then proceeded directly into running the routine – only this time, we were in different positions with different trios. Whereas I had been Center on Thursday, I was now Left and had an entirely new set of actions and reactions that I had to produce. We ran the routine a couple times with each of the two trios, all the while getting notes and feedback from the casting team. We then broke for lunch and were given times to come back to get made up.
The make-up process for becoming a Blue Man is surprisingly simple. After cleaning certain areas of the face and neck with alcohol, a wig cap is glued down. After that has set and has been trimmed to fit the Blue Man’s face, the Blue Man then applies a liberal, thick amount of blue greasepaint to every visible area from his neck up (including the inside of the lips and nose). Black long-sleeved shirts and sweatpants hide everything below, and blue latex gloves cover the hands. We were made up by the lead make-up artist from the Las Vegas show, which helped fuel the excitement and legitimacy of the whole experience.
Our final presentation was to do the “Crunch” routine in full make-up and costume. They told us beforehand that they might ask us to perform it multiple times, switch roles, and so on, but that when they told us to get out of our make-up, then they had seen all that they needed to see. My trio was the second of the two to go. After performing our routine, the three of us paced around the room for what seemed like thirty minutes, but was realistically closer to three or four. When the team came back, they told us that we could all take off the make-up. At this point, anxiety and concern went full blast, and I worried that I had done such an awful job that I was too far-gone to have a remote chance of making it.
After removing as much of the make-up as I could, I waited for a few minutes to talk to one of the casting team about whether or not I had made it. Then, after three straight days of exhaustive auditions and almost five years to the day that I was a Blue Man with two of my friends for Halloween, I finally got the result, the culmination of what I had spent hours of driving, even more hours of exertion, and one pair of broken glasses to reach: “We would love to hire you for our training program.”
The flood of emotion I had after that was unbelievable. In the midst of midterms, rehearsals, and performances, I had focused all of my energy and effort onto this one thing and it had worked. I was successful (to my own surprise) and had good news for my family, my friends, and my professors, who were thankfully supportive despite how many of their classes I had to miss. And now, I had a future, a plan for my post-Chapman career, a future that not only existed but had the potential to be a life-altering opportunity. I was – and still am – ecstatic.
The next step in my Blue Man experience is to attend training in New York, for which the company will fly me out, house me, and pay me a salary for the duration of the eight-week program. The casting agent I talked to after the audition was very clear, though, that the program has about a 65% success rate and that I can still be cut at any time. In fact, many of the biggest benchmarks are within the first few weeks, so it could end up being a very short stint. However, she also made sure to point out that they don’t accept people into the training program if they don’t think that they can handle it. That, backed by my experiences at Chapman and in theater, is all that I need to bolster my confidence about making it. The next training class begins at the end of January, but the team was kind enough to allow me to defer going to training until after I graduate. The next chances to go after that will be in May and sometime in the fall, so, sooner or later, I will be in New York, working to make this dream a reality. If I pass training, then I will be an official, honest-to-God Blue Man in one of the shows in New York, Orlando, Boston, Chicago, or Las Vegas.
This whole experience was a whirlwind, to be sure. I don’t know how many of the final six they accepted into training, but I’m humbled and grateful to be one of them. Here’s to hoping for a very Blue future.”