Dan Carter is a Blue Man—a touring member of the titular group of indigo bathed, speechless performers known for drumming out tunes on PVC pipes during their cosmic stage shows. As such, he never speaks when wearing the blue. David Travis Bland caught up with him prior to his upcoming performance here in Jacksonville to talk about the experience. Join us after the jump for a look at one of the most interesting characters in theatre.
It happened in Boston for Dan Carter—a moment that promised to grip his memory for a lifetime. He met a young boy in the halls of a performance theatre. They approached each other with a singular curiosity, striking up an immediate rapport in their brief meeting. A deep sense of understanding flowed between them even though Carter never spoke a word.
“Just for a moment I was let into his world as if everyone else in the lobby disappeared” he says. “And he stepped into mine.”
Carter is a Blue Man—a touring member of the titular group of indigo bathed, speechless performers known for drumming out tunes on PVC pipes during their cosmic stage shows. As such, he never speaks when wearing the blue.
The Blue Man group comes to the Moran Theatre in the Times-Union Center on March 12 and 13.
From beyond the strobing stage lights Carter had seen the boy running the aisles, jumping around, filled with the joyous energy of The Blue Man Group’s show. The boy was autistic Carter had been informed by the mother before their meeting, and while they convened, Carter stayed in his alienesque, wordless character.
“We had the most incredible connection. His mom actually said to me he hadn’t made eye contact with anyone in months,” Carter says. “That is the single most memorable thing of my whole career.”
Speaking to his fellow Blue Men without the use of vocal chords is one of the most difficult aspects of the group’s otherworldly performances. This kind of communication can be quite the task while being splashed with neon paint, enacting absurdist comedy, and finding oneself surrounded by a light show that would make Pink Floyd’s bulb man huddle in a corner and cry.
“We have full on conversations with each other without saying a word. That’s the most challenging thing.”
At times, it might get tough up there for Carter and his mates, but he was destined for the Blue.
“I always knew I was going to be an actor,” he says.
A London native, Carter graduated from drama school and went to work in the city’s West End, the equivalent of Broadway for England’s capital, finding roles in Les Misérables, Taboo, and We Will Rock You. He also got jobs on screen and as a singer.
One of his talents was going to waste though—his skills behind the kit.
“As well as being an actor I’m a drummer,” he says. “I discovered [Blue Man Group] wasn’t just an acting piece but musical piece particularly percussion.”
Carter didn’t know much about Blue Man Group but once he found out he’d be doing paradiddles on plastic pipes with a band behind him he jumped at the audition. The rest is written in blue inked history.
“Blue Man’s allowed me to explore some really unusual forms of theatre,” Carter says. “Once you step out on the stage you become this other person...it’s incredible...to look out and see these people enjoy themselves is the ultimate gratification.”
What exactly those audience members are enjoying goes deeper than the flashing lights or rhythmic pulse Carter believes.
“The character is inherently inquisitive and we try to think of him as childlike, innocent, who approaches everything with no judgment or ego,” Carter says. “We try to recreate something that was part of as kids...that’s the biggest connection people have that they can see something that they’ve lost.”
Carter gets the most palpable sense of transforming into this egoless, paint covered everyman in the moments before the curtain comes up.
“In that thirty second [behind the curtain] that’s the most important time for me...where I’m standing with nobody but the other two Blue Men trying to feel as connected as possible so that we can convey that connection with audience.”
As a classically trained actor, Carter might have never thought he’d be connect to an audience without using a bit of dialogue, but the life of a Blue Man is one that he’s embraced.
“I’ve gone through different phases and I’ve never pigeon holed myself,” Carter says. “If you had asked me twenty years ago ‘would you see yourself getting covered in blue makeup dodging around on stage in front of thousands of people’ I’m not sure I would have said yes. But I wouldn’t have said no.”
After ten years in the character, you could say his blood runs blue.
“I don’t think of the makeup as putting makeup on as much as us taking off our real life mask off.”
text by david travis bland
David Travis Bland is a journalist as well as a published writer of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. As a freelance writer with a focus on fringe cultures, he has smithed words for websites, zines, literary journals, magazines, and newspapers. He also writes about the modern South.
(Blue Man) Actor / Musician / Vocalist / Part-time Cowboy. Daniel is from London, England, and very happy to be working on this side of the pond. London West End credits include Les Misérables, Taboo and We Will Rock You. Film credits includeCloser (Mike Nichols), Cassandra’s Dream (Woody Allen.) Daniel has had the pleasure of performing as a Blue Man all over the world and is excited to be now touring The States with the Blue Man Group national tour.