How I didn't end up being a member of the blue man group
From: The book of wrong answers
At my house we only have two books. They look almost identical: The Book of Right Answers and The Book of Wrong Answers. At the time of this story, both books were fairly new. Seventeen years later, the unfortunate truth is that one has been used a fair bit more frequently than the other…
It was a summer of promise.
We had just gotten married. Laura was about to begin her doctorate. A friend from theatre school, Jon was living in Toronto. Jon was one of the talented ones. Jon was one of the ones who was picked. Jon was working as a Blue Man with the Blue Man Group.
Jon gave us tickets to special dress rehearsals. We went to openings. We met the directors, the casting agents, the other Blue Men, the band. We even met the people who applied the thick grease paint to the performers every night. Everyone. I had access to important people.
I never knew any of the cool kids before. I never had any connections. I never got picked. If I ever met the right people, given my socialization, I was clueless in what to do.
Not this time
Nope. I held it together. I behaved. I behaved so well I ended up with an audition. This was significant. I didn’t need to make an appointment. I didn’t need to wait in line. I didn’t need to stand at the back of the room and stew. I was invited.
There was a problem.
Every Blue Man played drums.
The entire show was built on drumming.
I had the rhythm and timing of
I had the sense of rhythm and coordination and timing of someone with really shitty rhythm and timing.
I had them in tears. Authentic. Beautiful.
Great feedback. Initially? I was pumped. Then they brought out the drum bone. Then I had to find a way to play along.
I have no recollection of what I did other than it seemed like the drumming equivalent of a terrified child riding a bike for the first time with pillows on either side of the walk.
I wobbled. I crashed. I didn’t get anywhere.
I got picked?
No idea how that happened.
They put me in drum lessons.
It was fairly straight forward.
One two three four
Syncopation for the modern drummer.
One and two and three and four.
Up to three hours per day
I did this for ten months. Everyday.
And I learned. I had a streak of over three hundred days.
Eighty beats per minute, one hundred, one twenty, one sixty.
Maintained. Even. Like the sound of a helicopter. Mechanical.
I was so proud of my drumming.
I was convinced that I was finally going to be picked. ‘A - house’ theatre.
Someone doing my laundry for me.
My job? Perform and get paid.
I was stoked. I found someone to spend my life with. I found a job that would pay well and best of all, I discovered that year that I was going to become a father.
It seemed perfect
By late June, Laura was pretty friggin’ pregnant. It was then that they flew me to New York. They put me up in a nice hotel. Every day I would go to the theatre. I met all the people. Hung out in Manhattan with theatre people. And she was at home, pretty friggin’ pregnant and kicking ass and taking names.
Holy shit! Am I doing this?
Four days into the training we got to put on the costume.
That made it feel real
Four days into the training we got to put on the grease paint.
Why didn’t I get a picture?
Why? Because I assumed that I would get to do that all the time.
I looked like a Blue Man. I felt like a Blue Man. I had spent over six hundred hours learning to drum. I invested six hundred hours of time into this.
Then the book showed up
After performing with two other ‘would be’ members, we all went out to dinner. I remember the question clearly. Conversation had shifted. A show was opening in Orlando. Who would fill those roles? Would I be willing to relocate?
Two letters. One wrong answer. No. The right answer? Three letters. Just one more letter. Different letters? Sure. But. Gah! One letter away from the right answer.
Still. I said no. A child two months away. A spouse starting a Phd. I said no. It was the right answer for my family. It was the wrong answer for my career.
Dinner wasn’t great. My wonderful new ‘friends’ were somehow more stiff, more distant.
The next morning before rehearsal, I was called into an office, given two hundred dollars cash and a ticket home. I was told to clear out of my hotel room. I was informed that my flight left at three that afternoon and I had better hurry if I wanted to make it.
I returned to my hotel room and called home. Shaking. Tears. I invested so much. I thought I had been picked. All my dreams about what I had imagined a career in the arts initially came crashing down. I was so upset I puked. A few times.
After a bit of time I realized a few things. When I auditioned, I had no idea how to drum. At all. And? That didn’t stop me. If I could go into an audition knowing that I didn’t have one of the essential skills for the role, anyone can too. If I can learn to drum in 10 months, any of us can.
Also? A career as a creative hurts. Ten months. Over six hundred unpaid hours of drumming. For what? Heartache? Rejection? Sure. Being able to do the tough emotional work of being rejected is important.
More important however was the practice. I practised every day. When I did, I could escape the fear and uncertainty that came with being a parent. I had no idea how I would pay for all the additional expenses that were heading my way. When I was drumming and learning, I felt a sense of agency. I believed that I could accomplish anything.
Best of all? The story I told at my audition?
That became the basis for my clown show. And this show? I love it. It’s a beautiful piece of work. I learned that by starting. By persisting. By showing up for myself, I could control that. The outcome? Meh. I liked the drumming. I still do it every now and then.
And I really like knowing that I could learn. I think that any felt sense of safety that I have comes from knowing that I don’t need to know. I don’t need to be good a stuff. I don’t really need to be the expert at anything. I just need to be really good at learning.
With curiosity and time, learning is available to all of us. It’s a skill. We can get better at it. What we don’t know is far bigger than what we do know. The sooner you find the opportunity, freedom and thrill of that, the better our world becomes.
One Derful Thing
This one goes with the therapist as a Blue Man thing. Find a way to include the phrase ‘There’s money in the banana stand’ in as many places as you can today. If you don’t get it, google the search terms, Blue Man Group, Banana Stand and analrapist (combination of analyst and therapist). Comment below. Most ridiculous wins a hand written postcard mailed to you by me.