Erica Gressman, a local performance artist, was the only female among 70-plus men at the open casting call for Chicago’s branch of the Blue Man Group on Nov. 11 at Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted St.
Gressman a performing artist with a long history of drumming, said it only made sense for her to audition. She said friends also encouraged her to audition, and she liked the idea of challenging herself and thought it would be an exciting experience.
“I didn’t do much preparing [for the audition],” Gressman said. “For a couple days, I was catching up on some basic drumming patterns and looking at a lot of videos here and there of the Blue Man Group live. I also did some research as to what they were looking for when it comes to acting auditions.”
Few women have been cast in the show since it began in 1987. Gressman said because the show is called “Blue Man Group,” many women are turned off from auditioning. The show has more of a focus toward masculine features, which may be why women shy away from it, Gressman said.
“Even though these characters are supposed to be androgynous, it doesn’t look like any women are in the posters and videos,” Gressman said. “The [characters] don’t have any androgynous features. I’d say it leans more toward masculine features. And it’s drumming, which in itself is associated with men.”
Mary Grisolano, resident general manager for Blue Man Group Chicago, said in an email that there are several basic criteria the casting team uses to determine those auditioning for the group. Drumming skills, excellent acting skills and the willingness to relocate are only a few of the qualities the casting team considers, Grisolano said.
“We are looking for great actors who can communicate a story without speaking and be engaging while doing it,” Grisolano said. “We need people who can tap into the character, which requires a lot of openness, curiosity, imagination and the ability to be a team player.”
Physically, the casting team wants actors who are between 5’10” and 6’1” with an athletic build, Grisolano said.
There are three steps involved when it comes to auditioning for the show, according to the Blue Man Group’s website. For the first audition, actors are asked to do one to two exercises to demonstrate their nonverbal storytelling ability. The second audition evaluates the actor’s drumming skills. The last round of auditions is when callbacks take place, and actors are put in workshops to evaluate their ability to work as a team. Then they wait for the casting decision to be made.
Anisa Buttar, drummer in the psychedelic art-punk band Candy Warpop, said in an email that she auditioned for the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas in 2010. Buttar said she did not pass the first round of auditions because she did not meet the physical requirements. Although she did not make the cut, Buttar said she would encourage female drummers to audition for the show.
“There are more female drummers out there than ever,” Buttar said. “Talent and practice shine through regardless of the vessel.”
Gressman said she thinks more women should audition to be part of the production because it would give the Blue Man Group a better, more inclusive reputation among audiences in the performing arts community.
“[Women auditioning for the Blue Man Group] would open up a lot of other avenues, not just in the entertainment industry, but in any industry,” Gressman said. “The Blue Man Group having women involved reinforces an idea that most women should know they can perform and work in places that don’t normally have women [present].”