You Saw It Here First
Blue Man Group to build and premiere new Speechless Tour from Walton Arts Center
By Marisa Lytle
For the second time in Walton Arts Center history, the iconic Blue Man Group will tech and launch a brand-new show from the center’s very own Baum Walker Hall. This will make Northwest Arkansas audiences the very first to see the new show, Speechless, before it heads out on the national in September.
According to Blue Man Group Creative Director Jon Knight, Speechless is a thrilling new show that he and his team have been working on for some time. “We are really excited to be putting this new work out there and to return to Fayetteville and share this thing with audiences like we did several years ago,” he says. “It feels good to return to a kind of a home base and to share this with all of you.”
Blue Man Group — known internationally for its bald and blue trio, as well as for its award-winning theatrical productions and multiple creative explorations — has a more-than-27-year history of performances that are euphoric celebrations of human connection through art, music, comedy, and non-verbal communication. BMG is owned and operated by Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group and has reached more than 35 million people worldwide.
Knight describes Speechless as a series of beautiful moments, of joyful moments, of indescribable moments that create a sense of community through physical elements and comedy — an experience in which talking is unnecessary. “In this show packed with technology, everyone is connected but isolated,” he explains. “We wanted to present an experience where we get together an audience of people … and we celebrate being in a space together and sharing a moment, being connected. The Blue Men will guide us through a collective, unique experience together that in some ways will be different every night.” The Blue Man Group will debut new instruments of their own creation, as well as bigger and bolder music, set, and staging, but audiences can also expect familiar old favorites and fidelity to the heart of what Blue Man Group is about.
Speechless tour Director Jenny Coons describes the show similarly: “Speechless will feature material that fosters communal moments, debut the evolution of our tube-based instruments to support all new music, and include large-scale audience participation. It is my hope that this show will deliver on its name and continue Blue Man Group’s legacy to transcend words and inspire audiences through non-verbal connections.”
One aspect of the Speechless tour that is truly unique to Northwest Arkansas is how the show will be “built” here. Blue Man Group’s company will bring all the different parts of the Speechless performance together in one place on the Walton Arts Center stage in order to fully rehearse and prepare the show for its life on the road. First, the technical crew will load in sets, props, costumes, lighting, and sound equipment and prepare the theater for the cast — who have been rehearsing together at another location — to arrive a bit later. Cast, crew, artistic staff, sets, props, and costumes all meet for the first time. Blue Man Group will carry out full rehearsals at WAC before premiering the show for NWA audiences. “We wanted to choose an opening venue that represents the houses we’ll be touring to,” Knight says. “Also, people who are willing to tolerate our specific brand of weirdness is good for us.”
Blue Man Group is just one of 10 shows that have been built and opened at Walton Arts Center since 1997. Earlier this year, The Lightning Thief and Falsettos mounted their tours from Walton Arts Center. Shows that tech and launch from the region’s performing arts center boost the local economy; for instance, The Lightning Thief generated an estimated $32,900 from lodging, $26,460 from meals, and $26,000 for salaries of local crew members that work each performance. As cast and crew members immerse themselves in the Northwest Arkansas community for two weeks in September, other local businesses will benefit, as well.
Blue Man Group
DATES: Sept. 12-19*
PREVIEW PERFORMANCES: Tuesday, Sept. 10 & Wednesday, Sept. 11**