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Canadian performer avoids facial hair, ruts as part of Blue Man Group job

Like most people, Alain Rochefort can get a little blue at work.

Only for him, it’s required.

Rochefort is the captain in the Las Vegas production of Blue Man Group. He has been a touring cast member for 10 years and in Las Vegas since November. While his job requires him to be literally blue, it would be nearly impossible if he was figuratively blue.

“You try to get everything that might have been stressful to you throughout the day and get rid of that,” Rochefort said. “You’ve got to be physical and present for the audience. You do that by warming up, stretching, yelling or whatever it takes.”

He and his fellow blue men are trying to get to a place where there’s no judgment. On a mundane level, the process starts in the morning when he shaves.

“We don’t want a hairy, beardy Blue Man,” Rochefort said.

On a deeper level, being completely available to the audience is a process he has been working on most of his life.

Rochefort grew up in Canada and went to a French-language school that didn’t do traditional plays. Students there did mime because they participated in drama competitions with English-speaking schools, so they wanted the work to be accessible without language. He did a lot of drumming and clowning, which led him to Humber College in Toronto for comedy writing and performance.

One of his friends suggested Rochefort watch Blue Man Group. He showed him a DVD of The Complex Rock Tour. Two years later, Rochefort drove 300 miles to take part in open auditions.

“There was a line around the block of about 300 people,” Rochefort said. “I just wanted to see what they were looking for and (what) did they want. I wanted to know what I could work on so I could come back and do better next time.”

Next time turned out to be the next day, when he was asked back for the next audition level, involving more character work. He was called back for a three-day audition in New York City. It was his first time on a plane.

Nine people made it to that callback, where they learned some of the show and worked with the makeup. Only Rochefort was asked to go on to the next step, an eight-week training session.

“Every week there would be an interview with the directors and trainers,” Rochefort said. “They would tell you what to work on or they would give you a plane ticket home because you didn’t make it.”

There were six people training from all over the world. Two didn’t make the cut.

“I think it’s only 1 in 5,000 people who come to the auditions that make it into one of the shows,” Rochefort said.

Seven blue men perform regularly in Las Vegas. Each one can play any of the three roles that they call simply “left,” “center” and “right.”

“Every guy approaches it differently, so every night is different,” Rochefort said.

The blue men have to learn a wide variety of unusual tasks, including drumming, spin art painting with their mouths, expressive mime character work and catching marshmallows in their mouth without spitting out the previously caught ones.

“I think the record is 42,” Rochefort said. “We do competitions.”

Each night after warmups, the group does a soundcheck and the whole company gets together to discuss any concerns regarding the night’s show. They put on their makeup, which takes about a half-hour. They start by cleaning their faces and applying a bald cap, which also covers their ears.

The excess rubber is trimmed from the cap and they apply a mixture of glue and makeup to the cap before putting what Canadian Rochefort describes as “a hockey puck” of blue petroleum-based makeup on their faces.

“During the show, if we see a spot (of makeup that has rubbed off), we’ll touch it up for each other,” Rochefort said. “We call it ‘grooming,’ almost like monkeys do. We’re taking care of each other. It’s very tribal.”

Often they’ll remove the makeup during the hourlong break between shows to let their heads get some air or so they can run out to grab a bite.

“Sometimes I like to have a clean, fresh start before the next show,” Rochefort said. “We have a buffet of solutions out back to take it off.”

The show has evolved many times over the years, but it has never started over from scratch, Rochefort said. Elements are added and removed, but it always remains an immersive interactive show that seeks to bring out the childlike wonder in the audience, he said. Because of the audience interplay, the show is never quite the same way twice, and that’s part of why The Blue Men say they don’t ever get bored with the roles.

“I’ve always see the stage as a place where you can truly let go,” Rochefort said. “You can truly be whatever you want to be and people accept it.”

To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email ataylor@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4532.

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