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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 9.29.11

 

Blue Man Speaks

Jerry Kops spills on the thrills of joining Blue Man Group

by Anna Grace

Music, mania and Mediterranean-blue make-up have created a worldwide sensation — something akin to a raging party and your favorite painting giving birth to a theatrical experience.

So wailing on an instrument in a massive, multimedia international outfit sounds like a musician’s dream job, right? To get an answer, I rang up Blue Man strings guy Jerry Kops as he idles in San Diego before the group motors up to Eugene for their early October engagement.

“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Kops says, just waking up as I call him a few minutes before noon.

Kops, a native New Yorker (if I’m allowed to judge by his accent), was working 12-16 hour days at multiple gigs: as a registered nurse or in his family’s machine shop, and playing at night in bar bands. On a trip to Las Vegas, his wife talked him into seeing Blue Man Group.  

“I kept telling her, ‘We’re New Yorkers, why would we see a show on vacation? We can see it at home.’” But tickets were purchased, and Kops was sold. “I was enthralled by the musicians,” he says, the electricity of excitement warming his voice.

It took a little more pressure from his wife to get Kops to audition for the group. “I figured for something this big you had to know somebody,” he says. But one audition led to another, and five year’s later he’s taking a break from the small NYC venue to hit the road with the blue-painted performers. 

The dream isn’t always easy. In smaller towns, the Blue Man Group performs split weeks, with two days in one place, long days of travel and then two in another. “But I have a job doing what I love,” Kops says. “I work for two hours and am paid a full day’s wage.”  

And it all seems worthwhile when patrons travel miles from their tiny Midwestern towns to see something they’ve been waiting years for. “We met a (teenage) kid who said he’d wanted to see us since he was 10,” Kops says. 

When the boys in blue roll into town on Tuesday, Oct. 4, you can look for Kops on the strings. The two strings players rotate positions, so he’ll either be rocking the Chapman stick and base, or working a guitar and an electric zither.

When I asked him if there was anything a first-timer should look for, Kops laughed. “Coming from the small, organic experience of the New York show to the advanced, technological, multimedia touring show, I’ll just say keep your eyes opened,” he says. “You’re gonna feel it.”

Blue Man Group performs Oct. 4-6 at Hult Center. Info & tickets at hultcenter.org or 682-5000