LAKEVIEW — It didn't faze Erica Gressman that she was the only woman who auditioned Tuesday for a part in the long-running Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theater.
Although Blue Man Group's casting agents said the characters in the critically acclaimed show are supposed to be "androgynous" and "genderless," there has never been a woman casted in Chicago. Only one woman has performed in any city, Boston, since the show began in 1987.
But Gressman, 27, of Edgewater, said she wants to change what it means to be a Blue Man. She stepped into the line of nearly 70 men early Tuesday for an open casting call, which was also held in Orlando and Las Vegas. Gressman was urged by her friends to put her performing and drumming skills on display for a chance to become the next Blue Man.
"I'm fortunate to live in a time where there is more opportunities for women to perform roles traditionally viewed as male roles," said Gressman, a welder at Redmoon Theater in Pilsen who has been doing live multimedia performances for seven years.
"It's an amazing show visually, and very inspiring. The audition will be a challenge, but I love challenges. Sure, there's a fear, but that's the point of being a Blue Man. Being vulnerable. Being yourself."
Mauricio Pena says the atmosphere was electric at auditions:
Shannon Frieser, an account executive for Carol Fox and Associates, the PR firm in charge of publicity for Blue Man Group Chicago, said women are not barred from trying out for the show, despite its name.
"The role has nothing to do with gender. The Blue Man is an egoless, genderless being," Frieser said.
But Frieser said few women try out.
"It's very rare that we see women audition for the Blue Man Group," she said. "We would love to see it become less rare."
Tasha Van Auken, manager of casting and training, agreed the role was an "androgynous, genderless figure," but applicants do have to be on the taller side — between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-2. (Less than 3 percent of women in the U.S. are 5-foot-10 or taller, according to the U.S. Census.)
Van Auken said they need acting experience, "a commitment to live theater" and a little something more.
"Beyond the physical and acting abilities, we are looking for someone who has the X-factor," Van Auken said. "I can't really describe it, but it's someone who has charisma and is able to genuinely connect with people while being themselves and having fun."
The 5-foot-10 Gressman, a lifelong drummer, does have one talent in her favor.
"We rarely find someone who is also a musician and has drumming experience, which is always a plus," Van Auken said.
Gressman said she can see why women don't audition.
"I think women might be deterred from auditioning to pieces like the Blue Man Group because of the physicality, and because of the drumming," Gressman said.
But she said her performances are unique: She attaches electronic devices to her body that create music and light as she moves. She said her friends "really encouraged me to come to the open auditions. It made sense for this to be my next step and try out."
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