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Reliving his blue period

Courtesy photo
The Blue Man Group comes to Huntington's Keith-Albee Theater for two shows this week as part of the Marshall Artist Series.
Courtesy photo Russell Rinker

WANT TO GO?

Blue Man Group

WHERE: Keith-Albee Theater, 925 4th Ave., Huntington

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday

TICKETS: $45, $50 and $58

INFO: Call 304-696-6656 or visit www.ticketmaster.com

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When touring with the Blue Man Group, Russell Rinker said, he looks forward to getting home every once in a while.

"Getting home grounds you," he said.

Rinker, who performs with the iconic bright blue trio Tuesday and Wednesday in Huntington, said traveling is hard, but it's a lot easier than when he worked on the show in Las Vegas.

"Las Vegas was such a totally different lifestyle," he said. "You get to be kind of nocturnal, and things aren't fake out there -- but they're not exactly real."

It was harder to get away or even just to recharge.

"Real people, real life," he said. "It's just nice to be around real people."

Rinker grew up in rural Northern Virginia, not far from the West Virginia border.

"I played drums in high school and wanted to be an actor," he said.

Rinker went to the College of William & Mary, studied theater and then headed west to pursue acting.

"I was doing a lot of classical theater," he said. "I played Shakespeare festivals and musicals and did light opera, stuff like that."

Through some friends, he heard that Blue Man Group was looking for cast members in Chicago.

"They're always looking for guys," he said. "It's actually hard to find guys who are the right height, who have the right look and the drumming skills. It's hard to find guys who meet all the specifications."

When he auditioned, they tested his drumming, his ability to improvise and how well he handled disruptions.

"They want to see if you're flexible, if you're able to go with the flow. It's very unorthodox," he said. "But as you can imagine, the Blue Man Group company is a little different, a little strange."

Ultimately, though, it's a pretty decent place to work if you're an actor.

"I was only going to do this for a year or so," he said. "That was 10 years ago."

It hasn't been 10 continuous years, though. Every now and then, he's stepped away and pursued other interests.

But he likes the travel. On the road, he and the rest of the crew find ways to amuse themselves. On Halloween, they had the night off and had a little party at the hotel in Columbus, complete with costumes.

Nobody was dressed as one of the blue men, though.

"We did a bunch of Halloween costumes. We dressed up, our crew dressed up," he said. "We went out to a couple of haunted houses. It was really fun."

And, he said, they all get home a few times a year, which is great.

Still, eventually, he figured, he'd leave the troupe again. He's an actor, and while being a member of the Blue Man Group has been exciting, he'd still love to explore his opportunities on television and maybe film -- just perhaps not right away.

"It's amazing to me how, after doing a few thousand performances as this character, there's still a lot to learn," he said. "There's still the chance to go out on stage and do things in a way I've never done it before and see things in a new way.

"We're always getting new material. It's not like we're just doing a play the same way over and over. The show is still evolving, and that's such a gift." Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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