October 6, 2014

The Blue Man Group and the San Diego Civic Theater

Above: Ellamarie and Jackson Woolley. San Diego Civic Theater Mural, ca. 1965.  Photo: Steve Aldana from the KPBS.

Above: Civic Theater in 2014.  Photo: MMGB.

Modern Architect, Lloyd Ruocco, designed the San Diego Civic Theater as a series of compromises with three other architects.  In 1964, Ruocco commissioned his friends Ellamarie and Jackson Woolley to design a series of unusual bent and hammered lighted copper reliefs for the theater walls. 

They were not well received.  San Diego has, in the past, been a more than traditional sort of town when it comes to art and architecture. 

By the time I first saw the sculptures at the theater, the lights had been turned off and their core purpose was destroyed.  Years later when I dozed off in the orchestra section over Mahler accompanying my old friend Harry, many of the pieces had been removed leaving only a few copper blotches on the walls.  Yesterday, for the Blue Man’s massive wall of sound, nothing remained to soften the drama of their surrealism.

I knew I would like the Blue Man Group, and I did.  I’m a sucker for the wall of sound, the masses of color, and the surrealistic and slightly dadaistic humor of it all.  We were up there, half way down the arm of that lower balcony reveling in those not bad-at-all, appallingly expensive seats.  We were clapping and hollaring with the best of them with slight gratitude that we were not in the first few rows wearing trash bags.

There was only one break near the start.  One group was ushered in, and the Blue Man Group stopped their act to sing, “You’re late, you’re late” while spotlighting the miscreants.  Sprayed paint, pounding drums, dramatic blown toilet paper, and giant electronically-color-queued, translucent balls filled this large theater at the end.  We loved it.  As I left, I turned and could almost see the Woolley’s copper works still on the walls.


  • Himself:  Really enjoyed the Blue Man Group.  Baked the cake before we left minus one egg.  For the first time we stirred the three boxes of mixed up cake together to minimize this, and the cake turned out really well.  We had an hour for leftover fajitas before we headed out to our meeting, and he had a chance to play his game for a while.

  • Herself:  I opened up some real cheese yesterday, so today we will have some quesadillas for dinner.  Fitted a bit of reading in too.

  • Reading:  Finished “Corrupt Practices” by Robert Rotstein.  Well written and clearly a new voice.  I looked him up on line and found that he as a new one out.  Today will spend time with Jaxom and Ruth  in the “White Dragon.”

  • Balance:  All this weekend the quiet of reading has been very good for me.

    1. LOVE the Blue Men! YESSSSSS! Glad you had fun!

    2. Blue men good, hiding the art, not so good. Does you know where those copper pieces reside now?

    3. I read about half of Limits to power today. Got tired, then bored. A very negative but prococotive book. Don't recommend it.

    4. Several of the links follow the work. They were stored for years in the basement of the theater, and later most of the small pieces were sold. Of the two big pieces, one is at the mingui museum in Balboa park.

    5. Such an odd thing to do to sculpture art, but then this kind of thing probably happens all the time. Tastes change, styles go in and out of favor. I saw Blue Man Group in Vegas years ago and did enjoy them. I think Vegas is a perfect venue for them.


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