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.