AMES, Iowa -- They aren’t the Blue Man Group, the organization that produces theatrical shows and concerts featuring three Blue Men. These guys are green — 4-H green — and they’re from Iowa. They aren’t the only green man group around — Google “green man group” and you’ll net nearly 6,000 entries. But they may be the only green-painted trio that’s promoting Iowa 4-H through drumming, dancing, mime and music.
The 4-H Green Man Group does not speak. Ever. But after he removed his face paint and stepped out of his Green Man character, Brock Johnson offered some insight into the enigmatic performers.
The idea for the group first took shape when Johnson and his friends Ben Read and Erin Nagle went to Chicago as part of the north Iowa 4-H award trip and saw the Blue Man Group perform.
Later, when the guys were looking for an idea for their Worth County 4-H council skit, “I believe somebody mentioned that we paint our faces green for 4-H and just be crazy,” Johnson said.
So the three boys painted their heads and hands green (as 4-H’ers, their health and hearts are “green” as well) to perform at the Worth County 4-H banquet.
“We got a great response from the audience,” Johnson said. The 4-H Green Man Group was born. Now it was time to expand their repertoire.
Using pvc pipe from the local home building center, the three 4-H’ers fashioned their own “drum-bone” — the instrument of choice for the Blue Man Group. And they figured out how to play it, drumming it with drumsticks and sliding the interconnected pipes like a trombone.
Their next stop was their high school variety show, Johnson continued. “People were on their feet, dancing and clapping along with us, and from there on we knew we had to do more performances.”
So they took their act to the Worth County Fair in 2007 and were 4-H Share the Fun champions. They moved on to the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference and the county fair circuit. They even performed at the Iowa State Fair in 2007 and 2008.
The 4-H Green Man Group performs for fun, not financial gain — though they’d probably accept a little money for gasoline, remarked Dennis Johnson, Brock’s father and Iowa State University Extension education director for Worth County.
They’ve aged out of 4-H — Brock Johnson is a freshman at Iowa State University, Read attends Wartburg College and Nagle, University of Northern Iowa — but they still share the fun of 4-H when they perform as the Green Man Group.
“We are more than willing to do any other requested performances if it fits in our schedule,” Brock Johnson said.
Watch a video of their performance at the 2008 Iowa State Fair.
4-H is a community of 6 million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. In Iowa, the 4-H program is a part of Iowa State University Extension and is headquartered on the ISU campus in Ames. For more information about 4-H or how to get involved contact your ISU Extension county office.
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775, firstname.lastname@example.org