Sharkspeare: The Water Ballet at Fluid Movement

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To swim? Or not to swim! THAT is the question! And Fluid Movement has the answer with their annual summertime Water Ballet: SHARKESPEARE! Written collaboratively by Lynda Del Genis, Todd Gardner, Rachel Kassman, and Justin Sabe, with Kassman and Sabe serving as the show’s primary producers, this laugh-out-loud watery dorsal-fin approach to the Bard will have you in stitches with laughter over the terrible puns, the brilliant ideas, and in absolute awe at some of the synchronized swimming routines the execute in the vein of the Bard’s more popular tales.

Water Accordion Bridge Swimmers from "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Water Accordion Bridge Swimmers from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

It’s astonishing to witness: just the concept of Water Ballet as an art form boggles the mind but then to see the all-inclusive approach that Fluid Movement takes to its swimmers— taking on members of all ages, races, genders, and swimming skill set— is just phenomenal. Fluid Movement is an earnest representation of a community involvement when it comes to the arts. Above all their most important feature? ALL. THE. GLITTER. That would be the second most important question when it comes to this year’s production— if not “to swim or not to swim” then surely— To Glitter? Or Not To Glitter? And there is only one answer to that question, just ask Glitter Mentors Margaret Hart, Ellen Jenkins, Jan Pumphrey, and Rick Wilson, all of whom consult on the various sparkly and shiny makeup plots featured throughout the performance.

(L to R) Ellen "Bear Maximum" Jenkins as Shakesbear, Kevin "Overgrown Amoeba" Middleton as Sharkespeare, Derek "Hangin' with Mr." Cooper as Sir Francine Bacon and Alexander "Spittin' Bards" Scally as Christopher Marlin
(L to R) Ellen “Bear Maximum” Jenkins as Shakesbear, Kevin “Overgrown Amoeba” Middleton as Sharkespeare, Derek “Hangin’ with Mr.” Cooper as Sir Francine Bacon and Alexander “Spittin’ Bards” Scally as Christopher Marlin Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Be prepared to buy into the witty and puntastic nonsense that the quartet of writers has spun together for this year’s aqua-visual feast! Genis, Gardner, Kassman, and Sabe have set the production at ‘The Globe Theatre Renaissance Festival and Water Park’ run by Elizabeth Queen (V “the Letter Not the Number” Lee.) There is of course Sharkespeare (Kevin “Overgrown Amoeba” Middleton) himself, the great white as it were, done up in full Sharktastic gear (compliments of Costumer Extraordinaire Deana Fisher Brill.) Middleton, who adapts the affected Shakespearean accent and format of over-speak, shuffles about on deck with his apprentice and protégé Shakesbear (Ellen “Bear Maximum” Jenkins.) Clad in a cuddly fur suit with a perfect glittery makeup plot to match, Jenkins spends the entire production up on deck as well, growling and making silly responses to everything that Middleton has to say. But fret not, ye viewers! Just because these two don’t swim, there yet be plenty of water activities involving submergence!

But we will stay on deck for just a very bit longer, as we introduce the rest of the “between-the-scenes” cast. There’s Christopher Marlin (Alexander “Spittin’ Bards” Scally) and Sir Francine Bacon (Derek “Hangin’ with Mr.” Cooper) both of whom are complete goofs (and proper puns!) Cooper completely hams up his role and really gets into the repartee with Scally, the pair of which have adorable little arguments with Sharkespeare over just what sort of festivities they’re meant to be planning! Previously mentioned, V Lee plays Elizabeth Queen and does an exceptionally haughty and humorous job of it. Let’s not forget The Jester (Ashley “Praise Hands Emoji” Ball) who introduces each of the five acts with her “trumpet.”

A "floating Scottish star" from "That Scottish Play"
A “floating Scottish star” from “That Scottish Play” Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Before we go barreling into the Bard’s finest five festivities featured herein the folds of Sharkespeare, some additional praise is owed to Sound Designer— also Justin Sabe, wearing every hat except a swim cap in this production— and Light Designer Heather Mork, who’s illuminating tactics were not necessary during the midday show but will certainly come in handy for those shows being performed in the after dark hours! Night Show Producer Brian Rayburn also deserves a nod for all the hard work that has no doubt gone into making the night shows equally as successful as the non-night ones. Now, onto the acts!

Scene 1: The Tempest

Swimmers from The Tempest
Swimmers from The Tempest Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Directed by Caitlin “Hail Yeah” Bouxsein and Jane “Sechange” Shock-Osborn, with voiceover work provided by Alexander Scally, this wildly tempestuous adventure starts off with a wicked parody of Gilligan’s Island, imposing the characters of The Tempest into those poor characters’ hapless and helpless situation. Featuring principal swim-characters like Prospero (Joe “Storms-a-Brewin’” Meduza) and Caliban (Ray “Lightening Frog” Lepson) who spend a good deal of time interacting up on deck before taking the plunge, there is a delightful narrative to enhance the shenanigans that get underway before the watery ballet gets going. Miranda (Sarah “Lillian Gush” Bare) and Fantastic Ferdinand Fill-In (at 7/29 performance only William Archer) get a great series of flirtatious flotations happening up and down the main lane of the pool amid the swimmers. This particular water ballet features a lot of “air toes” and a great splash-up especially once Aerial (Angie Elliot-Kelly) gets the storm a-brewing with her gossamer wings reflecting the glorious midday sun. There’s even a backwards locomotion train of swimming toward the point of entry to conclude the piece, which is met with thunderous applause.

Scene 2: Hamlet

Emilia "Green Eggs & Hamlet" Vizachero (on deck) as Ophelia plunging to her watery grave
Emilia “Green Eggs & Hamlet” Vizachero (on deck) as Ophelia plunging to her watery grave Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Directed by April “Poor Yorick” Pink and Barbara “Thanks for the song, Dave” Wilgus, the Bard’s most woeful tragedy takes on a decadent beauty once it hits the water. With a special thanks owed to Margaret Hart for her fabulous skull-screen-printing skills, the swimmers of the depths are covered in the morbid “Yorick Skull” prints for their treacherous plunge into the perilous sea. With deeply disturbing and yet somehow serene music to underscore this segment of the ballet, the macabre and melancholy overtones of Hamlet reign supreme, even when the above deck scenic action is underway. Hamlet (Sidney “Sweet Prince” Pink) is quite active, especially when it comes to the duel with Laertes (Ben “Jack Skellington” Smith”) and the way the pair end up ‘dying’ is most fitting considering we’re at the pool. But it’s Ophelia’s (Emilia “Green Eggs & Hamlet” Vizachero) descent into madness and ultimately drowning that is the most picturesque occurrence in this scene. Once she’s succumbed to the briny depths, they float her ‘corpse’ among the other swimmers down the length of the pool and it is a tragically beautiful sight. There are large group “X” formations among the swimmers, a symbolic representation— the ‘X’ of death and doom— that are featured throughout. All of the swimmers are painted with glittery tears of sorrow upon their face and the ukulele rendition of “Sleep No More” for the finale is chilling.

Scene 3: The Scottish Play

Swimmers in "The Scottish Play"
Swimmers in “The Scottish Play” Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

So steeped in theatrical tradition that even they won’t say it— the Bard’s bloodiest tragedy gets a watery revitalization here in the middle of the show! Directed by Kelly “Spot On” Causey and Valerie “Purple Thane” Perez-Schere, and featuring Casey McCormick as the heroic Macduff (a different life guard at every show!) going sword to sword against the heinous Matt “Silence of the Laird” Brancheau, playing “That Scottish King Who Shall Not Be Named” there is a brutal series of fights happening all throughout the performance both on deck and in the water. Fight Choreographer Sarah “Flash” Gorman deserves the nod of praise here. As does Kid Wrangler Maddie “Emergency” Reeser, who gets the “little witches” underway, giving a whole new meaning to “…when Birnam wood come to Dunsinane…” Give or take a dozen little adorable witches and their pool-noodle “Birnam Wood” sticks are on the march and then on the swim to destroy the bloody Scottish madman! The Props Team: Pam “MacPam” Stein and Ashby “Birnam” Norwood deserve props galore for their work with the haggis-platter turned Birnam wood shields and then some. There are a few enormous floating star formations— the pride of Scotland as they float in their checker-plaid hats and kilt-ish swimsuits. There is so much intricate swim and on-deck work in this production, you’ll want to watch it twice through!

Scene 4: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rick Wilson (on raft) as Titania in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Rick Wilson (on raft) as Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

“Somebody tell Bottom to stop being an ass and get that donkey into the pool!” Direct quote from Sharkespeare leading into this scene. Directed by Carrie “Lunatic, Lover, and Poet” Older, Kelly “Oh Puck” Quinn, and Susan “Foolish Mortal” Williams, this clever faerie conceptualization of Midsummer is bliss upon the eyes and ears. At this performance, Rick Wilson takes up the role of “Guest Star Titania” floating in a majestic crown on a unicorn-donkey-headed raft o’ plenty at the end of the routine! But everything that happens before that is what’s incredible. All of the navy-suited, faerie-winged costumes of the swimmer— each a Puck, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, Cobweb, or Moth in their own way. Their cupie-heart blue lip glittery lipstick identify them readily as faeries ripe for swimming mischievously and beautifully through the sparkly waters. Some of the most impressive shape-floatation routines are achieved here including the triangles of three people, and the accordion bridges that expand and contract fluidly across the surface of the water. There’s even an enormous flower-petal-star shape towards the end of the scene and percussive arm swimming as the routine concludes!

Finale: So Long and Thanks for All The Love

Sharkespeare Finale
Sharkespeare Finale Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Where the on-deck plot with the principal players comes to a conclusion and everyone rejoins together in the water! That’s a finale and a half! Directed by Laura “Love Shark” Knapp, featuring principal swimmers: Carol Bishop, Stephanie Johnson, Laura Knapp, Jan Keadle, Suzy Kopf, Laura Mitchel, Rochelle Underwood, and Marta Zoellner, this is one heck of a send-off to Sharkespeare. With the appropriate tune, “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish” as their finale ultimo type song, the swimmers get to wave and splash one last big goodbye with a great deal of motion happening in the pool. Best feature of the finale? The silver-lined shark-fin swimming caps, which have now found their way to everyone’s head!

It’s a unique and fantastical experience and what better way to experience Shakespeare than with digestible watery bite-sized acts, all of which have a giant Shark giving orders on how they’re meant to be from on deck? Fluid Movement has outdone themselves with some of the exciting and thrilling things happening in this year’s water ballet! Be sure not to miss Sharkespeare this 2017 summer season or you will certainly be filled to the gills with regret!

Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes no intermission

Sharkespeare plays five more performances on August 4, 5, and 6th 2017 with Fluid Movement at the Patterson Park Pool— 148 S. Linwood Avenue in the Patterson Park neighborhood of Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available at the door or in advance online. Several shows at the Druid Hill Park Pool run SOLD OUT so advance tickets are strongly recommended!

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