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Fluid Movement's floating film noir

Take the classic film "Sunset Boulevard," slip in the witty "Guy Noir" feature from "Prairie Home Companion," and toss the whole mix into a swimming pool, and you might end up with something like "Mobtown Murder Mystery" — the latest production by Fluid Movement, one of Baltimore's zaniest organizers of performance art.

"I'm a film noir nerd," said Valarie Perez-Schere, a founding member of Fluid Movement who helped organize the new show. "Last year, I saw a guy doing a dead-man float in the pool and thought, 'Oh, it's just like the opening scene of "Sunset Boulevard." Wouldn't it be great to do a film noir water ballet?'"

Perez-Schere didn't have any trouble getting support for her concept within the company. A group that has already staged a watery Tolstoy-worthy epic called "War and Fleas," not to mention that great Darwinian journey "It's a Wonderful Species," is hardly going to balk at splashing through a celebrated cinematic genre.

Never mind that the Fluid Movement version is more like film blanc — performances take place during daylight hours. There is still a nod to the moody characteristics of noir by way of black-and-white costumes and sets.

"Film noir is so much fun," said Ted Alsedek, who started fashioning the script for "Mobtown Murder Mystery" back in December. "I knew we had to have a hard-boiled detective in the story. And opening with the death of a character seemed like a no-brainer."

In addition to "Sunset Boulevard," the iconic 1950 Billy Wilder movie, Alsedek took inspiration from such noir classics as "Kiss Me Deadly," the tense Robert Aldrich film from 1955. The latter "really stood out in our minds," Alsedek said. "And, of course, we had to have a 'MacGuffin.'"

Particularly associated with Alfred Hitchcock, the term "MacGuffin" refers to the main plot-driving element of a film, something that motivates all the characters in the story.

"We call our MacGuffin a 'dingus,' and everyone wants to get their hand on the dingus," Alsedek said. Added Perez-Schere: "It's our 'Maltese Falcon.' By the end of the show, everyone will know what the dingus is, and the point to it."

The production features more than 60 performers of just about every demographic and every physical shape.

Although corralling a large cast in a public swimming pool isn't exactly easy, dealing with the elements can be worse. This year's debilitating heat wave kept the Fluid Movement participants from having all their scheduled rehearsals before last week's opening.

"It's pretty brutal," Perez-Schere said. "On Code Red days, all bets are off. We have to be careful of the cast members. Last year, we did a show in 105 degrees, and two people had heat exhaustion. With summer in Baltimore, something always comes up."

Nothing seems to faze the Fluid Movement crowd, though. And the company has no trouble recruiting performers year after year.

"How could you not jump at the chance?" Perez-Schere said with a laugh. "When people come to our shows, they can see how everyone is obviously enjoying themselves. The camaraderie really comes through. So many friendships have been formed. A couple people have gotten married after meeting in a water ballet, and a few will get married as soon as same-sex marriage is legal in Maryland."

Fluid Movement doesn't hold formal auditions.

"We take all comers," Perez-Schere said. "We've even provided flotation devices for people who can't swim. If you show up, you're in the show. And once you've stood in your bathing suit in front of 500 people, there's not a lot that can bother you. A water ballet can be a transformative experience."

As soon as "Mobtown Murder Mystery" wraps up this weekend, planning will begin for next year, when the bicentennial of the War of 1812 is likely to come into play.

"We think the title will be 'Star-Spangled' something," Alsedek said. "But we're always open to ideas. It's hard for us to say no, because we're crazy."

If you go

Fluid Movement's "Mobtown Murder Mystery" will be performed at 6 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday at Patterson Park Pool, 148 S. Linwood Ave. Tickets for Saturday's benefit performance are $20. Tickets on Sunday are $10 ($5 for city pool pass-holders; free for "children on laps"). Available online at

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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