For detailed descriptions of the techniques in green, see METHOD
In the years following the official dissolution of Watchface, four performances –
Typhoid Mary 911, A City Called Forest, Gender Tennis, and 1962 – included the
methodology, creators, and cast members of the former collective.
Typhoid Mary 911
La MaMa, NYC February 1992
Summer 1991 – Quiet Life, Brooklyn, NY (work-in-progress)
Conceived, written, and directed by Iris Rose
Created and performed by Joshua Fried, Gary Ray, and Iris Rose
Music by Joshua Fried
Sets by Tim Duch and Andrew Moszynski
Choreography by Kurt Fulton
“Re-enactment” performed by Carla Harmon, Paul Lucas, Charlie McWade, Sam Novgorodoff, Libby Schapiro,
and D. Zhonzinski
Around 1990, Iris Rose became a regular viewer of the television program Rescue 911. Hosted by William
Shatner, the program showed dramatic experiences that prompted actual 911 calls, reenacted – sometimes by
actors but often by the real people who’d experienced the horrible event being depicted. The 911 operators
who had answered the calls often participated in the re-creation of someone else’s worst experience. Iris liked
that the show was about ordinary people rather than celebrities or people who had achieved important things.
Also, at its core, it was about the randomness of disaster. Everyone watching the show could thank their lucky
stars that the story was about someone else – this time – but could just as easily have been about them. Iris was
also drawn to the performance aspect of Rescue 911: ordinary people, who had presumably never acted
outside of a high school play, played themselves reliving experiences they’d actually had.
Around the same time, Iris read a review of a book about Mary Mallon, AKA Typhoid Mary, the early 20th century
cook who spread the disease to a series of households where she was employed and became known as the
prototype of a “carrier.” Iris was intrigued by the contrast between the cook who refused to accept her own role
in the disastrous fate of others and the 911 operators who took responsibility for someone else’s crisis and tried to
help them through it. Iris wrote the following description of the resulting show as part of a grant proposal.
Typhoid Mary 911 was inspired by the story of the notorious cook whose name has become synonymous
with the medical concept of a “carrier” of disease. Surrounded by the sick and dying, she refuses to believe
that she is the cause of their suffering and is finally, forcibly apprehended and detained. The 911 operator,
though not the cause of anyone’s misfortune, is surrounded by the suffering of others, but being
technologically removed (by phone and computer) from the situations, is strangely insulated from their
immediate effects. The combination of these two stories creates a metaphor for the situation in which many
now find themselves today – uncontrollably tied to but exempt from the suffering that they witness around
them, whether medical, economic, or social.
Iris enlisted her frequent collaborator Joshua Fried to compose the music and to play the Shatner-like narrator
character. Andrew Moszynski, who had created the sets for White, one of Watchface’s last productions, agreed
to do the same for Typhoid Mary 911, though he shared the task with his friend, Tim Duch. He also was eager to
make use of his new video camera in whatever way would help the production.
Iris began by researching Mary Mallon and creating an outline for the show. She also watched many more
episodes of Rescue 911 and made notes of the recurring themes and clichés. The television program always
began, for instance, with William Shatner on camera addressing the audience. Typhoid Mary 911 began with
Joshua doing the same.
In the next hour, 248 people in this country will die.
59 of cancer.
2 by murder.
In the next hour, 447 people will be born and 248 will die.
But it won’t be you.
This unsettling statement was followed by a variation on the usual opening of Rescue 911.
What you’re about to see contains true stories.
Every day across America people fight against time, people face their worst fears,
people commit acts of every day heroism.
We begin on a quiet street, like so many others.
On a quiet night, like so many others.
They spent the day, like so many others, doing the things they always did.
The historical tale of Dr. George Soper and Mary Mallon was told in alternating monologues, accented with a
song and dance number, “Tango: The Legend of Typhoid Mary,” and a grotesque cooking video. Iris played
Mary on stage and in the video caricature. Dr. Soper was played by Gary Ray, an actor and proprietor of the
short-lived downtown club Darinka, where Watchface had performed many times.
Mary’s story was also woven together with the fictional tale of a 911 operator, also played by Iris. She was shown
in action at the call center and on video being interviewed about her job. For a brief section on local
newscasters who segue seamlessly from an earthquake in China to the local weather – and brush off its
intimations of global warming – Iris asked friends in other parts of the United States to send her video of their local
newscasts. They were then edited to fit the script, so the audience saw the actors on stage and their broadcast
counterparts simultaneously, but heard only the live version. Since all local newscasts in America have two
news anchors behind a desk and a standing weatherperson in front of a map, the different versions were
interchangeable. Like Mary and the 911 operator, they were surrounded constantly by crises, but the human
consequences of these events were at a distance and made no discernible impact on the newscasters.
Throughout the show there was a conscious effort to make the audience uneasy, reminding them, as Rescue 911
did, that catastrophe lurked around every corner. This was achieved mostly through Joshua’s frequent speeches
insinuating impending calamity. Before #3 script At one intense moment, a bright spotlight suddenly shone down
on a couple of random audience members, and loud, throbbing music emerged from underneath their small
cabaret table. Several sections were more abstract and used Watchface techniques such as Emblems and
Bodies in Space to examine the rise of science, the dehumanization of modern medicine, and the social impact
of infectious disease, associating the typhoid epidemic of nearly 100 years earlier to the AIDS epidemic that was
then at its height.
The climax of the show, in which the two inspirations came together, was a reenactment of the capture of
Typhoid Mary with the roles of Mary, Dr. Soper, his assistants, and a housekeeper, all played by actors who had
not previously appeared in the performance. The reenactment was also shown on video monitors via live feed,
with the “television director” visible and audible at the back of the audience.
At the end of the show, Joshua offered safety advice to the audience, just as William Shatner did at the end of
each Rescue 911. After covering the usual admonishments to lock up poisons and firearms, he ended with a bit
of universal advice Shatner never would have delivered: “Keep your eyes wide open. Knock on wood. Good
After a work-in-progress reading in the summer of 1991 at the tiny club Quiet Life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn,
Typhoid Mary 911 received a run at The Club at La MaMa more than a year later La MaMa program and was
never performed again.
A City Called Forest
La MaMa, NYC March 1992
Conceived by Chazz Dean
Written and directed by Kurt Fulton, Melanie Monios, and Richard Schachter*
Performed by Laura Breen, Linda Cassens, Mark Chamberlain, Kurt Fulton, Leah Goldstein, Tom Judson,
Dori Kiplock, Melanie Monios, and Richard Schachter
The title A City Called Forest first appeared on a list of proposed Watchface undertakings in the minutes of an early Watchface Board meeting in March 1989. In addition to Chazz Dean’s Forest, the list included a solo performance by Maggie Siena, a third collaboration between Maggie and Melanie Monios, and a revival of Iris Rose’s The Serial Killer Series – but in 1990, Watchface broke up.
Almost a year after Watchface disbanded, Kurt Fulton was still intrigued with Chazz’s vision of A City Called
Forest, a show about personified forest creatures told in the style of film noir. Kurt asked Chazz, who had been
living in Los Angeles for several months, for permission to develop the idea into a performance in New York.
After Chazz gave the green light, Kurt engaged Melanie Monios and past collaborator Richard Schachter to co-direct plus perform. In addition to Richard, three of the ensemble were made up of cast members from White – Laura Breen, Linda Cassens, and Leah Goldstein – as well as musician and performance artist Tom Judson and artist/pianist Mark Chamberlain. The challenging role of Flame, the chanteuse/narrator, went to singer/actress Dori Kiplock, a colleague of Tom’s. The directors submitted a proposal to La MaMa who agreed to produce the project, and dates were set for March 1992.
La MaMa postcard
La MaMa program
The three directors fleshed out Chazz’s original concept by equating the corruption and greed of corporations
and urban politicians to the devastation and destruction of our natural environment. A line from the press
release stated, “A fable intended to dramatize the correlation of the decay of urban culture with the decay of
our forests.” Chazz’s original concept of literal forest creatures was simplified into human film noir archetypes but
with names that reflected the forest and their personalities. For example, a powerful and wealthy business man
was named Dogwood Pine, for the tree’s strength and towering position in the forest. The small minded,
egocentric leader of the city/forest, was named Mayor Prickle Bush, his title personifying his paranoid and
fidgety manor. His wife Primrose had the reputation as a beauty who could draw blood. The center of the
twisted plot was Wisteria, the controlling editor of the local newspaper. The deceptively lovely wisteria is known
for its tangled and invasive roots, strangling the life from nearby plants. Lily O’Valley, the mysterious “other
woman”, took the name of the fetching and fragile flower, lily of the valley. promotional photo
The three collaborators viewed as many examples of film noir as they could before finalizing the script, including
Out of the Past, Double Indemnity, Crossfire, Side Street, Dark City, Gun Crazy, This Gun for Hire, The Night Runner,
Night of the Hunter, Murder My Sweet, Kiss Me Deadly, The Secret Life of Martha Ivers, Born to be Bad, The Big
Steal, The Big Heat and The Big Night. Their story incorporated several plot devices commonly used in film noir:
an obsessive struggle for power, a deadly love triangle, and a femme fatale gone missing. The script was almost
exclusively assembled from dialogue notated from the many films they watched together and individually.
Samples of dialogue taken directly from the films:
“That makes as much sense to me as Chinese music.”
“I’ve heard so much about your wicked city, I’ve wanted to see it my whole life.”
“The mink-coated girls, yeah, that’s how it turned out for you, but I got stuck on the wrong side of the
“He took a powder. He blew. He flew to the moon.”
“You’re lower than the lowest rat drug out of an alley for knifing someone in the back.”
“It’s a hard world for little things.”
The films not only provided dialogue and period slang and sayings, but also supplied the score, songs for Flame,
a multitude of sound effects, plus inspiration for characterizations and costuming. Classic noir acting bits, such
as the frequent lighting, smoking, and putting out of cigarettes, together with visuals like spinning newspaper
headlines jolting into focus were also borrowed. The Forest Express headline
While the audience entered and took their seats, they saw the repeating images of a photograph of a forest
blending into a cityscape and blending back again, projected onto a scrim at the front of the stage.
Andre Previn’s overly dramatic score for the Bette Davis noir vehicle Dead Ringer set the tone for what was to
follow. The performance began and ended with the same scenario: Flame entered from the shadows, cigarette
smoke circling her silhouette; from the wings a dark figure emerged and pulled the trench coat from her
shoulders to expose her red sequined dress reflecting the light from the sudden glare of a follow spot. As Flame
hit a triumphant pose, arms raised and feet spread apart, the sounds of a crackling fire, the mortal enemy of the
forest, engulfed the theater. Flame, in an aside to the audience before the climactic final scene, whispered,
“The forest has grown too tall. There are only shadows. They have created a world they can no longer live in.”
Melanie’s love and knowledge of vintage fashion made her the obvious choice to find and coordinate each
character’s specific look. Richard, once a student at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, worked
with the actors, and Kurt concentrated on the staging of the scenes. An accomplished musician, Tom was able
to transcribe songs from the films which Dori sang accompanied by Mark between his brief scenes as Wisteria’s
Two short sequences utilizing Watchface techniques differed from the rest of the more traditionally theatrical
production. In the first, a parade of the characters performed Emblems of their predominate trait, including
Alienated, Manipulative, Ruthless, Obsessive, Desperate, Entitled, and Spoiled. The second featured Leah
recreating movements from Bodies in Space improvisations based on sociological definitions of film noir – “A
blank slate on which the culture could inscribe its ills and in the process produce a catharsis to help relieve
them.” – “The unstable universe as a reflection of a cultural apprehension focused on communism and nuclear
devastation.” These two abstract sequences were performed behind the scrim with the same opening images of
the city and the forest.
David Hirsh wrote in his review for the New York Native in March 1992, “The authors overlay conceptual
choreography and intermittent projections of a forest onto a ‘40’s movie-like melodrama of high-level crime
and corruption. By the end everyone is dead, but most striking to this viewer, was the lovingly-rendered
nuggets from ‘40’s movie techniques in the script and acting, and especially in the lighting designed by
La MaMa’s Howard Thies. It was possible to make comparisons between that old technique and the lushness of
a forest. This forest, though, is filled with trolls – classically attractive trolls. Opportunities for camp are by-passed
for concentration on the form itself. Even so, the punchy cynicism of the script often provides ironic humor.”
PS 122, NYC May 1993
April 1993 – Dixon Place, NYC (work in progress)
Conceived, written, and directed by Kurt Fulton
Music by Joshua Fried
Performed and created by Kurt Fulton, Leah Goldstein, Iris Rose, and Allan M. Tibbetts
Before Watchface disbanded, Kurt Fulton came across an old copy of Renee Richards’ autobiography, Second
Serve, first published in 1983. Second Serve cover Richards was one of the first transsexuals to gain notoriety,
mostly because of her lawsuits against the United States Tennis Association and the Women’s Tennis Association,
who denied her the right to play professional tennis under their “women-born-women” policy. Ultimately,
Richards was judged “a woman” by the courts and allowed to play. Despite a high ranking of 20 in women’s
singles and success in the tennis doubles discipline in the mid-1970’s, Richards became most well-known as
coach to tennis great Martina Navratilova. Renee Richards photo Richards’ story was again in the pop culture
conversation when a 1986 TV movie based on Second Serve was broadcast, starring Vanessa Redgrave as both
the pre- and post-transition Renee.
Richards’ life story was the seed for a performance about gender identity and tennis, two of Kurt’s passionate
interests. The performance was not actualized until over two years after Watchface ended. Kurt started by
enlisting Iris Rose to collaborate. He also asked Leah Goldstein and Allan M. Tibbetts, who both had previously
performed in Watchface productions, to join the cast. Soon after work began on the project, Kurt’s proposal to
PS 122 was accepted and dates were set. Gender Tennis poster Prior to the PS 122 production, a work in progress
was shown at Ellie Covan’s historically supportive Dixon Place, a space devoted to developing new works.
The story of Richard Raskind’s journey to Renee Richards was the spine of the performance. Iris was cast as
Richard before Renee’s transition occurred and Kurt played the post-operative Renee, adding a layer of gender
disorientation. In addition to the main biographical narrative, several abstract sections dealt with other
concepts of gender roles, identity, and confusion. Previously Kurt had created a very short performance as a gift
to his good friend Richard Schachter for his “moving to New Orleans” farewell gathering. Kurt had duplicated
the choreography from a VHS recording of a competitive program performed by Olympic ice skater Nancy
Kerrigan, but only the movements from the waist up while his legs were bound together. Movements such as
spins and jumps were portrayed stationary and facing front. The gestures remained authentic in relationship to
Kurt’s forward-facing, still hips. It was a nod to the synchronized swimming performance that Richard and Kurt
had adapted and performed in their Watchface collaboration rou-tine. His concept for the ice skating piece
worked for Gender Tennis – a woman being held captive within her accepted roles by a male dominated
society. Kurt created a companion piece for Allan, in which he replicated the dance of a rhythmic gymnast
doing an exercise with a ball, but with his hands tied behind his back. There was no ball, only the movements of
his body as if his arms were manipulating that apparatus. production photos
Kurt incorporated many Watchface techniques in building the show, even a version of the Nancy Sinatra game
that inspired Nancy/Marty/Masterpiece Theater. Iris, wearing headphones and a cassette player, attempted at
each performance to spontaneously reproduce a different short section of Second Serve that Kurt had
prerecorded. Adding to the difficulty, Kurt also bounced tennis balls to Iris that she aimed to hit into or above the
audience, while Leah and Allan played ball boys, rolling the missed balls back to Kurt.
Sections of text were lifted from Richards’ book to form the script, along with other found sources. As a fanatic
tennis fan, Kurt had recorded and saved many classic clashes on the tennis court. Some of these recordings
included interviews with Renee Richards in her role of coach. Lines from these interviews became part of the
As an additional element, Kurt asked artists Mark Chamberlain and Barbara Shinn to contribute images from their
photographic work that they felt held sexual or gender related content. These images were projected onto the
blank scrims backing the performance space.
Frequent collaborator Joshua Fried was commissioned to create a sound score. One task was to write a melody
to lyrics of a gender ambiguous love song that Kurt assigned Iris to write. All four cast members began by
singing the tune directly to a cast member of the opposite sex and then turned to face a cast member of the
same sex. To incorporate the tennis theme, Joshua used the infamous grunt of tennis champion Monica Seles,
winner of multiple major tournaments, to create the bass line beat.
Downtown Art, NYC February 1994
Conceived, written, and directed by Iris Rose
Dramaturgy, assistant directing, and promotion by Christine Larchian
Created and performed by Laura Breen, Melanie Monios, Helen Russell, and Susan Thompson
Koken played by Kurt Fulton
Sets by Brian Dewan
Iris Rose was fascinated by the year 1962. It was a period of great sophistication and naïveté. The Kennedys
exemplified the style and culture, as well as the hypocrisy, of the era. The films of that year tended to be earnest
black-and-white explorations of social problems with great performances by actors who were inspired by “the
method,” even if they weren’t actually trained in it. These films included To Kill a Mockingbird, The Miracle
Worker, The Manchurian Candidate, Days of Wine and Roses, and Birdman of Alcatraz. It was the year of
Jacqueline Kennedy’s tour of the White House and the Cuban missile crisis. It was the year before the cultural
destabilization of President Kennedy’s assassination and the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique,
which kicked off the modern feminist era. It was also the year that Iris’ parents split up.
In 1992, Iris realized that she was the same age that her own mother had been in 1962. The contrast between
their lives was striking – her mother in a postwar suburban home, balancing motherhood and graduate school,
and Iris in an East Village tenement building, balancing motherhood and her commitment to being an artist.
They did have this in common: they were both the same age when their marriages fell apart.
As a newly single mother, albeit one with shared custody, Iris was trying to find a way to continue her
performance work that didn’t require nightly rehearsals that would take her away from her son. Her solution was
to tell her collaborators at the beginning of her project exploring the year 1962 that it would last for a full year.
Instead of an intensive several solid months of rehearsals, their schedule began with weekly workshops to watch
films and have discussions about the events and issues of 1962, then weekly improvisation sessions based on
scenarios that Iris created based on the discussions. This was followed by several months in which Iris wrote the
script, and finally a more concentrated rehearsal period to assemble the final product. They began this process
in January 1993 and performed the finished play in February 1994.
The women who embarked on this extended journey were: Melanie Monios, a member of Watchface, who
had already worked with Iris on 10 shows; Helen Russell and Laura Breen, who had been cast members of
Watchface’s White in 1990, one of its last productions; and Susan Thompson, a friend and actress whose work
Iris had seen and admired, though they had never worked together. The sixth, and very valuable, member of
this team was Christine Larchian. Like Iris, she had recently received her master’s degree in Performance Studies
from New York University, and they had become good friends. Iris enlisted Christine to help with many aspects
of the performance, including research into the year 1962, assisting at all rehearsals, and taking charge of
publicity and promotion.
Around the time this project was starting to take shape, Iris began receiving newsletters from a new theater on
East 4th Street called Downtown Art, located in the same block as La MaMa. The artistic director, a woman
named Ryan Gilliam, went beyond mere promotion in these letters; she talked about her personal life as a
theater artist with a young child. Iris felt an affinity for this woman and her fledgling theater, so she wrote a letter
describing her project and her hope that Downtown Art, as the theater was called, might be her new theatrical
home. Ryan was touched by Iris’ letter, and Downtown Art agreed to produce 1962. Within a few years,
however, Downtown Art, still under Ryan’s direction, became a theater exclusively for teens and young adults,
and both Iris’ son Joe and Ryan’s daughter Dakota performed there.
As the workshops proceeded, Iris began shaping the story of 1962. It was a departure from most of her work with
Watchface, since she intended it as a conventional play, a word she had avoided in describing her
performance art works. The play was divided into four acts, each representing one of the seasons, and the
stage was divided into four sections, each representing the home of one of the four women at the heart of the
story. Barbara (Melanie) was a creative person trying to limit the application of her talents to the tasks of
homemaking and parenting; Pat (Helen) was a mother of four who longed to be part of the protest movements
she saw on the news; Peg (Susan), the mother of a grown son, was coping with the loneliness of an empty nest;
and Lana (Laura) was a glamorous transplant from the city whose unfamiliar attitudes and demeanor disrupted
the lives of the other three women. These four characters were loosely inspired by Iris’ mother, two of her aunts,
and her mother’s best friend, who had lived down the block when Iris was growing up. Iris was able to interview
three of these women during the research period for 1962 and used some of what she learned in shaping the
The period setting required that Iris acquire certain distinctive props of the era. She already had Melmac plastic coffee cups in a wide range of colors, but she needed four dial telephones in complementary tones. When she went to talk to musician/artist Brian Dewan at his home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, about creating the scenery for the production, Iris mentioned the challenge of finding the necessary phones. To her amazement, Brian produced four perfect specimens from his basement in beige, avocado, aqua, and white. In addition, he just happened to have on hand four angled Danish Modern table legs and four Early American ones in maple, appropriate for constructing coffee tables of the era.
At the opening of the show, each of the characters appeared in front of a wall painted to match her phone and
coffee cup – except Pat, whose harvest gold wall and coffee cup contrasted with her white phone and wall
clock. Like Pat, each of the women had one object hanging on her wall. For Lana, it was an embroidered
Chinese wall hanging; for Barb, a homemade café curtain; and for Peg, a small shelf holding a photo of her
absent son, Todd. Each woman also had a chair, a very small coffee table that held her phone and cup, and a
tall table that held a practical lamp that was controlled by a dimmer.
Iris used a theatrical convention from kabuki theater for 1962 that she had previously used in her Watchface
show Camden – the koken. A koken is a stagehand dressed entirely in black who is considered invisible by the
audience as he moves props and helps with costume changes. For 1962, Watchface member Kurt Fulton
performed the koken’s duties, helping the ladies on and off with their coats, acting as countertop and draining
rack for Barb as she did her dishes, distributing tins of Christmas cookies to the ladies for their “cookie swap,” and
even dancing with lonely Peg as the spirit of Nat King Cole (breaking the taboo in kabuki against actors
interacting with koken). production photos
Each of the acts began with a Nat King Cole song (“Spring is Here,” “Autumn Leaves”) and a slide of an illustration
from a Betty Crocker cookbook. Betty Crocker slides The song was followed by a voiceover narration by Iris that
created a novelistic overview by placing the women’s lives in the context of the time. More of these authorial
essays throughout the show explained topics such as the maintenance ritual required to sustain Lana’s beauty,
Peggy’s relationship to the imaginary Betty Crocker, and the importance of Christmas to a housewife of the era.
Christmas narration script
Most of the production was composed of short, naturalistic dialogue scenes, but one scene echoed the more
movement-based, presentational style of Watchface. To Nat King Cole’s “Dance, Ballerina, Dance” Peggy
began to mime making her bed. As she meticulously tucked, folded, and layered the bedding, her neighbors
appeared one by one in their own houses, performing their own household tasks. Lana, who did no housework,
was seen going through her Jack LaLanne exercise routine. Although the actions performed were realistic, Iris
encouraged the actresses to stylize and simplify them, making them into a dance routine. In Watchface, such
actions were called Walter Kendall Fives and stylization was termed “anti-mime.”
1962 enjoyed a two-week run at Downtown Art and, though it was a particularly frigid February, drew good
crowds. Downtown Art program The production also received a lengthy review in Women & Performance by Amy
Elliot, another NYU Performance Studies graduate. Women & Performance review However, despite the
extended rehearsal process, Iris found it too difficult to balance the demands of parenthood and theater, and a
year later, after reviving Camden one last time for TWEED’s 10th Anniversary Festival, she retired from writing and
directing (with a few isolated exceptions) for the next 10 years. 1962, though one of Iris’ favorite projects, was
never performed again.
*Richard Schachter is referred to as both Richard and R.N. Schachter in programs and production notes.