Created and performed by Melanie Monios and Maggie Siena

Watchface: The Spring ’87 Collection, La MaMa, NYC     April/May 1987

Additional performances:
July 1987 – Knitting Factory, NYC
May 1987 – Tweed Ensemble Fourth Annual New Works Festival, Teatro La Terraza, Charas, NYC
September 1987 – Fringe Festival, Oranges/Sardines, Los Angeles, CA
September 1987 – System M, Long Beach, CA
September 1987 – Zelo, Santa Barbara, CA
October 1987 – Dixon Place, NYC
October 1987 – Siberia, NYC

P.O. I Love You
Business Correspondence
Long Distance Lovers
Special Occasion Cards
Chain Letters
Pen Pals
Mail Order Catalogues

The year 1987 began with a burst of creativity for Watchface. La MaMa had opened a new
space within their East Village theater complex the previous October with Stereotype in
and Ralph and Louie’s Bad Habits. La MaMa later invited Watchface to commit to two
weekends on their spring schedule. What resulted was a series of new and past works
presented under the title Watchface: The Spring ’87 Collection.
La MaMa flyer
La MaMa card
La MaMa listing

Melanie Monios and Maggie Siena had worked together as part of larger projects but
wanted to create a show on their own. Their projected two-person performance was
included by the group in the La MaMa schedule, along with five other new works and three
previously staged shows. The women shared a mischievous sense of humor and wanted
their comedic view to be at the center of the new piece. Perhaps with an intuitive sense of
how the world was soon to change at the dawn of the digital age, the women chose to base
the show on their enduring love of receiving mail. The choice of topic alone foreshadowed
their tongue-in-cheek approach. The contents of their mailboxes – postcards, bills,
packages, chain letters, personal letters, and mail order catalogues – would all become the
target of their comic wit. Both women remember the show as “so much fun” to create but
“nothing terribly serious.” “Pure silliness,” Maggie recalled.

One couldn’t receive mail without first the institution of the postal service. Thus for the
prologue the women decided to honor the efficiency and hard work of postal workers. A
taped preamble introduced Maggie and Melanie in their mock postal worker uniforms. They
had found matching navy shirts and work pants from the local army surplus store to
substitute. James Siena had pre-recorded the announcement:

Through its vast network, the United States Postal Service passes some 360 million pieces
of mail every day. It takes dedicated, persevering people, as well as machines, to keep
this flood of mail moving smoothly and quickly.

When you first drop a letter into a mailbox, you are actually the first mail handler in the
postal system. But, what in fact happens to your mail en route to its final destination?

To a soundtrack of assorted clanks, screeches, bangs, crashes, and honks, the women
performed, with a “serious worker’s attitude,” a series of choreographed Emblems (for a
description of this technique, see METHOD). The movements were based on such postal
duties as Collecting, Driving, Lifting, Dumping, Sorting, Weighing, Stamping, and Dispatching.
The last bit of the soundtrack was of dogs barking and growling as the final Emblem,
Delivering, was executed. For the balance of the sections, found materials like postcards,
greeting cards, and mail order catalogues were used to inspire text written by both women.
Mail Order Catalogues script with catalogue clippings

They also circulated a questionnaire to family, friends, and the other Watchface members to
gather ideas for text and to instigate movement. Examples from the questionnaire:

What is the weirdest piece of junk mail you have received?
What aspects about getting and sending mail do you just love?
What are your gripes about mail or the postal system?

The exceptions to this were the scripts for Long Distance Lovers and Pen Pals. Both pieces
were based upon correspondence between two different sets of fictional characters. Initial
scenarios were established with Melanie and Maggie each taking on the persona of one of
the correspondents. In character, the women then began composing letters to each other.
The stories developed as they received the letters and they would then have to counter
whatever new plot lines were presented – improvisation by mail, with the ultimate goal of
making each other laugh. They eagerly checked their mail boxes in expectation of the next
chapter of the story and the opportunity to respond. Over the weeks of rehearsal the women
became very fond of and attached to their characters as their stories unfolded. For Long
Distance Lovers Melanie took the male role of Lewis, who left his fiancée, Charlotte (Maggie),
on the East Coast for a job opportunity in the West. The Pen Pals were Latina Rosy, played by
Maggie, and Tokie from Japan, portrayed by Melanie. The jumping off point of their story
was that both had been foreign exchange students in America, where they became friends.
At the end of their school year in the States and before returning to their homelands, they
vowed to stay in touch and became pen pals. Besides the more obvious humor, both stories
depicted the complexity and poignancy of social relations.
Long Distance Lovers sample correspondence
Long Distance Lovers partial script
Pen Pals sample correspondence
Pen Pals partial script

Movement created to accompany the text was utilized to emphasize both the ideas being
expressed and the subliminal thoughts underlying what was being said. For the section
Chain Letters, ideas for movements like Promise, Threaten, Command, and Instruct
supported the text that encouraged the reader/viewer not to break the chain.
Chain Letters working script

In Business Correspondence, the choreography came from concepts that were the true
motivation hidden behind the language used, for example Manipulate, Patronize, Intimidate,
Lie, and Confuse. Business Correspondence working script Both Maggie and Melanie recall an
intense development period, which produced a very tight and well-rehearsed performance.

The presentation of Pen Pals was met with some comments of it being racially insensitive.
Since the characters were communicating in their common second language, much of the
humor came from the misuse and misunderstanding of the English language. They also
chose to perform the characters with their appropriate Asian and Latin accents while
speaking English. The women felt the depictions were created with such affection, respect,
and good-natured fun that these few comments were not taken as serious criticism. The title
of the show referenced their incorrect use of P.O. for the post scripts that finished each pen
pal’s letter and, of course, the Post Office.

In the fall of 1987, all seven members of Watchface traveled together for the first time for a
series of performances, including P.O. I Love You, as part of the Los Angeles Fringe Festival.
Fringe Festival calendar cover and listing Watchface was hosted by Oranges/Sardines, a gallery
and performance space in downtown Los Angeles. Oranges/Sardines flyer The large former
warehouse was also the home of the gallery’s owners, Carol Colin and Ted Waltz, and
included their side business, catering for photography and television shoots. In the fall of
1987, it had the additional task of housing the seven New Yorkers during their performance

Several members of Watchface also scheduled separate side gigs during the trip to
California. P.O. I Love You was performed, with other shows from the Fringe Festival
repertory, at System M in Long Beach and Zeno in Santa Barbara.
System M flyer
System M program