Double Feature, La MaMa, NYC October 1989
December 1989 – Watchface Emergency Benefit Party, Max Fish, NYC (excerpts)
Dance Theater Workshop Benefit, NYC (excerpts)
AAaaaw! A Tribute to Domestic Animals
Chazz Dean and Kurt Fulton proposed their performance, Sodomite Warriors, to La MaMa for
the fall of 1989, but the show, which ran just over a half hour, needed a companion piece to
fill out the bill. Melanie Monios and Maggie Siena had been wanting to work together again
since their first collaboration, PO I Love You, two years earlier. The four Watchface members
decided that a work by the two women would both match well and contrast nicely with the
male duet of Sodomite Warriors, being another duo but a female one. The engagement was
named Double Feature and set to premiere on the final weekend of October.
La MaMa promotional mailer
The first press release for Double Feature listed the women’s performance as “Super Fine
Mesh” – “And super fine it is! The girls will be performing secrets only they know, and it is
`Girl Power’ all the way. Powder puffs and pink champagne, this will be a treat to savor, and
as the girls say: `Super Fine Mesh’ has a flattering fit and no runs!” This projected satirical
look behind the scenes of the feminine mystique was not ultimately inspiring to the two
women so, as they had with PO I Love You, they looked for a topic of shared interest and one
to which they could again apply their sense of humor. Both women were dedicated to their
household pets – Maggie currently shared her apartment with a cat, and Melanie always
had a bird in her life – so they decided a tribute to domestic animals would be the premise
of the performance. The theme allowed for sincere investigation but, most importantly to the
women, it was also ripe for broad humor. La MaMa Double Feature program
The show was divided into types of pets and within those divisions a different performance
style was developed to tell the tale of each lovable animal species. They used the same
methodology as in their previous collaboration: a script was written, and then Watchface
movement techniques were utilized to enhance the ideas presented. Between the sections
a series of funny and silly pet photographs were projected onto the back of the stage. An
appropriate slide was also used as the background for each animal tribute. pet imagery
Rodents opened the performance. The section was a clever poem with choreographed
movements that the women performed in unison. Rodents poem Like certain sequences in
their previous collaboration, Cats explored a relationship and how it can change when an
outside circumstance suddenly applies its influence. Cats told the story of two roommates,
Angie (Melanie) and Paula (Maggie) from Long Island, whose idyllic home life is interrupted
by a stray kitty. Their two very different viewpoints regarding the new pet ultimately broke up
the previously dedicated roomies. The women sat at opposite ends of the stage, facing the
audience. The thick Long Island accents they used added to their characterizations and to
the humor. Their stories were told independently, as shown in this excerpt:
Frankly, I was not surprised that they got along right away because, I am telling you, that
cat was so cute.
I will never understand what she saw in that cat because, I’m sorry, it was very ugly.
It had this long, colorful, fluffy hair –
– that was all matted and smashed to its skin.
And it had cute little ears with little tufts of fur on the top only.
One of the ears was kinda ripped and dangling a little bit.
So there was always scabs and stuff on it.
It was so cute. And then it had like these little green eyes that would look at you with so
much love – like all the time.
No matter where you were in the room – it was so creepy.
It also had this long tail with this little crick at the end.
Like you know how men with a chipped tooth are real cute – it was like that.
Really, it looked deformed.
So I thought about it and thought about it and I says, what should I name this gorgeous
cat? And I said, a delicate name, a lovely name…
I’m embarrassed to say, she named it…
For the Birds tribute, Melanie lip-synched to a vintage bird training recording. album cover
She channeled the bird trainer, Virginia Belmont, interacting with her highly intelligent parrot,
Bambi. Humorously, Virginia loses control of Bambi, who will not stop crying like a baby. The
bird was portrayed on stage by a stuffed parrot. In Fish, the mysterious and often exotic
creatures were represented by a series of anecdotes about and testimonials to domestic
marine life and their care, delivered in the style of traditional Japanese haiku. The women
complemented the “poetry” with intricate staging using multiple fish-shaped blow-up pool
floats. To accent the mystic nature of the presentation, they also spoke the lines
harmonically with Maggie taking a low pitch and Melanie a higher tone.
Dogs told the true story of the passing of Cindy, who was 126 years old in dog years. Maggie
sat center stage and told the bittersweet tale of the death of a cherished household pet and
its consequences on the family who loved her. The story was recounted quietly with Maggie
performing beautiful, simple motions that reflected the text. The movements were Emblems
(for a description of this technique, see METHOD ) based on both the emotional content of the
dialogue (“death just seems to come on mournful days”) and the physical elements of the
narrative (“I opened the door for him.”) Dogs script
The finale of the show received the greatest response from the audiences. The women
performed a musical medley about a pet owner’s dirtiest task, dealing with their animal’s
excrement. They found the perfect recording to accompany the lyrics of Poop Song.
“Switched-On Electric Broadway” was a medley of short melodies from a variety of
Broadway musicals, including Mame, A Chorus Line, My Fair Lady, and Evita. Since the
recording was instrumental only, the women could sing their original libretto over the splashy
orchestrations. Constructing matching choreography was the final step in building their
vision of a blockbuster finish. A tune from Gypsy became a song about the trials of dealing
with litter boxes and the lyric to Hello Dolly chastised a puppy for leaving a malodorous
surprise on the living room rug. “Smell it, smell it, smell it, smell it, smell it, smell it – bad dog!”
With the value they put on laughter, this musical tribute to their pet’s poop was the most
satisfying part of the performance for Maggie and Melanie. Poop Song lyrics
For their costumes, the women went to an outlet store in Hoboken, New Jersey, that had a
treasure trove of never-worn, weird clothing from the 60’s and 70’s. There they found their
denim culotte jumpers for the performance.
Maggie and Melanie’s remembrances of the rehearsal process were of great fun but with the
pressure of conceiving the show under a deadline. The change of theme cut into the writing
and rehearsal time.
After the Double Feature engagement at La MaMa, excerpts, including the very popular
Poop Song, were performed at two benefits, one for Watchface’s own upcoming production
of White and another for Dance Theater Workshop. It was at the Dance Theater Workshop
benefit that respected actor, director, and writer Wallace Shawn approached the women
and expressed his profuse enjoyment of their poopy pet medley, creating another memory
they look back on fondly.