Diverse Works, Houston, TX January 1985
March 1985 – Limbo, NYC
Summer 1985 – 8BC, NYC
August 1985 – The Pyramid Club, NYC
November 1985 – The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, NYC
December 1985 – Limbo, NYC
July 1986 – Watchface’s Greatest Hits, Gates of Dawn, NYC (excerpt)
September 1986 – Watchface’s Greatest Hits, Darinka, NYC (excerpt)
March 1987 – A Watchface Sampler, Jeffrey Neale Gallery, NYC (excerpt)
April/May, 1987 – Watchface: The Spring ’87 Collection, La MaMa, NYC
Boys Will Be Men
Success & Failure
After House of Jahnke, in which all seven of the eventual members of Watchface were
involved, Iris Rose decided to work on a show inspired by the novel Little Women with the
other female members of the group. Partly to create a masculine counterpart to that
project, but mostly because they wanted to keep performing, Chazz Dean and James Siena
decided to create their own single-gender show and used as their inspiration an outdated
guidebook for boys from 1942 that laid out in detail the code of masculinity at the time
(according to the authors). Boys Will Be Men cover Boys Will Be Men gave young men of that
era advice on dating, grooming, attire, and manners and theoretically prepared them for
what would be expected of them as they grew to manhood. Unlike the book of the same
name, Boys Will Be Men, the show, tried to look at maleness from multiple perspectives,
including straight and gay, past and present, adult and child.
Boys Will Be Men was first presented in its entirety at the gallery and performance space
Diverse Works in Houston, TX, in January 1985. James and Chazz had performed there the
previous year, along with Melanie Monios and Iris Rose, when they presented excerpts from
1984: The Future Repeats Itself and the premiere of James and Iris’ Negotiations. A year later,
Diverse Works’ director, Michael Parenteau, had made it possible for Iris’ show about Little
Women to be performed for one Monday night at Houston’s Alley Theater. He asked
everyone from the group that would eventually become Watchface to perform whatever
they liked at the gallery the previous weekend. Besides Chazz and James with Boys Will Be
Men, those who chose to accept his invitation were Kim X Knowlton and Maggie Siena with
their first collaboration, the brand new Our Secret Little Ritual, and Iris with her solo work,
The costumes for Boys Will Be Men, in keeping with the source material’s narrow masculine
dress code, were suits and ties. The show opened with a movement only, introductory
section called Androgyny, which was followed by the one section of Boys Will Be Men that
was directly drawn from its source – Etiquette, in which James and Chazz re-created
black-and-white photographs from the book Boys Will Be Men as still tableaux, holding
each for just a moment, then slowly morphing into the next pose, blending the two together.
source photos and captions In the taped voiceover narration that accompanied these images,
Iris read the accompanying captions of the photos. text for Etiquette
The text for Success & Failure came from “Keep A-Goin’” – not the Henry Gibson song
from the film Nashville, but the pre-existing poem by Frank Lebby Stanton on which the
song was based. Chazz and James had stumbled across the poem while flipping through
old magazines from the earliest decades of the 20th century at Chazz’s apartment.
poem “Keep A-Goin’” Both Chazz and Melanie Monios, who was his roommate at the time,
used vintage images from these very old periodicals in their collage work. The movement
for Success & Failure used a repetitive step, almost falling forward with one arm crossed
in front of the body, somewhat reminiscent of folk dance, to convey the poem’s theme of
persistence in the face of adversity.
Competition was the show’s centerpiece, a movement-only section in which Chazz and
James used chairs in many different ways – sitting on them, swinging them around, and
discarding them – while first the opening theme to North By Northwest and then Samuel
Barber’s Adagio for Strings played backwards. The men ended up back to back with elbows
linked, each leaning all the way forward in turn so that the other was hoisted into the air. The
low-level lighting, like footlights, threw large, stark shadows onto the back wall. Seeing this
image later in photographs, Chazz remarked that their shadows somewhat resembled a
swastika, but he found that somewhat appropriate given the dictatorial tone of the guide for
boys that had inspired the piece and the narrow, rigid vision of masculinity, still present in
1985, that it represented.
In Mating/Not Mating, James and Chazz performed a sluggish disco dance to a distorted
version of Ottawan’s global disco hit “Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart),” while a recorded
voiceover revealed their internal monologues. This was followed by a section about the
enduring male preoccupation with war.
The section called Middle Age, about fatherhood, went on to contribute to the creation of
another show, Stereotype, and was performed many times, though it was renamed Dads.
In 1984: The Future Repeats Itself, created in 1983, Chazz and James had performed a
humorous, energetic section called A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste, about the uses of
intelligence among the undereducated. It consisted of rhythmic phrases and movements
performed to a 4/4 beat. For the Middle Age section of Boys Will Be Men, James and Chazz
decided to use the same technique but apply it to stereotypical statements made by fathers.
The consistently enthusiastic audience response was a factor in their later decision to create
Stereotype, in which all the sections were manufactured by this same process.
The show ended, appropriately, with a movement piece about death.
Boys Will Be Men, like National Enquirer, Negotiations, and Camden before it, was
photographed live at the club 8BC by Ken Schles. Besides his documentation of their
live shows, Ken shot many pictures of the performers in their day-to-day lives. Many of these
shots made their way into Ken’s well-known book of photos of the era, Invisible City,
published in 1988. In 2014, Ken Schles published a companion book called Night Walk,
incorporating more of the photographs he had taken in the mid 1980s, including one of
Boys Will Be Men live at the club 8BC.