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~ Francine Conley ~

"Windows" (2002)

VHS videos and DVD samples available upon request

Artist's Statement
In the poem, "Les Fenêtres" (Windows), Charles Baudelaire sits in his city apartment and looks out the window.  Beyond the waving rooftops he spots an old woman in her apartment.  He invents her life, suggesting that he gleans more by observing her through a closed window than he would face to face.  He asks, what does it matter what the reality outside of me might be, so long as it has helped me to live, to feel that I am and what I am?
Baudelaire reminds us that windows are irresistible forces of invention.  They are objects of joy, intrigue, and menace.  An open window incites curiosity; a closed window, silence; a boarded window, fear.  Broken and jailed windows remind us of our helplessness and vulnerability, barn windows inspire us to look out onto vast, open country.
For me, windows were my first books; they invited me to read the world outside, memorize other people's routines, and delight in a day's unexpected surprises - like the man I saw crawl on his neighbor's roof to save the piece of brie that had fallen from his window one floor above.
Through the years, I have come to think of windows as objects that allow us a necessary, but at times dangerous, separation from each other.  Think of being stuck in a traffic jam, the hundreds of windows inching by, and the faces we consciously or unconsciously ignore.
While Baudelaire seems content to observe without being observed, "Windows" grew out of my desire to ask his poem:  what if the woman looks back at you?  What would she say?
"Windows" is an invitation to listen and look more closely at each other, at what we are and what we are becoming.  Tonight, you will see a combination of characters found, borrowed, and imagined.  The script is a blend of the following:  stories I have been told by friends and acquaintances; stories I have overheard from strangers; literature and paintings I have studied; and finally, discussions I've had with my students on the topic of windows.
To me, the characters created in this play are like the old woman in Baudelaire's poem banging open her window and begging to tell her version of reality as she lives it.  I hope the stories told tonight will remind us, like windows, to ask questions.
May 2002

Performance History
  • Spotlight Room, Madison Civic Center, Madison, WI, May 2002 (premiere)
Artistic Staff
Brent Goodman (original music, music director) is a musician and writer from Madison, WI.  Windows marks his second collaboration with Francine.  His original music has appeared in The Purse Project (2000) and on the soundtracks of two Wisconsin Film Fest documentaries:  What is Normal? (2001) and The Sid Boyum Sculpture Project (2002).  Brent has an MFA in Poetry from Purdue University, where he was a Lecturer of English.
Jodi Samuels (lighting designer, technical director) is a theatre scholar and techie.  She has a Ph.D. in French and theatre history from UW-Madison and is the Manager and Technical Director for the Théâtre de la Chandelle Verte theatre troupe.  Previous Madison-area theatrical credits include Technical Director for Paroles (1998); Assistant Director, Technical Director, Costume & Lighting Designer for Le Malade imaginaire (1999); and Lighting Designer for Les Crasseux (2000), Ubu Roi (2001), and Huis Clos (2002).
Gregg Williard and Erika Hughes (set designers).  Gregg worked with Francine as set designer and video artist on four previous shows and is currently the set designer for the Théâtre de la Chandelle Verte theatre troupe.  He is a painter, writer, and host of the radio program "Fiction Jones" on WORT in Madison, WI.  Erika is a Masters student in the Department of Theatre & Drama at UW-Madison.  She designed costumes for the Théâtre de la Chandelle Verte's production of Huis Clos, and without her, Windows would have no screens.
“Francine Conley [is] always listening, picking up on what people say, how they say it … she’s also watching… as a woman digs through her purse in a bistro in Paris, or as two men sit in the car next to hers on their own cell phones. The material inevitably finds its way into her art."  -- Samara Kalk, The Capital Times, 2002