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.