Just Out The Window / Performance Piece for BARITONE, ALTO & ACCOMPANIST

COMMISSIONED BY: Washington National Opera
PREMIERED: Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, November

This 45 minute multi-media work, is also a performance piece for BARITONE, ALTO and ACCOMPANIST, portraying Three Denizens of a neighbourhood, who are Witness to change, and lead our journey through thematic lenses of neighbourhood, community, music, and culture.


Author's Note: 

Window gives contemporary resonance to the ideas and concepts of urban activist Jane Jacobs. It is meant to be presented/performed in a community space library, museum, school auditorium, even street corner..

The performing artists engage the audience almost as a commedia dell’arte troupe, facilitating the sense of imagination in transmitting how life resonates through interchangeable states of Recollection and Memory..

This work, written in 2018, was first presented at the Smithsonian, Anacostia Community Museum, in conjunction with their exhibition, A Right to the City

The performance premiered with the talents of Laree Simon, Jarrod Lee, and Roderick Demmings, Jr.

Education Component: The ‘visual track’ of images offers opportunity as component part of production work; with the script as 'blueprint', students engage in identifying animation, moving image, photos and associated materials to utilize in production, as well as in the classroom, in learning the background to the music selections, character journey, and contemporary challenges of urban life; work is threaded to engage the appetites of Theatre, Visual Image, Museum Studies, and Playwriting Track students, from high school, up through university. 

The ’visual track’ for the premiere was the product of a Kennedy Center Education Residency, and my work with students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, in Washington, DC. 




Piano/Keyboard Accompanist





ACCOMPANIST removes ‘construction plastic’ that has been hiding keyboard; BARITONE enters, wearing an old Marine Band uniform jacket, plumed hat.. and carrying a trumpet case (inside which are Tonka toys, a small inflatable beach ball, a dog’s leash, a cat’s catnip toy).

ALTO enters, dressed in a 1980’s jogging outfit, with a 1980’s cassette recorder on her waist, listening through a headset.

All three now stare at one another..

-and then, at the audience..

BARITONE: ..-you’re thinking: a peculiar sight, without explanation.. Yet I assure you, entirely connected. We belong here. Have been here. And are here..

(ACCOMPANIST plays Ellington’s Black Beauty – fit to image sequence

Image 1 – 1d - Duke Ellington sequence)


ACCOMPANIST: Found at different moments.. inspiring in every one of them, others artistry -even trying with Presidents.. 

(ACCOMPANIST -looking at BARITONE- plays Sousa’s Stars & Stripes.. fit to image sequence

Image 2 – 2c - John Phillip Sousa sequence)


BARITONE: Recalled as a bridge of purpose, refreshed from time to time. ..or as an old name for a new school..

(ACCOMPANIST plays a Brown style, Go-Go riff [fit to image sequence], while looking at ALTO, who puts down her boxes..

Image 3(first – third)  – Chuck Brown sequence)

ALTO/BARITONE/ACCOMPANIST: ..Chuck Brown! -citizen as art .. present as address.. and as happening-

ALTO: -where the notes of song.. break you into dance! Then, stunned, stop. -Because where you heard it first..

BARITONE/ACCOMPANIST: Is a place no longer there.

ALTO: -and you will have sworn, it was this corner.. some building, maybe near..


BARITONE/ALTO/ACCOMPANIST: But for this moment’s time.. consider us, all –a full part of the human journey happening here .. - just out the window.


ACCOMPANIST: Change, cannot fully suppress the echo of us off worn bricks .

ALTO: or fact of footsteps, now beneath layers of tarmac ..or scented memories of landscape, uprooted 

BARITONE/ALTO/ACCOMPANIST: or ..farther.. obliviate words left behind as challenge to an intentionality, of change..

[Image 3a/1 – 3a/7   -  Jane Jacobs sequence]

ALTO: Citizen warrior, housewife activist, and empathetic sharp sighted soul.. 

BARITONE/ACCOMPANIST/ALTO: Jane Jacobs gave words particular, sensible, clarity.. as a frame

BARITONE: considering a metropolis as a living organism.. 

ALTO: And how our life in it, our use of it, ought to shape its dimensions..

[Image 3a 7 fades..]

BARITONE: ..a simple premise is: Design is people! 

ACCOMPANIST: Erratic, random, serendipitous, chaotic.. ..

ALTO/BARITONE/ACCOMPANIST: underpinning a landscape of human journey

BARITONE/ACCOMPANIST/ALTO: ..because of which, “and by its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange”..

[iMovie 3    [1:07]

During movie ALTO rummages through the ‘Recycling Bin’, pulling out a “COMING SOON” BANNER.. as well as a Hard Hat on which are the words “PROMISED CHANGE”..  – ..and then.. looking through the suitcase, she pulls out a well worn housecoat.. tatty slippers ..and wig..

HOLD last image of iMovie 3 – of man on a vent.. 

ALTO/ACCOMPANIST – suggest Kander & Ebb: Cabaret (*..so who cares, so what?)  3:05

[*see amended lyrics.]

ALTO starts song referencing the items of ‘promised change’.. but goes on to don the costume of the housecoat, slippers and wig - concluding the song as “collateral of change”.. she finishes, sitting on the floor, her back to the audience..