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Drama Canadian

Woman by a Window & Céleste

by (author) Marianne Ackerman

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Initial publish date
May 1996
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    Publish Date
    May 1996
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Two plays by Marianne Ackerman. Woman by a Window externalizes one woman's struggle with her desire, her will and her soul as she attempts to renounce a man and food simultaneously. She attempts to distract herself from her hungers by reading Madame Bovary, with alternately hilarious and sad results. Céleste examines the relationship between David Temple, a modern philosopher, Isaac Hirscholm, his doctor friend and Céleste, the woman who becomes the Temple's housekeeper and eventually his wife. Ackerman masterfully uses this dramatic situation to explore some of the issues raised in the work of contemporary Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor.

About the author

A long-time Montrealer, Marianne Ackerman was born in Belleville, Ontario. She has an MA in drama from the University of Toronto and studied French at the Sorbonne. Her three published novels include the best-seller Jump. A frequently produced playwright, her new comedy Triplex Nervosa will be part of the Centaur Theatre’s 2014-15 season. She is publisher of the online arts magazine Rover, found at The novella and stories in Holy Fools mark her first foray into short fiction.

Marianne Ackerman's profile page

Excerpt: Woman by a Window & Céleste (by (author) Marianne Ackerman)

from Woman by a Window & Céleste

Desire twirls gently and falls. Will groans with morning sickness.

Desire: There, there, you'll feel so much better. Now you know how I felt. It's no fun being sick on an empty stomach, is it? So next time you'll know better. Fasting is not good.

Will: Leave me alone.

Desire: Now, now—

Will: Alone!

Desire: Fasting is fascist. It's a blatant denial of social reality. Fasting represents order. Control. Totalitarian government. In the words of Emma Goldman, who was plump—

Will: Ahhhhhhhhh!

Desire: (Hurt and defensive.) Well, not every great idea pops out of an empty womb.

Will: True, but we haven't time for history.

Desire: Time? I have all the time in the world. My time is the tirne of my children's children. When I am dead as dust my blood will flow in the veins of grown men and beautiful women. Women full of children, and so on (Pain.) Oh, my time is near... I don't like this feeling. Give me something strong and call me when it's over.

Will: No drugs.

Desire: Come on. In this day and age, pain isn't necessary.

Will: Of course it is!

Desire: Ohhh!

Will: If I am forced against my better judgement to support this hideous repetition of animal acts, I insist on remaining conscious throughout. At least the bloody part may be interesting.

Desire: Don't mention blood.

Will: There certainly will be—

Desire: Yes, but after, holding it, throwing it up in the air.

Will: (Whisper.) After you've wiped up the blood.

Desire: (Going to Soul.) Please, speak up on behalf know...general principles. The virtue and beauty of "motherhood."

Soul: She's right. There's only one way out. Only one loophole. When a small hyphen between your legs grows big enough for a head.


from Céleste

Suddenly, distant and then louder, music from thirty years ago. Eddie Fisher singing "I Dedicate This Song to You, My Love," or another such tune. Doorbell rings in the hallway. Enter from another room in the house, Dr. Isaac Hirscholm, a small man muttering under his breath. He picks up a few dusty books, smacks his handkerchief against the china cabinet and straightens a chair.

Isaac: Got Mayner! [My God!] The house is a mess. J'arrive, j'arrive! [Coming, coming.] David? (Doorbell rings insistently.) Keep your knickers on, madame! David? Ah, there you are. Come in, come in. Listen, I, ah, hope you don't mind. I put an ad in The Star. Well, you need someone, at least temporarily until, that is, in case Marjorie doesn't come back—

Temple: She's not coming back! Isaac: Well, knowing Marjorie—

Temple: Isaac, never speak that name in this house again! And if she dares—You say I've gone.

Isaac: Ye ye, zi vet shoyn keynmol nit kumen tsurik. [Yes, yes, she's never coming back.]

Just outside the door, Céleste stands holding an umbrella and a newspaper.

Céleste: "Housekeeper." ...C'est bien. Gardez la maison. Good salary, private room on the third floor. Sunday off and two weeks vacation in summer. No children, no pets, and so many rooms. A square stone house with a roof like a hat, and very small windows.

Isaac arrives at the door.

Isaac: Bonjour.

Céleste: Good-day.

Isaac: Vous devez être Mademoiselle O'Borne. [You must be Miss O'Borne.]

Céleste: Yes.

Isaac: Enchanté. Laissez-moi me présenter. Je suis Isaac Hirscholm, psychiatre et ami de la famille. Le Professeur nous attend. [Delighted. Let me introduce myself. I'm Isaac Hirscholm, psychiatrist, friend of the family. The Professor's waiting for us.]

She sees Temple, as he was. As she speaks, he notices her. Music.

Céleste: He was there, in the garden, a tall man, wearing a tweed jacket and tie. Standing by the trellis, leaning over a rose, as if he was waiting for someone. Like a man who lost his luggage. Straight from the airport after a long journey. Arms floating. He never lost that move without touching the floor.

Isaac: Allons par ici mademoiselle. Je vais vous montrer votre royaume: la cuisine. [This way, miss. I'll show you your domain: the kitchen.]

She takes off her coat, ready to stay.

Céleste: Westmount. In 1965, you could disappear, and nobody would know where you went. Sink into a foreign language with people who knew nothing. Never have to see anybody.

Editorial Reviews

“The experiments of the British playwright Harold Pinter may remain in the cultural imagination as a fond joke—'Pause...long pause'—but the dramatic problem endures. How do you communicate lack of communication? There could hardly be a better place to take up that challenge again than Montreal, where language itself provides a symbol of division. And who better to do it than playwright Marianne Ackerman, artistic director of Theatre 1774, an English-language and sometimes bilingual company dedicated to addressing the city's cultural mix? This trilingual script—the action is primarily played out in English—is no simplistic tale of two solitudes brought together by love. These three mismatched characters are bound together by emotional intricacies they cannot express to each other and their geographic and linguistic differences ultimately come to symbolize the solitude of the human soul.”

—The Globe & Mail

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