It is 1904 in Boston at Fenway Court, the museum/home of ISABELLE STEWART GARDNER, grande dame of the Boston art scene. Popular, eccentric, and generous, Isabelle dotes upon her creative friends—artists, musicians, writers, and the ubiquitous “museum boys.” Then into her circle, which includes HENRY JAMES and JOHN SINGER SARGENT, comes the exotic and mysterious OKAKURA KAKUZO, an art connoisseur, poet, teacher, and polymath--and twenty years her junior. He is the embodiment of the current rage for all things Oriental. Every hostess wants to fete him, but it is to Isabelle that Okakura is most drawn. Okakura presents to Isabelle his small volume The Book Of Tea, which he has written to explain the Eastern philosophy behind tea to the Western world. Determined to impress Okakura, Isabelle demands to be taught the Japanese tea ceremony, the cha-no-yu, but she repeatedly fails to grasp its meaning and nuances. As their relationship develops over the years, Isabelle and Okakura stubbornly withhold themselves from each other. Isabelle refuses to address Okakura as Tenshin, a title of respect which everyone else uses. And she refuses to bow to him. He, in turn, will not address her by her Christian name, a level of intimacy that he cannot yet reach. Near the end of her life, in 1922, Isabelle is once again painted by Sargent, and her love for Okakura breaks forth as she admits her feelings to the painter, who is determined to capture these painful feelings in her eyes. As Isabelle recalls the day she received word of Okakura’s death, she begins to arrive at a spiritual connection with the man that had eluded her in life. And, true to his promise to return to her, Okakura visits Isabelle one last time, amid the fantastic and magical snowstorm in China.
Stanley Drama Award, New York City, semi-finalist, 2009
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