|Written by||John Krizanc|
|Date premiered||May 8, 1981|
|Place premiered||Strachan House, Trinity-Bellwoods Park
|Subject||Painter Tamara de Lempicka|
|Setting||Il Vittoriale degli Italiani|
Tamara is a play of 1981 by John Krizanc about the painter Tamara de Lempicka. The play is based on the historical meeting of Gabriele d'Annunzio and Lempicka, who was hoping to be commissioned by D'Annunzio to paint his portrait. He had invited her to his villa at Gardone Riviera, on the southwest shore of Lake Garda, a villa now known as Il Vittoriale degli Italiani.
The play draws the audience into a labyrinthine story which reflects complicity in civic responsibility. Lempicka declines to use her voice, despite the power given it through her cultural preeminence. She sells her art to the highest bidder without comment.
In Tamara, the barrier between spectator and actor has been dissolved; the spaces intermingle, and spectators become actors on many stages. Tamara is postmodern theatre performed in a large house with ten actors performing simultaneous scenes in several different rooms; at other times there is simultaneous action in eleven rooms. The spectator can accompany the character of their choice and experience the story they choose, knowing that with the simultaneous performances they cannot experience the whole play. Thus the members of the audience make a series of choices, and depending upon these choices, each spectator creates and develops an individual viewing of it.
The play was premiered at Strachan House in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Toronto, Canada, on May 8, 1981, and was published in book form the same year as Tamara: A Play. Tamara won two Dora Mavor Moore Awards in 1982, one as an outstanding new play, and another as an outstanding production.
In May, 1984, Tamara opened in Los Angeles, where it was to run for nine years. The Art Deco-styled American Legion Hall on Highland Ave in Hollywood was used as the venue. The hall was originally decorated with about a dozen paintings by the title character, Tamara de Lempicka, drawn from various collections including those of Barbra Streisand and Jack Nicholson, until the insurance costs proved prohibitive.
Soon after the play opened in New York in 1987, it starred Anjelica Huston as Lempicka; Huston had first played the role in Los Angeles. The New York production enjoyed a five year run. It also played from 1990 to 1994 in Buenos Aires and was performed in Mexico City.
In Spring of 1992 American Producer Peter Klein produced and presented Tamara for a month at Villa Brasini in Rome and then for another month at Villa Erbe on Lake Como, with George Rondo directing.
In 2002, a twentieth anniversary production was mounted in Toronto.
There are five key choices in the play:
- 1. As characters leave and separate from a room, which will you follow?
- 2. Or will you wait and see who shows up in one or several rooms?
- 3. Will you follow the same character all the time, or switch characters as the play progresses?
- 4. Will you stay with a friend, or each adopt different strategies?
- 5. How will you respond when an actor gives you instructions (i.e. to follow them, or wait in the room, etc.)?
In 1995 David Boje wrote an article for Academy of Management Journal about the play, and how people coming to a room in the play from different room sequences, will have very different organizational storytelling sensemaking of what is happening. Inspired by the play David Boje founded an academic journal titiled Tamara Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry.
- D. M. Boje, Interview with John Krizanc at tamarajournal.com; from Tamara Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry Vol. 5 (3), pp 70-77; Boje, D. M., Hyperion Responsorial: Tamara Organizing, Reply to Krizanc, pp. 81-85
- Ray Conlogue, "Spying on a unique drama" in The Globe and Mail dated 11 May 1981
- Carole Corbeil, "An outstanding night for Tamara" in The Globe and Mail dated 16 November 1982
- Stephen Godfrey, "The little play that grew", in The Globe and Mail dated 26 December 1985
- "Tamara the trail-blazer returns in April --- More than 20 years after it astonished audiences, show returns to Toronto," Martin Knelman, Toronto Star, 2 October 2002
- "Anjelica Huston to Star In Drama Off Broadway," The New York Times, 18 August 1987
- Boje, D. M. 1995. "Stories of the Storytelling Organization: A Postmodern Analysis of Disney as 'Tamara-land.'" Academy of Management Journal. 38(4): 997-1035. The article applied critical postmodern storytelling perspective to the Tamara play by looking at Disney corporate narratives, contrasting official (hegemonic) and more (corporately) marginalized stories Boje 1995 Academy of Management Journal.
- Tamara Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry website