A Local Playwright’s Show Is Going to Off-Broadway This Weekend

Marie Kohler’s ‘Boswell’ premiered at Renaissance Theaterworks, and now it’s headed to New York City.

Wisconsin playwright, director and producer Marie Kohler’s play, Boswell, is opening on Off-Broadway in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 12. 

Boswell centers around Joan Morales, an academic who finds the diaries of Scottish writer James Boswell and how his journals inspire Morales to seek authenticity in her life. The play partially mirrors the life of its writer, Kohler, who spent her early life exploring her parents’ library when she discovered the works of Boswell. 



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“On lonely or dreary days, I frequently passed my time in the large collection of books at Riverbend, my family home in Kohler,” said Kohler over email. “One day, reaching up for a book, I pulled down Boswell’s London Journal and happened to opening to an extremely bawdy scene. I was startled and delighted – and could not stop reading him. For me, as a young adolescent, and now, his journals offer two kinds of ‘windows to the past’: first, into 18h century British history; second, into the world of fascinating relationships.”

While the lascivious details in Boswell’s writings were entertaining, Kohler was allured to his creation of a “concrete reality” set in 18th-century Britain as he was able to pinpoint specific attributes of his world, all of which served as inspiration for the prose of the production. 

Marie Kohler; Photo by Paulius Musteikis

“When I put those details in characters’ mouths, I have to watch not to over-do it,” said Kohler, “Audiences can be dulled by too much language if it’s not connected to emotion. That’s the trick of theatre. Making things active through emotional drive. “

The first iteration of the show, called Boswell’s Dreams, was a much more extensive production as it focused more on Boswell’s life. It premiered at Renaissance Theaterworks in Milwaukee in 2005.

“[Boswell’s Dreams] had nine actors (this has six) and ran more than two hours, with intermission. It dramatized more of Boswell’s life, scenes from 1950s Scottish society, as well as a love interest (now eliminated) for the female protagonist,” said Kohler. “Later, when I began to dream about taking the play to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, I knew I had to seriously compress and streamline it in both length and scope. “

At the Fringe Festival, the cast and crew of Boswell were offered a chance to put on a production of the show in New York City’s 59E59 Theaters, a venue known for showing Off-Broadway plays. Many members of the New York production of Boswell are Wisconsinites, hailing from venues such as Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Next Act Theater and of course, the Renaissance Theaterworks.

“Our team has deep Wisconsin roots. It was a goal to make this production a Wisconsin to NYC event. All our actors have performed in Wisconsin and most in Milwaukee,” said Kohler. “It will be such a thrill to walk from our AirBNB to the theatre 59 East 59th St and know that my little play will be being performed there – by people of great talent who are sharing in this adventure.”

Boswell premieres on Nov. 12 and will run until Dec. 4 at the 59E59 Theaters in New York City. Tickets for the show are available online