Marie House Kohler (born 1951) is an American writer and playwright. She is a member of the Kohler family of Wisconsin.
Marie House Kohler
|Born||February 8, 1951|
Playwright, theater producer, director and writer, Marie Kohler is the daughter of John Michael Kohler III and Julilly House. Raised in Kohler, Wisconsin at Riverbend, the home built by her grandfather Gov. Walter J. Kohler in 1923. Marie Kohler graduated from Kohler High School in 1969 and holds an Honors BA from Harvard University (1973, Magna Cum Laude) and an MA from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee(1979)- both degrees in English Literature.
Kohler co-founded Renaissance Theaterworks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1993, with four other female theater professionals to create more opportunities for women in theater. She served there as Co-Artistic Director until 2013 and as Resident Playwright through 2019.
Kohler’s interest in theater began early, when her mother took her to local and national productions. She formed the first drama club of her high school, earning her the school’s first “Humanities Award.” In college, she performed with the Harvard Dramatic Society, where she met Colin Cabot; they married in 1974. The couple moved back to Wisconsin where Cabot worked at the Skylight Theatre. After the birth of their daughter, Anne, the family moved to Europe for a year when Cabot served as assistant to opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti in Scotland and Italy. When the couple returned to Milwaukee, Kohler began her master's work at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, completing her degree in 1979. Their second daughter, Marie Christine, was born the same year. In 1980, Kohler began freelancing as a journalist for various Milwaukee- and Wisconsin-based publications, as well as national publications, such as American Theater Magazine and National Trust Magazine.
In the mid-1980s, Kohler and Cabot separated, and Kohler she turned her attention to acting and writing plays and free-lance writing.
In 1989, Kohler met Brian Mani while performing in Great Expectations; they married in 1992. Mani had a daughter, Tricia Hooper. Kohler has written several roles for Mani, a classically trained actor with American Players Theatre; they have worked often together on plays she has produced or directed. She has written six plays, all professionally produced and garnering strong notice and awards. The Milwaukee Arts Board named her Artist of the Year (2005).
Kohler serves on the board of the Wisconsin Humanities Council and commits herself to environmental, cultural and social causes.
DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, 2015
THE KREUTZER SONATA by Nancy Harris, Renaissance Theaterworks, 2015
HONOUR by Joanna Murray-Smith, Renaissance Theaterworks, 2012
A PHOENIX TOO FREQUENT by Christopher Fry, Renaissance Theaterworks, 2012
DUCK by Christine Kallmann, St. John's on the Lake, Milwaukee, 2017
DUCK by Christine Kallmann, Brink New Plays, Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee, 2016
TRIFLES by Susan Glaspell, American Players Theatre, Spring Green, WI, 2016
FOG by Eugene O’Neill, American Players Theatre, Spring Green, WI, 2016
BUS STOP by William Inge, Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee, 2008
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST by Oscar Wilde, Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee, 2005
CENSORED ON FINAL APPROACH, Milwaukee VA Medical Center, 2013
- A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST (1993) Based on Gene Stratton Porter's 1909 classic novel, A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST, Kohler's drama re-tells an enduring story beloved by generations of women. With a strong environmental theme, the adaptation captures the rich atmosphere of Indiana's once enormous Limberlost Swamp and the enthusiasm of those who loved it.
- COUNTING DAYS (1995) Katherine Mansfield, a writer from the 1920s, mesmerized readers with her glamorous life and crystalline writing; Mary Kniesen, a contemporary, divorced empty-nester, becomes obsessed with Mansfield's Journals. COUNTING DAYS, a comic-drama, juxtaposes these two women: Mary, lost and structure-less and Mansfield, fiercely focused as she faced an early death from TB. Snatches of Mansfield's Journals punctuate Mary's flounderings until the spirit of Mansfield "appears" to aid Mary on her journey of self-discovery.
- Production: Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee, 1995
- Susan Smith Blackburn Prize – Nominee 1995
- Best New Regional Play – American Association of Theater Critics Nominee 1995
- New Play Festival – Charlotte Repertory Theatre Finalist 1995
- MIDNIGHT AND MOLL FLANDERS (2000) MIDNIGHT AND MOLL FLANDERS freely adapts Daniel Defoe's classic eighteenth-century novel, Moll Flanders. Moll is a larger-than-life woman whose spirited drive for love and survival led her to sexual adventures, multiple marriages and a career as an infamous thief. The play explores the influence of birth, free will, sex and circumstance in an era as fiercely entrepreneurial as our own. MIDNIGHT begins the night before Moll is to be hung at Newgate Prison. There she tells the story of her life to a Puritan bent on offering her a last, unlikely chance at salvation. A series of flashbacks punctuated by debates with the minister culminate in a courtroom scene where he unexpectedly pleads for her life. The play tracks a double journey of transformation for Moll and the minister who, despite himself, listens to her mythic, free-wheeling tale.
- Production: University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, 2000
- BOSWELL'S DREAMS (2005) A comic-drama about the friendship between the 18th century writers James Boswell and Samuel Johnson. The play interweaves that time period with the 1950s and the discovery of Boswell's journals by Joan, an American graduate student. Act I offers up scenes from David Garrick's HAMLET, gatherings of Johnson's literary club (including Oliver Goldsmith and Joshua Reynolds) and highlights from Boswell and Johnson's "Tour of the Scottish Hebrides" in 1773. ACT II counterpoints that period with scenes from 1950 at the Boswell family estate in Auchinleck, Scotland, where Joan and her professor are searching for Johnson material. There we witness Joan's discovery in the stable-loft of Boswell's Journals. Speaking through his Journals and life experiences, Boswell encourages Joan to resist pressure and stand on her own as Johnson encouraged him. She falls in love with the lively narratives.
- Production: Renaissance Theaterworks, Off-Broadway Theatre, March 2005
- Susan Smith Blackburn Prize – Nominee 2005
- Abington Award – Finalist 2005
- Wisconsin Wrights – Finalist 2005
- THE DIG (2008), Mattie's older brother Jamie told her stories of ancient myths when she was growing. As a lonely girl of fourteen she said goodbye to Jamie married and flew across the globe to pursue a career in archaeology. On a dig in Lebanon in 1968, he had a break with reality and changed profoundly. As the play begins in 1998, an international inquiry compels Mattie, now married and working for the family business in Chicago, to investigate the provenance of an ancient pot found on Jamie's Dig. The process brings to the surface her buried feelings of abandonment and questions about his breakdown – and reveals the underlying power of the myths that he once taught her. Through scenes inter-splicing time and place, the play explores psychology, mythology and relationship. As Mattie strives to protect Jamie from a potentially traumatic trial, she remembers him as the loving brother before the Dig. She recalls the stories of the stars and Greek myths he told her as a child and ultimately learns to accept him as he is.
- Production: Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee, WI, January 2009
- Susan Smith Blackburn Prize – Nominee 2009
- Playwrights' Center Lab – Finalist 2009
- Playwrights First – Semi-Finalist 2009
- WITCH HOUSE (2019 in development), How do we evaluate the worth of art? Does its survival matter only to its creator -- or to the community as well? Over decades, an outsider artist’s whimsical concrete statues have attracted traffic, vandals, and admirers…and resulted in the unfortunate label “witch.” After her death, the artist attends a neighborhood meeting to witness her exasperated neighbors’ debate over the fate of her beloved art. Tricky questions arise about taste, individual rights and property values…WITCH HOUSE light-heartedly explores the role of art and community. Developed with Josh Schmidt, composer, and Laura Gordon, director. DEVELOPMENT HISTORY (Readings): Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee, WI - 2016 Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee, WI - 2015 Carthage College, Kenosha, WI - 2015 AWARDS Todd McNerney Playwriting Award, Finalist - 2017 Wisconsin Wrights New Play Festival, Finalist - 2017
Marie Kohler has been a freelance journalist for Wisconsin and national publications since 1980. She has written film reviews for the Milwaukee Sentinel; theater reviews for Art Muscle; feature articles for Milwaukee Magazine; essays for Milwaukee Footlights, Shepherd Express and The Wisconsin Academy Review; and pieces for American Theater Magazine. She has also been published in National Trust Magazine, Great Lakes Stages and Milwaukee Metro.
Her articles explore a range of subjects — from Wisconsin's tradition of Friday night fish fries to Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture to airport mosaics to trends in theater and film.
American Theatre Magazine
Wisconsin Academy Review
- A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
Julie Harris Playwright Award, Beverly Hills Theatre Guild, Honorable Mention - 2014
- COUNTING DAYS
Best New Regional Play, American Theatre Critics Association - 1995
New Play Festival, Charlotte Repertory Theatre, Finalist - 1995
Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Nominee - 1995
- MIDNIGHT & MOLL FLANDERS
Best New Play - Milwaukee Magazine - 2000
Inkslinger Playwriting Competition, Semifinalist - 2018
- BOSWELL'S DREAMS
Susan Smith Blackburn Prize - Nominee - 2005
Best of Year - Milwaukee Magazine - 2005
Abingdon Award - Finalist - 2005
Wisconsin Wrights - Finalist - 2005
- THE DIG
Susan Smith Blackburn Prize - Nominee - 2009
Playwrights' Center Lab - Finalist - 2009
Playwrights First - Semi-Finalist - 2009
- WITCH HOUSE
Todd McNerney Playwriting Award, Finalist - 2017
Wisconsin Wrights New Play Festival, Finalist - 2017
- Artist of the Year 2005 Milwaukee Arts Board