Marie Kohler

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Marie House Kohler
BornFebruary 8, 1951

Marie House Kohler (born 1951) is an American writer and playwright. She is a member of the Kohler family of Wisconsin.[1]


Born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, she was the daughter of John Michael Kohler III and Julilly House. She was raised on the family's Riverbend Estate and graduated from Kohler High School in 1969.[2][3]

She holds a BA from Harvard University (1973) (Magna Cum Laude) and an MA from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (1979) – both degrees in English Literature.

Her interest in theater began in high school, when she formed a drama club. In college, she auditioned for a play in the Harvard Dramatic Club, got the part and won the heart of the director, Colin Cabot, a Harvard graduate and distant relative of Henry Cabot Lodge.[1] She married Cabot in 1974.[4] The couple moved back to Wisconsin when Kohler's mother became ill. Cabot took a job at the Skylight Opera Theatre. After the birth of their first daughter, Annie, the young family moved to Europe for a year when Cabot was hired as an assistant to opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti. They lived in the gatehouse on Menotti's Scottish estate and summered with him in Umbria, Italy. Returning to Milwaukee, Cabot hired on as managing director of the Skylight while Kohler began her master's work in English literature at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. As she completed her degree, their second daughter, Marie Christine, was born. When the couple separated in the mid-1980s, Kohler turned her attention to acting and writing.

Kohler met actor Brian Robert Mani in 1989 while they were acting in Great Expectations.Mani, who had a young daughter, Tricia, by a previous relationship. She married Mani in 1992.[1]

Wealth has caused divisions in her family. When Herbert Kohler, Jr., president of the Kohler Company attempted to devalue the family-held stock for tax purposes in 2002, Marie and her sister Julilly sued. A settlement was reached, and the stock was eventually priced at $150,000 per share.[1]

Kohler has been resident playwright, and co-artistic director, at Renaissance Theaterworks since 1993. She is also co-founder of the theatre.

In 2012 Kohler directed Honour by playwright Joanna Murray-Smith at Renaissance Theaterworks.[5]


  • 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.
Production: Childrens Theatre of Madison, Madison, WI, 1993[6]
  • 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 Auchcnleck, 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


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,[7] 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.



  1. ^ a b c d Kurt Chandler (November 8, 2007). "Profile: Book of Dreams". Archived from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Kohler Graduates Largest Class". The Sheboygan Press. 6 Jun 1969. p. 5.
  3. ^ "Miss Marie Kohler Presented As Debutante". Sheboygan Press. 18 Aug 1969. p. 13.
  4. ^ "Marriage License Applications Issued". The Sheboygan Press. 14 Jun 1974. p. 12.
  5. ^ Paul Kosidowski. "Renaissance Theaterworks' "Honour"". Milwaukee Magazine. Archived from the original on 31 May 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Swamp provides escape". Wisconsin State Journal. 15 Oct 1993. p. 4.
  7. ^ "Articles By Marie Kohler". Express Milwaukee. Retrieved 1 June 2014. External link in |website= (help)

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