Discovering James Boswell’s lost journals, an ambitious 20th-century woman cannot resist his literary charms whilst reading of his wild and woolly adventures in A Tour of the Scottish Hebrides. Speaking through his diaries, Boswell encourages her to live her own life. Falling in love with the lively narratives, she sees a person, time and landscape wondrously revealed – as well as the possibility for a more authentic life. Heart and mind spar wittily in this delightful new adaptation of her own work by playwright Marie Kohler. Boswell is at the Fringe for the month of August, and so, we caught up with Marie about the show and her plans for this month.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year – how exciting?!
Oh yes, extremely exciting. It has been a dream of mine for years. I can’t believe it’s about to come true – but we’ve sold tickets already, so I know it is! And I’m in constant communication with Frodo McDaniel (of Rhymes with Purple Productions) our “on-the-ground” man helping us out with all things Edinburgh Fringe.
TF: Boswell certainly sounds interesting, what is the premise?
The story rests on the “re-discovery” of Boswell’s journals by a 1950’s graduate student — a young, Jewish American woman striving to find her spot in the world of academics. While doing research on Samuel Johnson she comes upon the Boswell journals unexpectedly — in the attic of an old estate of a James Boswell descendant. The story revolves around how Boswell’s lively, honest voice from the past surprisingly influences her career – and life!
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
As the very-much youngest of four, I was alone a lot, and turned to books for companionship. I “discovered” the volumes of Boswell in my early adolescence. What luck for a thirteen-year-old to find a treasure trove of delight so full of life (and sometimes bawdiness). I remember clearly the first “scene” I opened to: an assignation between Boswell and a woman in an alley… I was delighted because I’d found honest, detailed descriptions about The World Out There – a world I knew little about. The bawdy scenes were not all that intrigued me, however. Through Boswell I got to know of great cities, friendships made and broken, theatre performances, actors, conversations, food, drink all – it came vividly alive for me. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. And as for history… Boswell made that come incredibly alive, as well. As Joan Weinstein, a character I invented in Boswell exclaims, his writing provides a “window to the past, wondrously revealed.”
As a co-founder/co-Artistic Director/Playwright in Residence of a woman-run theatre company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I wrote a predecessor to this play in 2005, called Boswell’s Dreams, which got great response when it was produced. I dreamed them to bring some re-telling of it to Scottish audiences (who already knew of Boswell) – whereas in the US, he was not popularly known. Boswell is, then, a love-letter to Scotland and one of your own.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?
Our plans are to have fun, work hard, and obsessively visit other performances on our time off.
The cast of four professional actors and I (all friends and colleagues from American theatres) will enjoy each others’ company immensely – taste, tour, drink in the history and beauty Edinburgh – as well as Scottish liquid offerings. On our one day off a week, we’ll visit Glasgow – and drive north on another. We will also introduce five young American students to a culture outside the US. It will be so exciting for them. That alone will be worth the whole adventure.
As for me — once upon a time, I spent nine months in Gifford, outside Edinburgh, living on the composer Gian-Carlo Menotti’s estate, Yester House. So, I will revisit that as well.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond Boswell?
Though this will be the first time I’ve performed at the Fringe, I have visited Edinburgh many times before. In fact, last summer, when I came to scout out venues for Boswell, while running across a street in front of the King’s Theatre, I unfortunately fell and broke my shoulder (in three places). A kind family group emerging from a local establishment saw me fall, dragged me from the street & called an ambulance. My new Isle of Skye friend (Jeanette MacKinnon) rode with me in the ambulance to the hospital, sat hours with me in a sad, broken state – and eventually got me back to my hotel. My injuries forced me to leave home for US immediately after only two days; but new friend Jeanette came to the hotel, packed my suitcase and got me in a taxi to the airport. Bittersweet story, and a great act of generosity from a complete stranger. Stranger no more, Jeanette and I correspond regularly via FB. I look forward to raising and glass to Jeanette this summer – and avoiding falls and broken bones.
Marie Kohler will be debuting her show, Boswell, at the PQA Venues @ Riddles Court from 2nd – 25th August (Not 6th, 13th or 20th) : 16:30. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com.