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Boise murder mystery theater to become 19th century-themed cafe & event venue

Playhouse Boise is in the middle of a major makeover this year.

Since 2014, Playhouse Boise has been operating as a theatre with murder mystery shows, improv comedy and as a special event venue of all types. Owner Daniel Boynton’s business was going strong into 2020, but then the pandemic hit hard when Playhouse Boise canceled or dramatically scaled down much of its offerings. 

[The show must go on: Idaho performing arts organizations struggle, innovate]

To make it through COVID-19 and into the future, he said they are transforming Playhouse Boise into a themed cafe and theatre called Waton’s Mystery Cafe and Spirits. The 1800’s themed restaurant will be open for meals until 5 p.m., but will host shows at night. 

COVID-19 gave the push

He and his wife, his business partner, were planning on the remodel for awhile, but COVID-19 pushed them ahead. Boynton said the community has been supporting them in the remodel and asking about how to order meals in order to support them during the pandemic.

“We want to keep the actors’ spirits up,” he said. “We created the Watson’s project sooner than we were planning to have it so we can have a positive environment so when we come out of the pandemic we’re ready to go.”

The inside of Watson’s Mystery Cafe & Spirits, which is projected to open in April 2021. Courtesy of Playhouse Boise.

The change over to the new theme will also come with a new theatre experience due to a new stage. Boynton said they are working on a stage with elements in a circular track around showgoers, which means actors will pop out in unexpected places. It will also have changeable walls, which allow them to have different backgrounds depending on the theme of the show.

Watson’s will also have “escape room elements,” a patio and an outdoor theatre for events. The remodel is expected to be completed in April.

In the meantime, Playhouse Boise has been doing shows on and off with a quarter of the previous occupancy, masks required and clear face coverings for actors. Boynton’s company pays its actors and he wanted to keep them working through the pandemic, but Playhouse Boise quickly realized that model would not be sustainable long term.

“So instead of sitting down to worry about it and succumb to COVID we decided to adapt and overcome and create Watson’s,” he said.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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