William Missouri Downs

Plays Written by William Missouri Downs



HOW TO STEAL A PICASSO – (3M 2W) A counterfeit Picasso and a cruel hoax are at the heart of this new dark comedy. When their bad boy son returns home on the same day a Picasso goes missing from a nearby art gallery, an eccentric Detroit family is forced to confront failure, love and the meaning of originality in this modern pixilated world where everything is copyrighted and art no more than a commodity.

BELOW THE NAVEL ABOVE THE KNEES – (2M 2W) A comedy about a PhD with a dubious past who can’t find a job. When Grace Bible College calls offering her a teaching position she drunkenly agrees to leave Berkeley California and move to rural Kansas. The problem – she’s an gluten intolerant agnostic. She enters a world of rigid moral rules: no smoking, no alcohol, no interracial dating, and no talking about anything below the navel or above the knees. She sets out to take this fundamentalist college into the twenty-first century. This small cast comedy looks at our need for faith and doubt and comes up with a surprising conclusion about both.

ANGRY PSYCHO PRINCESSES – (Large cast) – This is the musical comedy Disney doesn’t want you to see. It tells the story of a family who is accidentally locked overnight in a second-rate theme park where the animatronic princesses (from Cinderella to Snow White) short circuit, come to life and set out to show the family how dreadful it is to be a princess. When the Evil Queen Badassery tries to quell the princess rebellion she must take on the Good Fairy Deus Ex Machina in an epic battle during which the daughter learns where the enchanted world ends and real life begins. This haywire musical questions the artificial expectations fairy tales put on young girls. http://www.angrypsychoprincesses.com/

THE EXIT INTERVIEW – (3M – 3W) A dark comedy filled with politically incorrect cheerleaders, product placement ads and Brechtian alienation. Untenured professor Dick Fig has found that a PhD in Bertolt Brecht isn’t worth much – He’s being pink-slipped. The last thing he needs to do before he hits the unemployment line is attend the University’s exit interview. When a despondent student begins shooting up the campus the professor and the interviewer are forced to take cover as they confront the great existential questions of life: What is its meaning? What is the relationship between religion and science? And why does God hate amputees?

MR. PERFECT – (2M – 2W) A romantic comedy about a quirky flight attendant who is a romance novel junkie. When she meets Mr. Perfect she attempts to make love with him in the bathroom of an Airbus 32,000 feet over Dayton, Ohio. Then after she survives the “Miracle on the Hudson” she sets out on a personal search to find the purpose of life by connecting the random chance events that make up existence as she tries to find Mr. Perfect.

MAD GRAVITY – (2M – 3W) A farce about two performance artists who have built a theatre in their living room. Every night before a live audience they act out their lives. Tonight’s Theatre of Cruelty performance concerns their teenage daughter who wants to marry way too young. All the parties involved have been invited to the house/theatre. But when their daughter forgets to tell their company about the live audience, all hell breaks lose. Things go from bad to worse when they discover that a comet has been spotted in the night sky and there is a 50/50 chance it will hit the theatre. Everyone, including the audience, may have only an hour to live.

WOMEN PLAYING HAMLET (4 to 19 W) A comedy about an actress who has been cast to play Hamlet and her uphill battle through a maze of self-important humanities professors, Freudian psychiatrists and acting coaches to understand Hamlet and herself. Four women (+) play the nineteen roles (including all the male parts) in this fast moving Shakespearean pageant.

COCKEYED (3M – 1W) A comedy about a philosophy major who is madly in love with his boss’s beautiful secretary and fiancée. He tries to introduce himself to her but she looks right through him. With his self-esteem in shambles, it soon occurs to him that she in fact cannot see him. Perhaps he is caught in some kind of dualistic reality or maybe beautiful women just can’t see average looking men. He decides there is only one logical thing to do – he moves in with the woman of his dreams – despite the fact that she’s unaware of his existence.

KOSHER LUTHERANS (2M – 3W) A comedy about a Jewish couple who can’t have children. A chance encounter with a God-fearing girl from Iowa, who needs to get rid of her out-of-wedlock baby, seems to offer the perfect solution to their problem – However they are stunned to discover that the girl does not know that they are Jewish. In an attempt not to blow the deal, they decide to pose as Lutherans to appeal to the girl’s Midwestern sensibilities.

MEL GIBSON IN A CHERRY ORCHARD (5M -3W) A Chekhovian comedy about two Holly¬wood screenwriters who have been hired by Disney to adapt Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard into a new movie for Mel Gibson. In order to finish the stalled adaptation and get away from L.A.’s smog, they trek to an isolated Arts Colony just outside Moscow, Idaho, and end up living four Chekhov plays at the same time.

REALITY (2M, 2W) – In this age of fake news and people living in their own little bubbles how do we know what’s real? Milton Krugman’s teenaged son Zeke plays “Drone Strike” ten hours a day. Zeke tells his father that he has reason to believe that the NSA has hacked his computer and that, from his bedroom in Burbank, he’s in fact controlling actual drone kills in Afghanistan. To pay for his son’s psychiatrist, Milton, a screenwriter, takes a crap job writing a “based on a true story” script for a wealthy woman who wants her life made into a Hollywood movie. But Milton realizes that her narrative is bogus. Then Zeke has a dangerous breakdown when he thinks while playing Drone Strike he’s accidentally killed twenty members of a wedding party near Kabul. This leads to a climatic sequence of events that forces Milton to question the nature of reality.


William Missouri Downs’ plays include HOW TO STEAL A PICASSO, ABOVE THE NAVEL BELOW THE KNEES, ANGRY PSYCHO PRINCESSES, THE EXIT INTERVIEW, MR. PERFECT, MAD GRAVITY, WOMEN PLAYING HAMLET, COCKEYED, KOSHER LUTHERANS and MEL GIBSON IN A CHERRY ORCHARD. His works have appeared at the Kennedy Center, Salt Lake Acting Company, the Unicorn Theatre (Kansas City), the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, The Detroit Rep, Durban Performing Arts Center (South Africa), The International Theatre Festival (Israel), The Berkeley Rep, stadt Theater walfischgasse (Vienna, Austria), and a hundred other theatres worldwide. He has published plays with Samuel French and Playscripts. Awards and honors include: Two Rolling Premieres from The National New Play Network, The Reva Shiner Comedy Award, Finalist at The Eugene O’Neill (twice), The Greenhouse Festival Of New Plays, and The Jack Nicholson Award For Screenwriting. His books include NAKED PLAYWRITING, SCREENPLAY: WRITING THE PICTURE and THE ART OF THEATRE. He obtained his M.F.A. in acting from the University of Illinois and an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA.