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William Missouri Downs


Forgiving John Lennon

 (1Black Woman, 1 White Woman, 1 Man) 

This darkly comic drama was inspired by the cancellation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's commencement speech at Brandeis in 2014, the Charlie Hebdo attacks and my own personal travels through the Middle East. When an April Fool’s prank goes wrong, the Muslim students at a small liberal arts college file a complaint. Two professors deal with the problem by booking a poet from Somalia to give the college’s commencement speech. Fresh off the plane, the poet doesn’t understand the college’s political correctness, nor does the poet fit the professors’ preconceived stereotype of a Muslim woman. With the possible cancellation of the speech looming, all three are forced to confront the issues of diversity and the suppression of free speech on college campuses. Forgiving John Lennon was originally produced as a one act but is now a two act, full-length ready to be developed.

Karl, The Magnificent

(2W-2M - any race)

The Maggie and Raymond have just flunked their hostile workplace-training seminar. The only way they can keep their jobs is to put their micro-aggressions aside and attend the birthday party for the employee they bully the most, Karl, the office nerd. 

 What they don’t know is that Karl, the grand high pooh-bah of dweebs, is the only person on earth who can save humanity from destruction. That’s right, the world is ending and Karl is the savior. Or is Karl just an evil genius who has staged the evening in order to seek revenge? The result is a multiracial romp in which two people are stabbed; one has a heart attack and another is run over by a bus. Karl, The Magnificent is an absurd farce that asks the question, “If we had to start the human race over with only four highly flawed individuals would we be up to the task?” Or are Homo sapiens a lost cause, an evolutionary mistake, a dud?

Life On My Knees

(2W - 2M - white cast)

Dr. Helen Hand is drowning in student debt, the repo man is stalking her Saab, and she has zero prospects. What the hell was she thinking getting a PhD in English Lit? So when Grace Bible College calls offering her a teaching job she drunkenly agrees to leave Berkeley California and move to rural Kansas. The problem - she’s an agnostic and gluten intolerant. She enters a world of rigid moral rules: no smoking, no alcohol, no interracial dating, and no sex. Oh, one more thing, she black, it’s an all white school. She sets out to take this fundamentalist college into the twenty-first century.  A few short months later when Donald Trump comes to campus to speak during the college’s Spiritual Emphasis Jamboree, Dr. Hand has already managed to screw everything up - the quarterback is wearing a dress, the campus chapter of Masturbators Anonymous is losing membership and “doubt” has entered the lexicon. With her days numbered there is only one thing she can do - fall in love with Dick Cheney. This small cast comedy looks at our need for faith and doubt and comes up with a surprising conclusion about both.

How To Steal A Picasso

(2W - 3M -  any race)

A comic-drama set against the bankruptcy of the Motor City. The Smith family doesn’t agree on much, but when their son Johnny comes home for the first time in four years, they reluctantly reconvene to celebrate the father (a failed painter) winning the Yoko Ono Lifetime Achievement Award for Non-Objective Art. In fact, tonight, Sean (the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono) is to come to their house and give the father the award personally. But when a Picasso goes missing from the nearby Detroit Institute for the Arts, the family is suspected and Johnny’s homecoming takes a dramatic turn. Soon it’s discovered that the missing Picasso and the father’s prestigious award could both be part of a cruel hoax that forces the family to question the purpose of art in this modern pixilated world where everything is copyrighted and art is no more than a commodity.

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