William Missouri Downs


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In the opening scene of this comedy, a writer meets the ghost of Franz Kafka, which sets off an existential chain of events forcing the cast to confront the meaning of life. Through a series of hilarious random encounters, the play questions whether we can understand our existence or is life just one long Zoom meeting interrupted by Amazon and Doordash deliveries.

Designed to be simply staged, 'Asking Strangers The Meaning Of Life' can use a cast as small as four or as many as ten. The cast can be any race, ethnicity, physicality, and sexual orientation/identity.


10 actors

PRODUCTION NOTES: All you need is an assortment of benches and chairs. The simple stage is covered with a collage of bright autumn leaves. As with Shakespeare, the many locations are achieved through verbal scene painting, and not with an abundance of props, sets, or set pieces. Think "Our Town."


William Missouri Downs

WILLIAM MISSOURI DOWNS has had over 250 productions of his plays and won numerous writing awards, including 2 rolling premieres from the National New Play Network. He's twice been a finalist at the Eugene O'Neill. His plays have been produced by Orlando Shakes, The InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia, The San Diego Rep, The Berkeley Rep, The Kennedy Center, The Salt Lake Acting Company, The Actors Theatre of Charlotte, The Jewish Theatre of Toronto, The Bloomington Playwright's Project, The Detroit Rep, and The New York City Fringe Festival just to name a few. His comedies have been produced in Spain, Canada, South Africa, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Austria, Israel, India, Australia, and South Korea. He's also published a dozen plays and four books including The Art of Theatre (Cengage) a textbook used by over 100 Universities. In Hollywood he sold and optioned movies and wrote for several NBC sitcoms. He’s directed 40 plays and acted in 20. ...[Go to FULL BIO]

Playwright Q and A with TRWPlays

William Missouri Downs talks plays, writing and...why Death of a Salesman may need a rewrite.

The playwright of HOW TO STEAL A PICASSO & ASKING STRANGERS THE MEANING OF LIFE gets to the art of the matter with TRWPlays QnA series, with a focus on the responsibilities of the playwright

“Theatre is about individual playwrights openly writing about their hopes, griefs, humiliations, defects, complaints, success, and private thoughts in an attempt to... see, if only for a moment, life differently. That’s my hope, to allow the audience and myself to laugh as we see life differently.” -William Missouri Downs

KATIE STOTTLEMIRE: Two of your plays have found a home at TRW: HOW TO STEAL A PICASSO and the newly released ASKING STRANGERS THE MEANING OF LIFE. Both are hilarious pieces that...