William Missouri Downs


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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 fathers 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.

Photos below: © 2021 Gary S Mosby, Unicorn Theatre

Production Notes:

Minimum Fee: $125.00 per performance

Cast of Characters:

(3 men, 2 women)JOHNNY SMITH (Late 20s – male)He gave up art to become a lawyer and regrets it. He has secrets.

CASEY SMITH (Late 20s – female)A rough/tough, street-wise, tattooed artist whose hero is Banksy.

BELLE SMITH (50ish - female)A faded Donna Reed on Ritalin, Prozac and CrestorOTTO SMITH (50ish - male)A vehement artist who hit his peak three decades ago.

MR. WALKER (40ish - male)The Chief Operating Officer of the Detroit Institute of Arts and a psychopath “lite”

(The Smiths are a blended family. The cast can be any race, ethnicity or physicality.)

“A farce with an edge!” – The Kansas City Star

“The energy of a pinball machine, all flashing lights and erratic chimes and emotions that pivot with the stroke of a flipper… How to Steal a Picasso is unapologetically zany, but Downs finds time to toss a few telling contradictions into the fray.” - Kansas City Pitch


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...

 [READ Q and A HERE]