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Faculty and Staff|Department of Theatre and Dance

William Missouri Downs

Professor, Playwriting/Screenwriting

B.S. Northern Michigan University
M.F.A. University of Illinois
M.F.A. U.C.L.A. Film School

Bill is a playwright, director, screenwriter, actor and author.

Bill’s plays have been produced by The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, The InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia, The San Diego Rep, The Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Salt Lake City Acting Company, the Actors Theatre of Charlotte, the International Theatre Festival in Israel, the Stadt Theater Walfischgasse in Austria, the Jewish Theatre of Toronto, The Bloomington Playwright’s Project, the Detroit Rep, the New York City Fringe Festival, the Civic Opera House in downtown Chicago, the Durban Performing Arts Center in South Africa, and over 100 other theatres worldwide.  A member of the National New Play Network, Bill has also developed dozens of new plays.

Samuel French, Playscripts, Heuer publishers and Next Stage Press have published Bill’s plays. He has won numerous playwriting contests and awards including a Rolling Premiere from the National New Play Network, the Reva Shiner Comedy Award, Larry Corse Prize for playwriting, the Mill Mountain Theatre's Festival Of New Plays, The Greenhouse Festival Of New Plays, The National Playwright’s Award, and the Bay Area Critics Award for best production in San Francisco. In addition Bill has been a finalist at the Eugene O’Neill.

Bill was trained in playwriting at the Circle Rep Theatre in New York City and later became the co-Artistic Director of the Circle Rep West in Los Angles. He was a member of the Playwright’s Unit at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and been a guest artist at dozens of theatres and universities.

In addition Bill is a Hollywood screenwriter. In 2013 he worked with Hollywood producer Dan Halsted (Garden State) on a new spec television pilot. In years past he was a staff writer on the NBC sitcom My Two Dads (Paul Reiser) and was a freelance writer for the NBC show Fresh Prince Of Bel Air (Will Smith). He also wrote the 100th episode of the NBC sitcom Amen (Sherman Hemsley), which guest starred Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

In addition he sold a movie to Ron Howard’s Imagine Films and optioned another to Filmways. He holds an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA and is a member of the WGA.  His student screenwriters have gone on to write such movies as The Ultimate Gift (which starred Brian Dennehy) and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder Freshman Year.

Bill has an extensive publication record including articles, short stories, plays and books. He has co-authored four books, including: Naked Playwriting (Silman/James), Playwriting: From Formula To Form (Harcourt Brace), Screenplay: Writing The Picture (Silman/James), and The Art of Theatre (Wadsworth). The Art of Theatre is now in its 3rd edition and required reading at over 100 universities. Screenplay: Writing the Picture is also in its 3rd edition and was recently published in Warsaw, Poland.

Bill holds a second MFA in acting from the University of Illinois. A few of his favorite roles were Mortimer in Fantastiks, Stanley in Streetcar and Valentine in Two Gentlemen of Verona. His specialty was pantomime and he once toured with his own one-man show.

A full professor, Bill is Head of Playwriting and Play Development. Over 13,000 students have taken his Introduction To Theatre class. He also serves as an adjunct in religious studies where he co-teaches classes on Deism, Agnosticism and Atheism.  He has won twenty teaching and research awards including seven Top Ten Professor honors.  He is also the recipient of the Governor's Arts Award.

Bill loves to travel. He has climbed the Great Wall of China, ducked into the Pyramid of Giza, stood where the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria once towered, trundled through the Taj Mahal, walked the streets of Pompeii, hiked the ruins of Delos, touched the walls of Troy and smiled at the Mona Lisa.

Bill is represented by the Beacon Agency in New York City.


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