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Published November 26, 2019
Members of the University of Wyoming community and the public can ring in the holiday season this December with “How to Survive Your Family at Christmas,” William Missouri Downs’ new comedy about love, family and what is needed to survive holiday gatherings: forgiveness.
The UW Department of Theatre and Dance production runs Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 5-7, and Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 12-14, at 7:30 p.m. on the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts main stage.
Tickets cost $14 for the public, $11 for senior citizens and $7 for students. Tickets are available at the Performing Arts box office and the Wyoming Union information desk, by calling (307) 766-6666 or by going online at www.uwyo.edu/finearts.
Downs, a professor in the UW Department of Theatre and Dance, is sometimes known for penning controversial plays. This time, he’s written a comedy about family to celebrate the holidays.
“I’ve always felt I was born at the wrong time, in the wrong place and into the wrong family,” Downs says. “I think a lot of people feel that way.”
He set out to write a comedy about how to cope with the most family-oriented time of year: Christmas.
“How to Survive Your Family at Christmas” follows a Harvard student who returns home for a visit, only to find she has nothing in common with her working-class parents. To complicate things, her cultivated boyfriend, a Massachusetts Kennedy, shows up.
“After seeing this family, you’ll realize that spending Christmas with your family isn’t so bad after all,” Downs says.
Downs is a comedy writer, playwright, screenwriter, stage director and author. He has had over 200 productions of his plays performed in 12 countries.
“Comedy is hard work,” Downs says. “It generally takes a year to write a play. It’s hard enough to face the blank page but, when you add funny into the equation, it complicates things.”
Last year, Downs was honored at the Royal Court Theatre in London as a finalist for the International Nick Darke Playwriting Award. He also has written for several NBC sitcoms, including “My Two Dads” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” He recently worked with Jim Parsons of the “Big Bang Theory” to pitch a comedy TV pilot to Warner Brothers.
“How to Survive Your Family at Christmas” is directed by UW Department of Theatre and Dance student Sariah Durrant, from Worland, who has worked in the theater all of her life: Twenty years ago, Durrant’s mother was pregnant with Durrant when she acted in UW’s production of “Macbeth.”
There is a 44-year age difference between the director and the playwright, but Downs says that hasn’t been a problem.
“Sariah is the best young director I’ve ever worked with,” Downs says. “She has a perfect sense of comic timing, and that’s rare. Few people today have the comedy gene.”
Sean Stone, director of musical theater at UW, coaches the Christmas carolers in the production. Stone previously co-wrote “Angry Psycho Princesses” and “Fascism the Musical” with Downs. Stone has added a few new twists to the traditional Christmas songs.
For more information, call Kathy Kirkaldie, UW Fine Arts coordinator, at (307) 766-2160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.