Six Women with Brain Death or Expiring Minds Want to Know
A fast-paced, take-no-prisoners feminist satire of life at the end of the millennium.
Show Essentials

Full Synopsis

Act One

As houselights fade, the band improvises ominous sounds. Six women enter and recite a series of tabloid-style headlines directly to the audience. The opening shows the ridiculous nature of life and how attempting to fit in is what life is all about ("Opening"). A series of fragmented conversations introduces the idea that the show is a revue made up of sketches and songs about the collapse of culture, the demise of language and meaning, and the anxiety of lives cut loose from their moorings and set adrift on a sea of medical wastes.

The first sketch finds Wanda sitting at her kitchen table, watching her favorite soap opera. Her hair is in rollers, she has a cigarette in her mouth and she clutches a bottle of gin. Veronica, the star of the soap opera, reveals the finale to a plot that has been dragging on for months. Wanda is furious when the show is interrupted with a special report about the ozone layer. She grabs the phone and calls to complain, but the program is restored, and she missed the crucial information for which she was waiting. She berates the television, and in response, Veronica steps out of her role on the soap opera and addresses Wanda. She tells Wanda just how sick she is of all of her whining and sniveling. Wanda tries to turn Veronica off or push her back into the television, but nothing works. Veronica further torments Wanda by telling her that she knows the secrets in the plot and refuses to tell Wanda. Wanda threatens to warn David, Veronica's lover, about the plot secret – it is clear that Wanda has feelings for David ("David, Don't Fly Lufthansa"). The two women battle it out until Wanda finally pushes Veronica back into the television and shuts the top.

In the following bit, a timid and polite young woman in a simple choir robe enters hesitantly, ready to audition for Motown. She then positions herself and reads from note cards. She thanks all of the people of Detroit, the incredible staff at Motown and – especially – Michael Jackson. She believes that it is time to wed the ongoing tradition of the classical voice with the rhythmic power and mass bass of funky Negro music. She introduces a new smash recording group: The Divas of Motown. The curtains part, and the other five women, in contrasting choir robes, perform with a polish that only five opera divas could give ("Divas at Motown").

In the next sketch, Marge tells the audience that she has two children whom she doesn't understand at all. They listen to Satanic records, refuse to speak to one another and dress like Madonna – both the girl and the boy. She feels guilty and responsible for their quirks. She takes her kids to the movies at the mall, where there are six small screens, and wanders from room to room, searching for Disney, but her kids search for everything from ninjas to Rambo. She exits and Disney-like music begins. The other five women enter, dressed in costume pieces that suggest forest animals. The animals speak in a kind, Disney-esque style, using every swear word known to man. They wait for Rambo, and when he finally comes, it is Marge, dressed as a combination of Bambi and Rambo and carrying a machine gun, helping the forest animals to protect themselves from the evil hunters ("Rambi").

Next, a woman tells the audience how excited she is to attend her twentieth high school reunion. She pulls a dress out of a box and puts it on. All of the girls are going to be wearing their prom dresses. Four women appear in the background decorating a trellis. She then remembers that in high school, they all campaigned for a friend of theirs to be Prom Queen, but she lost because she was just too fat ("Prom Queen"). The poor girl, now a woman, tells the audience what it was like being too fat to be prom queen. As the song progresses, the women move into the present and begin to discuss the problems that they have encountered over the last twenty years. These include divorce, pregnancy, abortion and Valium addiction, among others. Regardless of their troubles, however, the women all realize that they have survived life's punches ("We've Arrived").

Act Two

Jolene explains that she wants to know who she is; she has examined her life, over and over, and hasn't found the answers she has been seeking. She has read every self-help book ever written, but to no avail.

A game board rolls on, and Baby Ruth, the host of "Wise up or Die," rides on rolling a podium that she drives like a scooter. She has various honker horns and squeakers to use at her discretion. A game show hostess who is a cross between Vanna White and Ed McMahon, assists Baby Ruth. The hostess operates the game board, but has no spoken lines. As the game begins, three panelist experts enter: Type A carries a briefcase, Type B is in housewife attire and Type C is a bleached-blonde sex goddess. Baby Ruth facilitates the show so that the three panelists ask Jolene a series of questions about Jolene's identity, focusing mostly on her sexuality. When all is said and done, it is obvious that Jolene, while very book-smart, is not a spontaneous person. She loses the game, and the hostess turns the game board around. Painted on the board is a burning stake. Baby Ruth ties Jolene to the burning stake and places all of her self-help books at her feet ("I Read Too Much").

The lights come up on Heather's kitchen. Barbara Ann enters with a bag of groceries that she puts on the counter. She calls for Heather and removes a cake tin cover to reveal Heather's severed head. Barbara Ann starts unpacking the groceries while talking to Heather. Heather was the prom queen who won because she had the perfect body. Barbara is her sincere best friend who loves to take care of Heather and give her advice – whether she wants it or not. Heather is a vain, spoiled, egotistical whiner who has been knocked down a peg or two by an accident that separated her head from her beautiful body. The two women reflect upon their lives together. Barbara Ann kicked her husband out the door because he was having an affair with Heather. Barbara advises Heather to do the same with her husband, who hasn't taken her out since her accident. Heather decides that maybe she should take Barbara's advice but, unfortunately, she dies while singing the last bar of the song. Barbara caresses the dead head before spotting the tiara, which she takes and mischievously places on her head ("Get Proud of Me").

The same auditioner as the Motown sketch comes onstage wearing the same choir robe, but now donning a cowboy hat. She carries a guitar and initially thanks all of the people of Nashville and the staff of the Grand old Opera for the opportunity to wed the great traditions of classical music and American agricultural music together. Once again, the other ladies join her in a desperate attempt to get down to the grassroots of country music ("Divas at Nashville").

The women roll on a Barbie and Ken unit that contains all of the necessary props for a slumber party. As they do this, they remember how much easier life was when they could count on a life like Barbie's and Ken's. Looking back, they realize that Barbie and Ken represent a fantasy world that never came true for any of them. They reflect on their experiences in life and with Barbie and Ken ("The Real Thing").

From some high promontory, five of the women function as a Greek chorus. Below, one woman enters rather hesitantly. She is dressed in a very bizarre "Brain-Death-Meets-The Jetsons" style of fashion. The woman tells how she and her girlfriends, while driving down the road one night, were zapped into the interior of a spaceship, where they met God ("God Is an Alien"). The song conveys God's message to sell Amway, Mary Kay and Shaklee.

As each woman enters for the next sketch, she carries a tire. All six women wish to escape a poor situation at home – alcohol, children, husbands, boyfriends – by letting loose on the road in their car. These angry women relieve their stress through aggressive driving and give new meaning to the phrase, "road rage" ("Toll Road"). Directly segueing from a gruesome end, the six women revisit some of the burning questions from the opening and welcome the audience into the world of expiring minds ("Finale").

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Cast Size: Small (Up to 10 performers)
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

A frustrated woman addicted to her soap operas, cigarettes, and gin. She has transferred all her dreams and energy to "All My Hospitals," and all her libido to the male star.
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 50
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: A3
A fiery, vivacious soap opera star. She is glamorously dressed and fed up with the unappreciative viewers of the world.
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 50
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Lead Diva
A timid and polite woman auditioning for Motown and a country western group. Honest, sincere and full of a genuine hope to bring about world peace through music.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 30
Vocal range top: B5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Tired and disillusioned, her children have exhausted her and she often cracks jokes to cover her discomfort. Eventually transforms into the tough and blunt "Rambi" to reveal the lies of childhood films.
Gender: female
Age: 35 to 50
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: A3
Prom Queen Candidate
A larger-sized woman who lost prom queen because of her love of food. In the past, a sweet and genuinely hopeful woman but becomes the "bitch who came to dinner" during the reunion.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 40
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: C#4
A sincere woman who is earnestly searching for wisdom, insight, and the meaning of life by reading self-help books. Easily influenced by the most current therapy method or fad, and is literally burned at the stake for it.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 40
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: G3
Baby Ruth
The moderator of the "Wise Up or Die" game show. A combination of a manic Dr. Ruth, Harpo Marx, and Satan. She loves to stir up mischief and speaks with a thick German accent.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 40
Barbara Ann
A gutsy, happy, simple-minded woman with a big mouth. She has a penchant for giving out unwanted advice. Loyal to her closes friend, Heather, but remains brutally honest.
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 50
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: G3
A former prom queen and recently severed head. Vain and egoistical, but saddened and knocked down by her new life on a cake plate.
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 50
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: Bb3
Other Divas; Disney Animals (Flower, Thumper, Squirrel, Mr. Badger, Mr. Frog); Panel (Type A, Type B, Type C); Barbies; Kens
Full Song List
Six Women With Brain Death...: Opening
Six Women With Brain Death...: David, Don't Fly Lufthansa
Six Women With Brain Death...: Divas At Motown
Six Women With Brain Death...: Rambi
Six Women With Brain Death...: Prom Queen
Six Women With Brain Death...: We've Arrived
Six Women With Brain Death...: Read Too Much
Six Women With Brain Death...: Get Proud Of Me
Six Women With Brain Death...: Divas At Nashville
Six Women With Brain Death...: I Should Have Known
Six Women With Brain Death...: The Real Thing
Six Women With Brain Death...: Toll Road

Show History


Six Women with Brain Death or Expiring Minds Want to Know (hereafter referred to as Six Women with Brain Death) is a musical comedy revue.  Mark Houston, who passed away in 1995, provides both the music and lyrics, while eight different writers contribute to the book.  The revue features an ensemble of six women playing a wide variety of characters and focuses on the spectrum of feminism that exists in society today.  The sketches run the gamut of comedy, from takes on tabloid newspapers and high school prom queens to Barbie and Ken and a rather ludicrous parody that combines the movies, Bambi and Rambo.

Critical Reaction

"Outrageously audacious from beginning to end. ...It's an experience you will never forget."
– Talkin' Broadway

"Peppy and pointed, Mark Houston's songs ridicule a society in danger of being entertained to death."
– The Chicago Reader

"Keeps the laughs coming from beginning to end! ...4 out of 5 stars."
– The Scottsman Review, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

"Fantastic. Both funny and thought-provoking."
– BBC News, Edinburgh Festival Views

"It is hilariously funny. It examines a whole range of American girls' and women's concerns, from Barbie, through proms and high school reunions, to daytime soaps, in a nonstop roller coaster of short, very sharp sketches and musical numbers."
– The British Theatre Guide

"Six Women with Brain Death is like a precious photograph that you accidentally dropped, the glass shattered. You don t know how your hand slipped, or if you can put it back together; all that remains is the crushed memory of a troubled life. See 6 Women. Just when you think you can t laugh any harder, you ll rub your eyes and realize the startling reality of it all. Here I think the title says it all."
– The Columbia Tribune




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Written by
Music and Lyrics by
Originally Developed & Produced by
and first performed at Unicorn Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri

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