30+ Years of Curious Theatre
Black River Falls by Bryn Magnus

June 19–July 26, 2015

8:00 p.m. Fridays/Saturdays
2:00 p.m. Sundays
Industry Night Monday, 7/20 at 7 p.m.
  • Location
  • Prop Thtr • 3502 N. Elston, Chicago
  • Tickets
  • $15 or pay what you can


Gary comes back early from Black River Falls, his hunting trip cut short by an ominous feeling. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, 1978; Jim Jones and his followers have just drunk the Kool-Aid, and Gary wants to see his little sister Laurie. All the teenagers in Dousman, Wisconsin, are finding out that closeness with each other is sometimes wanted and not simple, and sometimes not wanted and very simple. In their tiny midwestern small town world, masculine violence and an inchoate longing towards something that might be peace infects them all.

A disarmingly poetic evocation of teenaged monosyllabicism, Black River Falls blends naturalism with a kind of small-town mysticism, where quiet anarchy and blowhardy bullies are in conflict. The adults can only stand by and marvel at the microcosm of violence and transcendence their children enact.


Matt Rieger, Maci Greenberg, Sam Liss, John Machesky, Diane McNulty, Nick Leininger, Stephen Walker

Directed by

Jenny Magnus

Lighting Design by

Stefan Brün

Set Design by

Julia Williams

Props & Costumes by

Jenny Magnus, Julia Williams, Janet Sayre, Elizabeth Judd

Construction by

Jeremy Campbell

Assistant/Stage Manager

Elizabeth Judd

Outside Eyes

Jen Moniz, Vicki Walden, Zoe Miller, Janet Sayre, T-Roy Martin, Stefan Brün, Colm O’Reilly, Isabel Liss, Bryn Magnus


Black River Falls photos by Jeffrey Bivens


BLACK RIVER FALLS trailer by Jeffrey Bivens


  • Reader RECOMMENDED “Bryn Magnus, whose hyperliterate whirlwinds helped put Curious Theatre Branch on the map, hasn’t presented a play in Chicago in a decade. Time away produced a sea change his dramaturgy. In his quietly astonishing new play, set in the muted small-town Wisconsin of his childhood, his trademark hallucinogenic superfluity has given way to excruciatingly spare naturalism. Taciturn misfit teen Gary has returned early from a weekend hunting trip, sensing something’s wrong with his young sister Laurie. In working to assure her that horrors like the Jonestown massacre, the day’s top story, won’t touch her, he, like everyone around her, overlooks the real trauma she’s just suffered, leading to dire consequences. Director Jenny Magnus’s well-observed production keeps a pervasive dread sublimated for 80 vexing minutes.”—Chicago Reader
  • “Defiantly naturalistic.... Magnus’ play succeeds at capturing the broken dialogue and false bravado of teenagers while also hinting at their vulnerability and desire for answers to the big questions. It’s the kind of potent mixture that can drive hundreds of young people to follow a megalomaniac into the jungle—or that can drive one broken-hearted girl to exact a startling revenge.”—Chicago Tribune