United Flight 232


Adapted and Directed by Vanessa Stalling
from the book Flight 232 by Laurence Gonzales

A Haunting True Story of Compassion and Grace


RUN DATES: Sept 1 - Oct 21, 2017

AGES: United Flight 232 is recommended for adults and teens. Read more in the PARENTS' GUIDE.

TICKETS: $15 - $50

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Winner of the 2016 Jeff Awards for Best Production of a Play (Midsize) and Best Ensemble



Chicago Reader
New City Stage
Around the Town
The Fourth Walsh
Chicago Theatre Review

“I love you, hurry home. I love you.” On July 19, 1989, a DC-10 headed for O’Hare with 296 aboard is paralyzed mid-air. For 44 minutes, the aircraft descended towards an emergency landing and crashed at Sioux City Gateway airport. To the astonishment of all who witnessed the event, 184 of 296 passengers and crew survived. Drawing on the interviews and research conducted by Evanston author Laurence Gonzales for his critically acclaimed book, Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, this brand new play, United Flight 232, is a reflection on how to comprehend tragedy and celebrate human ingenuity in the face of overwhelming challenges.


Read more about this project from Adaptor and Director, Vanessa Stalling, on the Open House page.


To learn more about Laurence Gonzales’ book, please visit his website at


United Flight 232 was commissioned and developed by The House Theatre of Chicago and the Chicago Performance Lab through the Theatre and Performance Studies Program at the University of Chicago.


PRODUCTION SPONSORS: Scott Hughes, David Shapiro & Mark Losher


Show Dates: Sep 1 2017 to Oct 21 2017 Location: Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St, Chicago



  • Laurence Gonzales



  • Stage Manager
  • Kathleen Dickinson
    Assistant Stage Manager
  • Tracee Bear
    Wardrobe Supervisor
  • Bobby Huggins
    Technical Director
  • Coco Ree Lemery
    Scenic Charge
  • Jerica Hucke
    Costume Manager
  • Clare Roche
    Master Electrician
  • Alex Beal


  • Emma Couling
    Assistant Director
  • John Musial
    Scenic Designer
  • Delia Ridenour
    Costume Designer
  • Will Kirkham
    Lighting Designer
  • Kaili Story
    Assosiate Lighting Designer
  • Meghan Erxleban
    Assistant Lighting Designer
  • Steve Labedz
    Sound Designer & Composer
  • Music Director
  • Paul Deziel
    Projection Designer
  • Eleanor Khan
    Props Designer
  • Dramaturg
  • Director of Casting
Trailer for United Flight 232

Company Member Brenda Barrie as Chief Flight Attendant, Jan Brown.

Retired United flight attendant Jan Brown, and actress Brenda Barrie
We've been so honored to spend time with Jan Brown over this play-making process. "Vanessa asked if I wanted to meet the actress that was going to be playing me...." Jan shares about first meeting actress Brenda Barrie, and about her path to child safety advocacy.
Director/Adaptor Vanessa Stalling, and actor Johnny Arena
Vanessa Stalling and Johnny Arena talk about the amazing story of survival portrayed on stage in United Flight 232.
Dramaturg Derek Matson and actress Brenda Barrie
Dramaturg Derek Matson and actress Brenda Barrie share how the play has connected them with audiences at the show and with one another
Glowing reviews for United Flight 232

3.5 STARS 
"The very great artistic worth of this piece, beautifully toned and staged by Stalling, lies in its ability to make you think about what really matters in your life without going through such a harrowing day yourself. How better to honor those who lost their lives?"
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune


"If it is House Theatre’s mission to create engrossing, believable worlds, the active pursuit of tissues is evidence of their success here."
Kevin Greene, New City Stage


"This is a daring story to bring to the theater, but one that despite the tragic event will give you a feeling of warmth and hopefulness."
Around the Town


This production is the winner of the 2016  Joseph Jefferson Awards for 



Notes from Adaptor and Director Vanessa Stalling

posted December 2015


“A repeated theme that emerged from Laurence’s interviews was one’s inherent sense of responsibility for other human beings. In a world that seems to be nothing but ugly behavior, I find this documentation quite hopeful. It helps me to believe that in a time when terrible acts are more and more frequent, I may look out at a crowd of strangers and trust that I can count on someone out there and vice versa – it is more likely that the stranger sitting next to me seeks to do good rather than bad. 


These stories also provide insight about how to handle tragedy in our own lives and in the lives of others. In particular, one of the voices that Laurence interviewed, Gregory Clapper, resonated quite powerfully to me. Clapper suggests that there isn’t a way to understand why terrible things happen – but there is something we can do in light of them. We can offer to walk with one another through that mystery together. He suggests we “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” He also recommends that perhaps the best thing you can do is put your arm around another person.


In addition, the flight crew’s calm determination to solve what was essentially an unsolvable problem, is illuminating. At a time when our world faces overwhelming challenges, it’s good to be reminded about our capacity for creativity and resourcefulness.


I’m incredibly grateful to the passengers and crew who have shared their stories, and to Laurence for creating such comprehensive documentation of the event. Their generosity has provided me a chance to learn from their incredibly harrowing and unique life experience, and has ultimately changed my perspective about how I want to connect with other human beings.”