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  • Brett Neveu (faculty) is adapting the screenplay to Eric Larue, a movie based on Neveu’s play of the same name that debuted in 2002 at A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago. The film is set to be Michael Shannon’s directorial debut.
  • The Tattooed Lady book by Erin Courtney (faculty) and Max Vernon, with music and lyrics by Max Vernon, directed by Ellie Heyman will have its World Premiere at Philadelphia Theater Company in November of 2022.
  • Zayd Dohrn’s (faculty) podcast Mother Country Radicals will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June of 2022.
  • Thomas Bradshaw (faculty) received a Special Citation of Excellence from the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation for his play Redemption. The play is a commission from The National Theater in London.
  • Eliza Bent (faculty) had her hybrid short IN SERVICE OF MEMORY performed by Project Y’s Women in Theatre festival. 
  • Dave Tolchinsky (faculty) is the writer and director of award-winning film Cassandra, which was curated onto, Apple and Amazon, and is now seen all over Italy. He was also one of the producers of Night’s End, directed by Jennifer Reeder and written by Brett Neveu, funded and distributed by Shudder/AMC. 
  • Nayna Agrawal (MFA WSS ‘15) is currently an Executive Story Editor on a live action Netflix series.  


  • Eliza Bent (faculty) shot her first short film SUMMER’S LAST SWIM with photographer and filmmaker Noah Sheldon. Her theatre ensemble Half Straddle had its Broadway premiere with IS THIS A ROOM.
  • Erik Gernand (faculty) had a world premiere of his new play YEAR ONE at Premiere Stages in Union, NJ. Erik’s recent short film SUNDOWN (writer/director) had its world premiere in Spain at LesGaiCinemad, the Madrid LGBTQ film festival, and went on to play multiple festivals around the world including One World – International Queer Film Festival.
  • Thomas Bradshaw (faculty) was one of seven award-winning playwrights included in the Seven Deadly Sins, an outdoor theater experience in New York City in June of 2021.
  • Ann, Fran, and Mary Ann by Erin Courtney (faculty) was published by 53rd State Press in 2021.
  • Carrie Barrett (MFA WSS ’09) and her co-creator, theatre alum Katy Fullan wrote and starred in a series of shorts based on their self-produced short, “CHOWDER.” Several of these shorts can be seen in various episodes of CAKE on FX and Hulu. Previously, Carrie & Katy wrote and starred in LUXURY, a micro-series for Adult Swim’s Smalls. Luxury was produced by Abso Lutely Productions including producer, Dan Millstein (RTVF ’09)
  • Michael Kastelein (MFA WSS ’14) will return to the show for Season 3 of Apple TV+’s TRUTH BE TOLD starring Octavia Spencer, Kate Hudson and Ron Cephas Jones as a Supervising Producer, writing the 4th and 9th episodes, after being the on set Writer / Producer for Season 2.
  • Dolores Díaz’s (MFA WSS ’19) ZULEMA was produced by Goodman Theatre — in partnership with Sones de México, the Chicago Park District, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA), and the National Museum of Mexican Art — and enjoyed a tour of the Chicago Parks District with a finale in Millennium Park.
  • Jen Spyra (MFA WSS ’12) debuted a short story collection, Big Time, in March 2021, with Random House. It is a Starred Booklist book, features a foreword by Stephen Colbert, and received praise from Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Simon Rich, and Jack Handey.


  • Will Arbery (WSS ’15) was named the single Whiting Award Winner of 2020. Will was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his play, Heroes of the Fourth Turning, which premiered at Playwrights Horizons in New York.
  • Sarah Gubbins (WSS ’08) wrote the screenplay for Shirley, a biographical film about noted horror writer Shirley Jackson, directed by Josephine Decker. The film won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award at Sundance and was picked up for distribution by Neon.
  • Dave Tolchinsky (faculty) wrote, directed, and scored the thriller Cassandra, seen at festivals internationally, winner of 10 awards including best short and best director, and distributed internationally by Alter (
  • Exal Iraheta (WSS ’19) was selected for the prestigious Playwrights Unit at The Goodman Theatre. His play They Could Give No Name was chosen as a finalist for the O’Neill’s 2020 National Playwrights Conference, finalist for the Judith Royer Excellence in Playwriting Award, and was an honorable mention for the American Playwriting 2019 Foundation’s Relentless Award.
  • Ariel Stess (faculty) adapted parts I and II of her play Kara & Emma & Barbara & Miranda into an audio experience for Active Listening, a New Dramatists podcast series. She performed in and directed the audio piece, which was featured on 3Views on Theater. Her high school dramedy I’m Pretty F*cked Up was produced as a virtual play by The Theatre School at DePaul University
  • Eliza Bent (faculty) wrote and performed in the Zoom theatrical KAREN, I SAID, in co-productions with New Georges and All for One Theater. The New York Times praised it as a “wicked satire.”
  • Zayd Ayers Dohrn (faculty) optioned his short story EMPATHY MACHINE to Netflix. Dohrn is attached to write the feature adaptation for director Francis Lawrence (Hunger Games, Red Sparrow)


  • GOODNIGHT, TYLER by B.J. Tindal of Northwestern University’s MFA in Writing for Screen + Stage program is the 16th competition winner of The Alliance/Kendeda Competition and had its world premiere on the Hertz Stage February 16 – March 10, 2019.
  • MFA Faculty Member Honored By Variety Magazine. MFA faculty member, Zina Camblin was included  in Entertainment Education: Top Teachers in Film, TV and More.
  • Welcome to Jeb Stuart! We’re excited that in September, Jeb Stuart, screenwriter of Die Hard and The Fugitive, will be joining us as Writing for Screen + Stage/RTF faculty.


  • Netflix ordered an original Indian pilot written by alumna Marisha Mukerjee (Class of ’11).
  • NU and RTVF are well represented in New City’s Chicago Film 50 with RTVF Chair and Director of the Northwestern University MFA in Writing for Screen + Stage Dave Tolchinsky and Northwestern University MFA in Documentary Media program director Debra Tolchinsky checking in at #7 on the list. Landing on the cover of the NewCity issue as Film Leader of the Moment is Aymar Jean Christian, a courtesy appointment of RTVF. NU alum/Music Box co-director Brian Andreotti is #12 on the list and NU alum/Siskel Film Center Director of Public Programs Amy Beste checks in at #30.
  • The Greenhouse Theater Center has established the MC-10 Playwrights Ensemble, a group comprising some of Chicago’s most prominent “mid-career” playwrights, and will commit to producing at least one play by a member of the group in every season, beginning with the 2018–2019 slate. MC-10 members include Northwestern faculty members Thomas Bradshaw, Zayd Dohrn, Rebecca Gilman, Brett Neveu, and Laura Schellhardt.

Chicago Dramatists 2017 Resident Playwrights

Alumna Jenni Lamb and Faculty member Zina Camblin were named Chicago Dramatists 2017 Resident Playwrights.

Visit by playwright/screenwriter Tony Kushner

Our students were treated to a private meeting with playwright/screenwriter Tony Kushner, when he was in town for the Chicago Humanities Festival. It was an amazing discussion moderated by MFA associate director Zayd Dohrn.

Independent comedy by alum

Alum Jake Disch (’14) is currently shooting his independent comedy SATURDAY AT THE STARLIGHT, starring Abigail Breslin, Denise Richards, and Michael Madsen.

New RTVF podcast series

First up: MFA in Writing for Screen+Stage student Kate Royal interviews MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage alumna Jenny Hagel about her time at NU, her various writing gigs, and her current gig working with NU SOC alum Seth Meyers. Learn more.

Awards, awards, awards!

What an extraordinary year our MFA faculty and alumni are having. Congrats to all!
And apologizes if we missed anyone (let us know!).

Core faculty

  • Thomas Bradshaw, 2017 Pen America Literary Award for Emerging American Playwright
  • Zayd Dohrn, winner, The 2017 Horton Foote Prize for his play, The Profane
  • Rebecca Gilman, Induction into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame
  • David Tolchinsky, Silver Award, 2017 Los Angeles Film Review Independent Film Awards, for The Coming of Age (written and produced by David Tolchinsky; directed and produced by David Bradburn)

Affiliated Faculty

  • Brett Neveu, Jeff Award nomination in the Equity midsized production category, for his play, Pilgrim’s Progress, produced at A Red Orchid Theatre


  • Jenny Hagel, WGA award nomination as part of the writing staff of Late Night with Seth Meyers
  • Stephanie Kornick, WGA award nomination as part of the writing staff of Transparent
  • Jen Spyra, WGA award nomination as part of the writing staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
  • Will Arbery, Northwestern University Awardee, the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists

2016 WGA Nominations

The 2017 Writers Guild nominations are out! Among the nominees for COMEDY / VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) – SERIES are Northwestern University MFA in Writing for Screen + Stage alumni Jenny Hagel (’09) and Jen Spyra (’12).

Jen Spyra was nominated as part of the writing team for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Northwestern School of Communication Class of ’86), and Jenny Hagel was nominated as part of the writing team for Late Night with Seth Meyers (Northwestern School of Communication Class of ’96). Congratulations writers!

Jenny Hagel (right) on set for Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Jen Spyra on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Writer/Director David Hollander

Our MFAs had a great visit in October with writer/director David Hollander, NU alum and showrunner of Showtime’s Ray Donovan. (Pictured with MFA Director Dave Tolchinsky and the MFA writers)

New City Film 50

RTVF Faculty Spencer Parsons says that he’s “not the only movie person” staying with Chicago. “I’ve noticed more filmmakers are sticking around, and good crew members are getting more work in all the TV shows, from ‘Easy’ and ‘Exorcist’ up through the ever-expanding Dick Wolf empire. I think it’s a good time for independent directors, producers and writers to make even small-budget projects with these highly skilled and enthusiastic collaborators.” Congratulations for the FILM 50 2016!

Pulitzer Prize-Winner Ayad Akhtar

We were thrilled to host Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar in November. He had wonderful words of inspiration for our MFA writers. Pictured below with Assoc. MFA Director Zayd Dohrn and MFA Director Dave Tolchinsky.

Sarah Gubbins on Her New Amazon Show

“I’ll hopefully write more plays, features, television — storytelling is storytelling,” Gubbins said. “But it has definitely given me a big appetite for making television and writing television and envisioning what a show can be.” Read the full story from the Daily Northwestern.

Rebecca Gilman Honored in Alabama

Faculty member Rebecca Gilman was inducted into the Alabama writer’s hall of fame on September 29th, 2016. Gilman was one of four living authors to receive the honor, though nine were inducted in total.

Faculty Member Zayd Dohrn praised for “The Profane”

Faculty member Zayd Dohrn was one of two playwrights to receive the Horton Foote prize for his play, “The Profane.” The award honors excellence in American theater every two years. “The Profane” is also a second-round recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards, which provides triannual grants to allow more time for creative development on new plays.

Amazon picks up Alumna Sarah Gubbins’ pilot for full series

Alumna Sarah Gubbins’s pilot I LOVE DICK has been picked up for a full series by Amazon! Jill Soloway produces.

Alum Seth Meyers

Program Director Dave Tolchinsky hoods alum Seth Meyers at the Northwestern University 2016 Graduation.

MFA Students reflect on summer internships

Read about Class of 2017 MFA student Cat Davidson’s summer internship in the writer’s room of TNT’s Major Crimes at The Television Academy.

From sitting in the writers’ room for a new comedic website to reading scripts and writing coverage, Northwestern University MFA in Writing for Screen+Stage student Adam Hughes is getting great experience at his internships at Red Hour Films and David Zucker Entertainment in LA this summer! In the latest EPICS student spotlight, Adam talks about these two very different internships.

On-set with alum Julia Louis Dreyfus

The Advanced Sitcom Writing Class and instructor Zina Camblin on-set with Julia Louis Dreyfus.

MFA holds annual Festival of New Work and Writer’s Panel

On May 13, 2016, the MFA hosted our annual Festival of New Work and Writer’s Panel. The theme of this year’s panel was “Writing Fact and Fiction.”

Below: Writing panelists Lisa Cortes, Deidre O’Connor, Laura Eason, and Aaron Carter, with moderator/MFA faculty member Zayd Dohrn and MFA director Dave Tolchinsky.

Tolchinsky discusses upcoming incubator series, SICK BY SEVEN

Check out this interview with Program Director Dave Tolchinsky on the upcoming A Red Orchid Theatre incubator series SICK BY SEVEN, featuring plays by Tolchinsky, instructor Brett Neveu, and alumna Shannon Pritchard (Class of 2014).

Congratulations to the Class of 2016 on their graduation!

LIZZY premieres at one-act play festival

Alum Roger Q. Mason’s (Class of 2016) short play LIZZY premiered at the Ensemble Studio Theater’s first one-act play festival.

Alum Will Arbery awarded Edes Foundation Prize

Alum Will Arbery (Class of 2015) is the 2016 Northwestern University Awardee of the Edes Foundation Prize.

Alumna Jenni Lamb finishes Goodman Theatre’s Playwrights Unit

Alumna Jenni Lamb (Class of 2013)’s play MESSINA received a staged reading as the culmination of her time in the 2015-2016 Goodman Theatre’s Playwrights Unit.

Alum Farhan Arshad joins “Man With a Plan” team

Alum Farhan Arshad has been staffed on CBS’s upcoming series “Man With a Plan” staring Matt LeBlanc and directed by James Burrows. Farhan, a member of the 2016 Disney Storytellers program, has also written for ABC’s Dr. Ken and Kirby Buckets on Disney XD.

Alum Sarah Gubbins discusses upcoming work with Transparent’s Jill Soloway

Alum Sarah Gubbins (Class of 2010) is writing the pilot for Jill Soloway’s (Transparent) new Amazon series I Love Dick, as well as co-writing Soloway’s feature film Ten Aker Wood. Listen to her interview with current MFA Second Year Kate Royal about representation, art, and writing on After Ellen.

MFA graduates selected for the 2016 Araca Project

Congratulations to recently graduated MFAs Kate Tucker Fahlsing, Mercedes Lake, and Diana Losen (Class of 2016), who have been selected for the 2016 Araca Project! Kate will be co-producing her new play ACROSS THE PARK, and Diana and Mercedes will be co-producing Mercedes’ new play TAUGHT for Araca’s producing intensive, culminating in a New York Production! Talk about cohort collaboration.

Student News 2016

MFA First Year Kate Royal (Class of 2017) interviewed with MFA alumn Sarah Gubbins (Class of 2008) about representation, art, and writing on After Ellen:

Alumni News 2016

  • Sarah Gubbins (‘08) is writing the pilot for Jill Soloway’s (Transparent) new Amazon series I Love Dick, as well as co-writing Soloway’s feature film Ten Aker Wood.
  • Jenny Hagel (’09) was staffed on Late Night with Seth Meyers
  • Ethan Kass (’12) is a staff writer on TNT’s Murder in the First
  • Jen Spyra (’12) has joined the writing staff of Late Night with Stephen Colbert (WGA Award for Comedy)
  • Farhan Arshad (‘10) has been accepted into the Disney Storytellers program, and wrote an episode of ABC’s Dr. Ken

Theater Productions and Publications

  • Sarah Gubbins’ (‘08) play Cocked premiered this spring at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. Her play fml: How Carson McCullers Saved my Life premiered at Steppenwolf in 2012
  • Jenni Lamb (’13) has been selected for the 2015-16 Goodman Theatre Playwrights Unit
  • MFA alumnae Milta Ortiz, Meridith Friedman, Sarah Gubbins and Jenni Lamb made The Kilroys List and Honorable Mentions of 2015.

David Tolchinsky honored for his work

David Tolchinsky’s full-length play, “Clear,” was one of six selected to be published in 2015/issue 3 of Proscenium Theatre Journal. The journal also ran a long interview with him. Previously, he was commissioned by Fork the Man Productions to write the film “The Coming of Age” and is now one of the co-producers on the project; the film is complete and is being submitted to film festivals. The trailer for the project was edited by Zach Lorkiewicz (RTF Class of ‘12). Tolchinsky was also nominated for Best Play and was named Best Director at the Strawberry One-Act Play Festival, Hudson Guild Theatre, New York City, in February, for his play “Where’s the Rest of Me?”.

Tolchinsky was honored for this directing award at the NU Faculty Recognition dinner on September 28. The play was selected for inclusion in a volume of the best plays from the festival, to be published later this winter. His feature, Girl (screenwriter and associate producer), “from a million years ago” said Tolchinsky, starring Dominique Swain, Selma Blair, Portia de Rossi and Sean Patrick Flanery, was released on iTunes. He was featured along with our MFA in Doc Media program director Debra Tolchinsky at #8 on Newcity Magazine’s Film 50 List. A great honor for both of them, the program and the department.

Brett Neveu’s play listed in Chicago Magazine’s Most Anticipated Plays

Faculty member Brett Neveu’s play “Pilgrim’s Progress,” starring Oscar nominee Michael Shannon, premiered at A Red Orchid Theatre this November. “Pilgrim’s Progress” has been listed as number 3 in Chicago Magazine’s Most Anticipated Plays list this fall and just received a great review in The Chicago Tribune.

Zayd Dohrn’s untitled drama series acquired by Showtime

Faculty member Zayd Dohrn’s untitled drama series has been acquired by Showtime, with Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures attached. His play Muckrakers was produced at New Repertory Theatre in Boston, and his play Reborning opened at the Fountain Theatre, where it was an LA Times “Critic’s Pick.”

Thomas Bradshaw profiled in the latest Chicago Magazine

Faculty member Thomas Bradshaw was profiled in the latest Chicago Magazine about his art and his play “Fulfillment,” which also received a positive review from The New York Times for its performance at The Flea Theatre in New York City. The Goodman will produce the world premiere of Bradshaw’s play “Carlyle” this spring. “Carlyle” is about an African-American politician who is a member of the Republican Party and was first featured during The Goodman’s 2014 New Stages Festival.

Student and Alum News 2015

MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage alum Ethan Kass (MFA class of ’12) has been staffed on TNT’s Murder in the First.

“Time Difference” by current MFA Lin Tu (MFA class of ‘16) premiered at Aspen’s acclaimed Theater Masters’ ninth annual TAKE TEN: NATIONAL MFA PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Her experience with the festival was an incredible journey, opening her the broad, wondrous theatre world. “Theater Masters” led to productions in Aspen and New York with professional directors and actors; panel discussions and local TV interviews; meetings with people from agencies, organizations, and publishing houses; conversations with an acclaimed artistic director and actress among seven other talented playwrights; and a publication of the collection of the festival’s short plays.

Sara Accuardi’s (MFA class of ‘09) play was chosen for this year’s Seven Devils Playwrights Conference.

Nayna Agrawal (MFA class of ‘15) joined Grey’s Anatomy as a writer’s P.A. in May. In September, she performed her selected short fiction piece “Envy and Tuberculosis” at the Zephyr Theater in Los Angeles. She was recently awarded a three-month writing residency in France, funded in part by the Tenot Foundation.

Erin Austin (MFA class of ‘13) won the 2015 Red Theater Playwriting Competition for her play “Insert Heart Here.”

Carrie Barrett’s (MFA class of ‘08) short film OPEN HOUSE was just selected as the winner of the Los Angeles Film Festival/ Funny or Die Make ‘Em LAFF Showcase. It was directed by fellow Northwestern MFA graduate Marisha Mukerjee with help from fellow MFA graduate Lauren Bennett. She is also one of five playwrights chosen for the Humanitas/CTG PLAY LA Workshop.

Gabrielle Fulton (MFA class of ‘10), whose play “Uprising” at Horizon Theatre Company received 4 nominations for the Suzi Bass Awards in Atlanta, including Outstanding World Premiere. “Uprising” was also part of Women’s Voices Festivals in DC.

Sarah Gubbins’ (MFA class of ‘08) play Cocked is featured as one of six new plays to debut Off-Broadway, produced by The Atlantic Theater Company and premiered at Victory Gardens in the spring.

Stephanie Kornick (MFA class of ‘10) is a writer’s assistant on Transparent.

Jenni Lamb (MFA class of ‘12) has been named as a member of the Goodman Theatre’s 2016 Playwrights Unit. It’s the Goodman’s sixth iteration of the Playwrights Unit and their first all-female group. She is also the inaugural winner of Route 66 Theater Company’s New Play Development Workshop.

Marisha Mukerjee (MFA class of ’11) has joined the writing staff of NBC’s Heroes: Reborn

Eoghan O’Donnell (MFA class of ’09) wrapped his CW show The Messengers, where he served as showrunner and producer. He has been hired as the co-executive producer for the second season of MTV’s Scream TV series.

Milta Ortiz (MFA class of ‘12) received a stunning review for her play “Más” performed at Borderlands Theatre.

Jen Spyra (MFA class of ‘12) is part of the writing staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which has been nominated for best Comedy/Variety Series by the Writer’s Guild of America.

Shannon Pritchard’s (MFA class of ‘14) play “Traces” premiered at Jackalope Theatre Company in Chicago this past March, as the inaugural production in their Pioneer series. Her play “Practice Babies” received a staged reading at TimeLine Theatre in April as part of their TimePieces series.

MFA alumnae Milta Ortiz, Meridith Friedman, Sarah Gubbins and Jenni Lamb made The Kilroys List and Honorable Mentions this year.

Rebecca Gilman 2015 Steinberg/ATCA award recipient

Professor Rebecca Gilman is the 2015 Steinberg/ATCA award recipient for her play “Luna Gale.” She was additionally honored at the NU Faculty Recognition Dinner held at the president’s house on Sept 28 for this award. Additionally The Acting Company’s one act interpretations of Tennessee Williams short stories, featuring her play based on “The Field of Blue Children” (1937), received a write-up by The New York Times. The play is set at contemporary University of Alabama with Williams’s main character, Myra, as Layley, a sorority sister drawn to a poet. Her new play “Soups, Stews, and Casseroles: 1976” is part of the Goodman’s regular season.

MFA alum Eoghan O’Donnell premieres his new TV series The Messengers

Congrats to MFA alum Eoghan O’Donnell on the premiere of his new TV series The Messengers on the CW!

Rebecca Gilman wins the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award

Congratulations to faculty member Rebecca Gilman on winning the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award!

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