David E. Tolchinsky

David E. Tolchinsky is the founding director of Northwestern University’s MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage program. He is a longtime screenwriter (for various Hollywood studios) and a fairly new playwright and director. His work, which spans comedy and darker fare, often involves teenagers, dystopias, trauma, memory, and mental illness. Lately, his work has been centering on health and illness in the modern world, especially illnesses that are not easily explainable. In 2015, he was voted Best Director for the New York production of his play Where's the Rest of Me? (which was nominated for Best Play). He co-curated Sick by Seven (seven plays/films about mental health in the modern world) at A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago as part of its Incubator Series, and was no. 7 on New City's Film 50 2017: Chicago Screen Gems. His film credits include the experimental narrative Creature Companion (producer); the psychological thriller Cassandra (writer/director/composer/sound designer); the documentary Fast Talk (co-producer); the dramatic thriller The Coming of Age (co-producer/screenwriter); the dark comedy Girl (associate producer/screenwriter, from Sony, starring Selma Blair and Tara Reid); the documentary St. Catherine’s Wedding Ring (co-producer/co-director, premiered at Sundance); and Debra Tolchinsky’s The New York Times Op-Docs documentary Contaminated Memories (co-producer/composer). Dave co-curated The Horror Show at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, New York City; Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door at the Block Museum, Evanston, Ill.; and The Presence of Absence at the Hairpin Arts Center, Chicago. Dave recently directed his dark comedy play about the rogue psychologist Wilhelm Reich, An Attempt to Heal in the Contemporary World, in New York City, and is currently developing a TV series about Reich called Heal. Dave is also co-producing and scoring Debra Tolchinsky’s feature documentary True Memories and Other Falsehoods (currently in production). Dave served as the chair of the Department of Radio/Television/Film from 2007 to 2018. More at davidetolchinsky.com

*Photo: Joe Mazza


MFA Film/Video Production, USC School of Cinema-Television
BA Video/Performance Art, Yale (Scholar of the House)
Certificates Digital Audio Processing and Computer Music Composition, MIT's Media Lab

Recent Publications

2015 One-Act play, Where’s the Rest of Me?, published in The Best Plays From The Strawberry One-Act Festival. (2015). Van Dirk Fisher (Eds.), vol 8.

2015 Full-length play, Clear, one of six selected to be published in Issue 3/2015 of Proscenium Theatre Journal. The journal also published a long interview with Tolchinsky.

2013 Essay, “Where’s the Rest of Me?” thoughts on Spalding Gray and monologue-writing. In Paraphilia Magazine, March 2013 issue. www.paraphiliamagazine.com/periodical/wheres-the-rest-of-me/

Lipscomb, Scott and Tolchinsky, David (September, 2005). The Role of Music Communication in Cinema in Miehl, MacDonald, Hargreaves, editors, Musical Communication. OUP.

Tolchinsky, Debra and Tolchinsky, Dave (June, 2004). Cicadas Could Mean Redemption. Newsday.

Tolchinsky, David (April, 2004). Violence in Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ is Well, Too Violent. Newsday.

Recent Awards and Honors


First place Van Gogh award for his script, Clear, and finalist Van Gogh award for his script, Heal, at the Amsterdam Film Festival.


Special Mention of the International Jury at the Oberhausen Film Festival Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, for the film Creature Companion, produced by Tolchinsky and Dan Silverstein.


No. 7 on New City’s Film 50 2017 Chicago’s Screen Gems.

Silver Award Recipient, Los Angeles Film Review, The Coming of Age (writer/co-producer), Feb 13, 2017.


No. 8 on New City’s Film 50 2015: Chicago’s Screen Gems

Nominated for Best Play and named Best Director at the Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act Play Festival, Hudson Guild Theatre, New York City, for the play Where’s the Rest of Me?


Recipient, $15,000 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Literature  www.arts.illinois.gov/news/iaca-announces-fy14-artist-fellowship-award-recipients


No. 14 on NewCity’s List of Chicago’s top 50 players in film. newcityfilm.com/2013/10/03/film-50-chicagos-screen-gems-2013/

Recipient, The Contemporary Arts Council’s Yearly Grant to Curators, to curate The Presence of Absence at Chicago’s Hairpin Arts Center, May 8-June 2, 2013.  contemporaryartscouncil.org/the-presence-of-absence/


Best Documentary Feature, Fast Talk, co-producer, Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Best Documentary, Fast Talk, co-producer, Iowa Film Fest, Iowa.

2009 Co-Curator, The Horror Show, Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, New York City (www.dorsky.org), chosen as a "Voice Choice for Art" by The Village Voice
2008 Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence
2007 Clarence Simon Award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring
2006 Nominee, New Media Fellowship, as part of the Rockefeller/Ford Foundation's Program for Media Artists
2003 Nominations, Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel Awards in the Special Venue Category
2002 Fellowship Award to the Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, FL., to participate in a three-week artist's residency directed by writer-actor Spalding Gray (Monster in a Box, Impossible Vacation, Swimming to Cambodia). One of 10 "mid-career writers" selected.

Recent Press

Concerning Sick by Seven (the night of plays/videos co-curated by Tolchinsky at A Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago):

  • Splash Magazine, June 22, 2016, “The creators and actors of ‘Sick by Seven’ Review- interviews about the profound and the personal nature of this project” by Debra Davy
  • Splash Magazine, June 8, 2016, “ ‘Sick by Seven’ Preview- an upcoming A Red Orchid Theatre incubator series and an interview with auteur/ Professor David E. Tolchinsky” by Debra Davy
  • Broadway World, May 6, 2016, “Sick by Seven Set for a Red Orchid Theatre’s Incubator Series”

Concerning The Coming of Age (short film written and produced by Tolchinsky):

Concerning Where’s the Rest of Me? (one-act play written by Tolchinsky):

  • Broadway World, February 26, 2015, “Northwestern Professor David E. Tolchinsky Named Best Director at Theatre Festival”
  • Broadway World, February 5, 2015, “Northwestern University Professor David E. Tolchinsky's Debut Play to Premiere in NYC”

Concerning Clear (full-length play written by Tolchinsky):

  • Proscenium Magazine, Sept 1, 2015, Interview with David E. Tolchinsky, writer of Clear

Recent Mentions/Quotations

Mentioned as a high profile screenwriter participating in the festival,The Examiner, June 10, 2016, “The Strawberry One-Act Festival: Playwrights’ American Idol”

Interviewed/quoted in The Chicago Maroon, “Grant Will Explore Echoes of Hollywood in ISIS Propaganda,” by Emily Kramer, February 23, 2016

Interviewed/quoted in ABC7Chicago’s “HOW ISIS RECRUITING VIDEOS MIRROR HOLLYWOOD SCRIPTS,” by Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff  - live and on their web site, February 9, 2016

Interviewed/quoted extensively in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, “Script Development and the Hidden Practices of Screenwriting: Perspectives from Industry Professionals,” by Stayci Taylor & Craig Batty, December 14, 2015

Interviewed/quoted in The Chicago Tribune, “New 'Star Trek' episodes push us closer to streaming service overload” by Nina Metz, November 4, 2015. Picked up nationally via newswire services so published in multiple local newspapers and web sites.

Interviewed/spotlighted about the meaning of Spock and Leonard Nimoy’s death (and mostly my Spock collection) in The Chicago Tribune, “Northwestern Professor Has Spock Collection that’s out of this World” by Duaa Eldeib, February 27, 2015

Interviewed/quoted extensively, Yale Daily News, “Screenwriting grows amidst limited resources” by Caroline Wray, November 21, 2014

Interviewed/quoted, The Independent, “Outsider Writers: Four Not-in-LA Grad Programs in Screenwriting,” by Jared M. Gordon, March 26, 2013 regarding one of the four programs was NU’s MFA in Writing for Screen+Stage which I direct.


561 Foundations of Writing for the Screen+Stage
360 Writing the Horror Screenplay
360 Writing the Teen-Centered Screenplay
360 Writing the Comic Book Adaptation
360 Writing the Unraveling/Psychotic Screenplay
360 Writing at the Frontier
384 Foundations of Sound Design
350-2 Adaptation/Business of Creative Writing for the Media


David E. Tolchinsky

Professor; Co-Director, MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage; Co-Director, Program in Sound Design




1920 Campus Drive, Room 302
Evanston, IL 60208



Graduate Programs:

Screen Cultures; Writing for the Screen and Stage