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Joanne B. Koch, Ph.D.


Professor Emerita
Master of Science in Written Communication Program

Programs/Classes Taught:

Program and Classes Taught

JOANNE KOCH is a Professor Emerita in the Master of Science in Written Communication Program at National Louis University, a unique graduate writing program offering a wide variety of courses training students to professionalize their skills for advancing in the corporate and not for profit sector, for careers in the teaching of writing at the college level, journalism and nonfiction writing, public relations, fiction, screenwriting, playwriting, writing children’s books—anywhere that written communication is crucial. Teaching internships at community colleges and publication internships at print and online media give students hands-on experience in their chosen field. The M.S.W.C. Dr. Koch teaches a number of classes relating to short nonfiction, oral history, women’s literature, memoir, literature for children, playwriting and screenwriting. Dr. Koch has been teaching at National Louis University since 1997.

Areas of Expertise:

  • Nonfiction Writing
  • Playwriting
  • Screenwriting
  • Memoir
  • Women's Literature
  • Minority Voices in American Literature
  • Oral History
  • Literature for Children & Adolescents


Joanne Koch is the author or co-author of ten nonfiction books, including Good Parents for Hard Times and The Marriage Savers, previously author of the column "Coping" syndicated to 200 papers around the country, the editor of the ten-play anthology Shared Stages, screenwriter of numerous screenplays and an Emmy winning television series, and the creator or co-author of seventeen award-winning plays and musicals produced around the country, including "Stardust," "Soul Sisters," "Nesting Dolls," and "Belle Barth is Back!"

Previous nonfiction works include the child development college textbook "Children: development through adolescence" and "Marriage and the Family." She wrote the six books for parents and children in the widely used Families InTouch Series , co-authored the book "Good Parents for Hard Times" and, with her husband Lewis Z. Koch, "The Marriage Savers" as well as a syndicated newspaper column on family issues for United Features that went out to 200 newspapers around the country. Joanne was featured on the cover of Today's Chicago Woman as one of 100 women in Chicago making a difference through her writing and teaching.

Plays include "Soul Sisters," a multicultural musical written with Sarah Cohen, with original songs by Mark Elliott and other traditional African American and Jewish music, premiered at the Theatre Group of the Berkshires, has toured to 27 universities including Boston U., Syracuse, Marquette, Hamilton College, Clark University, Franklin & Marhsall, SUNY Albany, Bradley University, Philadelphia Community College, National-Louis University in Evanston, Indiana University, University of Missouri, the Young Leaders United of Chicago sponsored by the Urban League and the Anti-Defamation League, at Joanne's alma mater, Cornell University, and in 2012 at the Clockwise Theatre.

Dr. Koch is co-editor of the anthology "Shared Stages: Ten American Dramas of Blacks and Jews," which includes the plays "Driving Miss Daisy," "Fires in the Mirror," "I'm Not Rappaport," "Medal of Honor Rag," and her own multicultural musical "Soul Sisters." "Shared Stages" is published by State University of New York Press and also distributed at

"American Klezmer," an original musical with collaborators Sarah Cohen, Ilya Levinson and Owen Kalt, was produced at the Egyptian Arena Theatre in Los Angeles to great acclaim.

"Stardust," published by Dramatic Publishing Company and winner of the National Nantucket Short Play Competition, produced in NYC at the Times Square Theater and in Ft. Lauderdale at the Pine Crest Secondary School and now at schools and theaters nationwide.

"Sophie, Totie & Belle," based on a fictional meeting of the late entertainers Sophie Tucker, Totie Fields and Belle Barth, co-authored with Sarah Blacher Cohen, with original music by Mark Elliott and songs associated with these entertainers, opened in New York City at the off-Broadway Theater Four on March 15, 2000 after sold-out runs in Queens, NY Theatre in the Park, Boca Raton, Florida, Miami, Philadelphia, New Hope, Albany, and the Forum Theater in New Jersey, the Drama Center in Deerfield Beach, the Wilton Theater in Ft. Lauderdale, Theatre Works in Sarasota.

"Belle Barth: If I embarrass you, tell your friends," a musical Koch developed with composer Ilya Levinson and lyricist Owen Kalt focuses on comedienne Belle Barth, dubbed the "female Lenny Bruce," and makes chopped liver of the double standard and censorship of the fifties era. Belle premiered November 9, 2008 at Theo Ubique Theater at the No Exit Cabaret in Chicago, where it ran through December 21, 2008, recommended for a Jeff Award and on Chris Jones' recommended list in the Chicago Tribune. Belle was featured in the August Stages '08 Festival at Theatre Building Chicago. Lainie Kazan starred in a concert reading of the original musical in 2012 at the Falcon Theatre in Los Angeles. 

"Danny Kaye: Supreme Court Jester," a musical about the man who starred as Walter Mitty and Hans Christian Anderson, co-authored with Sarah Cohen, has many original songs by Mark Elliott as well as others associated with Kaye. "Danny" premiered in Albany, toured the East Coast and the Midwest and was produced in Boca Raton, Florida at the Atlantis Playhouse.
Joanne Koch wrote "A Silver Dish," based on Saul Bellow's short story and adapted with the Nobel Laureate's permission, produced with Sarah Blacher Cohen's adaptation of Bellow's "The Old System," as part of Saul Bellow's Stories on Stage at the New York State Writers Institute in Albany and in San Diego at the Barbra Streisand Festival of New Plays starring Harold Gould. Presentations as a 2005 memorial to Bellow were done at the Egg Performing Center in Albany, New York, the Spertus Institute in Chicago and the Milwaukee Public Library. The Bellow adaptations were published in 2010 by Purdue University Press in a special edition of Studies in American Jewish Literature.

"Courage like a wild horse," presented at the Victory Gardens Reader's Theater, the American Indian Center and at the Chicago Writers' Bloc New Play Festival, is an adaptation of the book, the true story of Okee Chee, a Native American girl whose year in an orphanage brought her to the brink of suicide but ultimately led to a discovery of her identity and her talent as an artist.

"Safe Harbor," based on one family's survival due to heroic Greek activities in World War II, featuring Greek and Ladino music selected by world-renowned tenor Alberto Mizrahi, had its premiere at the Organic Theater in Chicago, was produced in Los Angeles and in Chicago at the Chicago Historical Society in a special performance sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Diocese and the American Jewish Committee for Ohi Day--Greek Resistance Day--and at National Louis University in Evanston through a Cultural Fund Grant from the Evanston Arts Council. Safe Harbor has been translated into Greek and will be produced in Athens and Thessaloniki in 2013. The screenplay has been completed for a feature film to be shot in Greece.

"Nesting Dolls" was broadcast on local PBS stations after winning the Southern Illinois University Best Play Award and produced to rave reviews in Michigan and toured to Northwestern University, with portions excerpted in the Southern Illinois University anthology The Good Parts. Teeth, an irreverent comedy about sex and power, was produced in Chicago at the Theatre Building and in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the API Theatre, and received an Illinois Arts Council grant and development support from the Dramatists Guild Fund, Inc.

Other plays by Joanne Koch include "A Leading Woman," set during the Actors' Equity Strike of 1919, which received staged readings through grants from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Dramatists Guild Fund, Inc., "Haymarket:footnote to a bombing," which won the Chicago Cultural Center Patrons' Award and the Eighth International Playwrighting Contest sponsored by the Piscator Foundation and Southern Illinois University where it was produced, the musical with composer James Lucas, "Hearts in the Wood," winner of an Illinois Arts Council Playwriting Fellowship and presented in Chicago at the Stages Festival, at Northeastern Illinois University and at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan, and "Sandburg Among the Goats," which toured to Midwestern schools and colleges.


Education B.A. Cornell University, Phi Beta Kappa M.A. Columbia University on Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Ph.D. Southern Illinois University

Research and Interests:

Joanne Koch is interested in helping others develop new plays and musicals, through directing the playwright development group Chicago Writers' Bloc, and coordinating its Festivals of New Plays, funded in part by the Dramatists Guild Fund, Inc. The Chicago Writers' Bloc, under Dr. Koch's direction, has brought hundreds of new plays to Chicago audiences. Several of these new plays, first presented by Chicago Writers' Bloc, have gone on to productions across the country, including off-Broadway. Dr. Koch is working on several new musicals of her own. Recently, Dr. Koch collaborated with children's book author Jan Spivey Gilchrist on her first children's picture book. Koch and Gilchrist hope to do a series of books together for children and young adults.

Contact Information:

Joanne B. Koch, Ph.D.
National Louis University


Phone & Fax: 312-261-3103
Web site:



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