Magic Time Productions presents The Ben Hecht Show

Magic Time Productions in partnership with CoHo Productions present

The Ben Hecht Show
Written & performed by James Sherman
Based on the books A Guide for the Bedevilled and A Child of the Century by Ben Hecht
Directed by Dennis Začek

August 24 – 25, 8:00pm and August 26, 3:00pm


1943: Ben Hecht tells you everything you need to know about show business, Jews, and anti-Semites. With jokes.

Ben Hecht, the celebrated playwright (The Front Page) and screenwriter (Gone With The Wind, Scarface, Wuthering Heights), was also a superb memoirist and storyteller. Award-winning playwright/actor James Sherman brings Ben Hecht to life as he enacts Hecht’s experiences in Chicago, New York, and Hollywood and Hecht’s spiritual journey from assimilated Jew to social activist.


James Sherman (Playwright/Actor) is the author of the plays Magic Time, The God of Isaac, Mr. 80%, The Escape Artist, Beau Jest, This Old Man Came Rolling Home, Jest a Second!, Romance in D, From Door to Door, The Old Man’s Friend, Affluenza!, Half and Half, Relatively Close and Jacob and Jack. James was a theatre student at Illinois State University in the early 1970s. He began his professional career as a writer and performer with The Second City in Chicago and received an M.F.A. degree from Brandeis University.  In 1985, he began his long association with the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago and he was a Founding Member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble. Beau Jest, Magic Time, The God of Isaac, Mr. 80%, Jest a Second!, Romance in, From Door to Door, Affluenza!, Half and Half and Jacob and Jack have been published and are regularly produced by theatres throughout the U.S. and have also been seen in Canada, Mexico, South America, England, Germany, Austria, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, China and Korea. In the summer of 2006, James wrote and directed the movie of his play, Beau Jest, starring Lainie Kazan, Seymour Cassel and Robyn Cohen. James currently teaches Playwriting and Improvisation at Columbia College Chicago and DePaul University. He has been a teacher of Playwriting and Acting on the faculties of The Second City Training Center, Chicago Dramatists Workshop and Victory Gardens Theater. In 2001, he was a visiting professor in Seoul, South Korea at the Korean National University of the Arts. He has led workshops in Improvisation at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and has been the recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Yaddo. He is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America. He lives in Chicago.


Ben Hecht (February 28, 1894 – April 18, 1964), the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, grew up in New York City and Racine, Wisconsin. He worked as a reporter for the Chicago Journal and then the Chicago Daily News during the WWI era and The Roaring Twenties. Immediately following World War I, the Daily News sent him to cover Berlin, where he was exposed to the German nationalism and anti-Semitism that would help bring Hitler to power. From this experience came some of the material for his first novel, Erik Dorn. For the Daily News, he developed a groundbreaking column that formed the basis of his collection of sketches A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago. Lively reminiscences of Hecht’s Chicago years are found in his Gaily, Gaily, Letters from Bohemia, A Guide For the Bedevilled and his autobiography, A Child of the Century. Hecht collaborated with Charles MacArthur, another Chicago newspaperman and the husband of Helen Hayes, on the classic farce The Front Page (1928), set in the pressroom of the old Chicago Criminal Courts Building adjoining the Cook County Jail. It was based on their joint experiences covering criminal cases there. The newspapers depicted in the play are based on the City News Bureau, the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago American. Hecht and MacArthur also collaborated on the successful stage comedy Twentieth Century (1923).

In Hollywood, Hecht wrote wrote or co-wrote over 70 screenplays for directors including Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Howard Hawks, William Wyler and Henry Hathaway. His motion pictures include The Front Page (film version 1931), The Scoundrel (1935), Nothing Sacred (1937), Gunga Din (1938), Wuthering Heights (1939), Spellbound (1945) and Notorious (1946). Hecht also wrote the script for the film Spectre of the Rose (1946). Hecht won an Oscar for best original story for Underworld (1927) at the first Academy Awards in 1929. He was nominated five more times for the Best Writing Oscar, winning (along with writing partner and friend Charles MacArthur) for The Scoundrel (1935). The other nominations were for Viva Villa! (1934), Wuthering Heights (1939, shared with MacArthur), Angels Over Broadway (1940) and Notorius (1946). One of Hecht’s earliest screenplays, Scarface, was loosely based on Al Capone and set in Chicago and starred Paul Muni and a pre-Frankeinstein appearance by Boris Karloff. The screenplay was later used as the basis for the Al Pacino remake, though the setting was changed to Miami for the film. After his death in 1964, Hecht’s widow bequeathed his copyrights to Chicago’s Newberry Library.

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