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James Sherman’s Ben Hecht show headed to Evanston

Ben Hecht, the New York-born journalist who forged his career as a Chicago newspaperman (at the Chicago Daily News and Chicago Journal), and went on to write “The Front Page,” a play that captured the crazy energy of this city’s courts and newsrooms, is now the subject of a new one-man show written and performed by James Sherman, the author of such early Victory Gardens Theatre hits as “The God of Isaac,” “Mr. 80%,” and “Beau Jest.”

“The Ben Hecht Show,” which debuted at the Zephyr on Melrose theater in Los Angeles this past summer, will have its premiere in a Grippo Stage Company production set to run June 10-July 17 at Evanston’s Piven Theatre, 927 Noyes. It will be directed by Dennis Zacek.

Actor-playwright James Sherman will perform his one-man show, "Ben Hech'ts....," at Evanston's Piven Theatre. (Photo: .....)

Actor-playwright James Sherman will perform his one-man show, “The Ben Hecht Show,” at Evanston’s Piven Theatre. (Photo: Ed Krieger)

Based on Hecht’s books, “A Guide For the Bedevilled” and “A Child Of the Century,” looks at the life of the newspaperman who went on to pen plays (“On the Twentieth Century”), and screenplays (from “Monkey Business” to “Spellbound” and Scarface”). And it probes the way this child of Russian-Jewish immigrants confronted his own identity as an American Jew in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust, with burgeoning activities in support of European Jewry and the creation of Israel.

In a prepared statement, Sherman noted: “The first play I did with Dennis Začek, ‘The God of Isaac’, related my own story of growing up in Skokie and confronting my own identity as an American Jew during the ‘Neo-Nazi incident’ of the late 1970s.’ When I read Hecht’s book, ‘A Guide for the Bedevilled,’ I was awe-struck by the fact that Hecht had wrestled with the same questions a generation earlier. ”

“Upon reading Hecht’s memoirs, I had three thoughts. One, Hecht was a brilliant writer. Two, the issues of Jewish identity and anti-Semitism that Hecht writes about are remarkably topical. And, three, I want to do this as a one-man show. Through Chicago’s own Newberry Library, where The Hecht Collection is housed, I obtained the rights to use Hecht’s own words and compiled the script using material from his two books of memoirs. I’m thrilled to be able to bring to life this important and fascinating character.”

Tickets ($30) are currently available at grippostagecompany.com.