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Spotlight on Shem Bitterman

2 min read

Shem Bitterman Photo by Steve Zuckerman

Remaining Close To His Playwriting Roots

Los Angeles-based playwright, screenwriter and director Shem Bitterman is known for his films but has been steadfast in the LA theatre community, remaining close to his playwriting roots. His plays and films, Distant Tales, Halloween 5, Betty and Coretta, Whitney, and The Job have featured some of the most exceptional talent in our city.

Bitterman is an alumnus of The Juilliard School where he studied acting and the University of Iowa where he earned an MFA in Dramatic Writing. He regularly shares his wisdom and expertise with writers and creatives in Los Angeles and beyond through workshops and playwriting programs. 

He is an expert in exploring the “complexities of lost souls” and “unresolvable human frailties” and aspiring directors, playwrights and filmmakers would be wise to study his vast works in theatre and film for a masterclass in craft, story, performance and structure.

Image from the set of The Job. LR: Taryn Manning, Patrick Flueger and Shem Bitterman

Bitterman adapted his film The Job  from his play which won the 1999 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play. The film starred Taryn Manning and Patrick Flueger, Joe Pantoliano, Ron Perlman as well as Los Angeles stalwarts, Shawna Casey, Katie Lowes of IAMA Theatre Company, Mark Harelik, the late great Greg Itzin and the late great Jack Kehler.

During the 2023 Writers Strike he was a co-organizer of the WGA “Bike the Strike” (with Taylor Nichols and Steve Kriozere) creating a rolling picket line across the city, promoting the cause and lifting spirits at the different picketing locations.

Bitterman has  lectured on the entertainment business and taught screenwriting, playwriting, and acting from California Prisons to Beijing. He headed the Playwrights Unit at the Katselas Theatre Company and last year he moderated a panel discussion at Play LA Festival 2023 on ROBOTS AND WRITERS: DO THE HUMANITIES REALLY NEED TO BE HUMAN? The panel discussed the impact of AI on the creative community at a two-day festival of new plays by Stage Raw and Greenway Court Theatre in association with The Ammunition Theatre Company, CIrcle X Theatre Company, Playwrights’ Arena and The Road Theatre Company. He is currently the 2024 Filmmaker in Residence at The Independent Film Critics of America. 

His plays include: Iowa Boys (CBS/FDG Award), Beijing Legends (National Play Award), Ten Below (National Play Award), The Circle, The Job (Best New Play, LA Drama Critic’s Circle), The Ramp (California Playwrights Competition), Night-Side, Peephole (Davie Award), A Death In Colombia, Influence, Sensitive Skin, Open House, man.gov., Harm’s Way (PEN USA Award), and The Stone Witch

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