Born in NYC and an alumnus of The High School of Performing Arts and Juilliard, where he studied acting, Shem got his M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing at University of Iowa. His plays have been developed and produced at The Mark Taper Forum, The Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Steppenwolf, Midwest Playlabs, Sundance and many others. Produced plays include; “Open House” (Skylight Theatre, PEN USA Finalist), “A Death In Colombia” (Skylight), “Influence” (Skylight, Nominee Best Play, Production and Ensemble, LA Weekly), “Harm’s Way” (New American Theatre, PEN USA Winner, Smith Prize Runner-up), “man.gov”, (New American Theatre, Best Play Nominee, LA Weekly), “Sensitive Skin” (Elephant Theatre), “The Circle” (New American Theatre, PEN/USA Finalist), “The Job” (New American Theatre, LA Times Critic’s Circle Ted Schmitt Award), “Justice” (Padua Playhouse), “Night-side” (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville), “Peephole” (Geva, Davie Award), “The Ramp” (South Coast Rep, SCR California New Plays Prize), “Beijing Legends” (Pacific Jewish Theatre, Kennedy Center-Fund For New American Plays Program) “Ten Below” (Unicorn Theatre, National Play Award) and “”Iowa Boys” (Actor’s Studio, CBS/FDG Award). 

Feature films include; “Betty & Coretta” (Humanitas Prize Nominee), starring Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige and Ruby Dee, “The Job” (Winner Best Screenplay, San Diego International Film Festival), directed by Shem, starring Ron Perlman and Joe Pantoliano, “Play Dead”, starring Sasha Alexander, Fred Durst and Chris Klein,“Full Count”, starring Jason Ritter, Austin Nichols and Paul Wesley, “Off The Lip”, starring Marguerite Moreau, “Open House”, directed by Shem, starring Jason Wiles, “Tinsletown”, “Peephole” and “Out Of The Rain”, starring Bridget Fonda and Michael O’Keefe. 

Shem has lectured on the entertainment field in Poland, taught screenwriting in California Prisons and acting in Communist China during the time of the trial of the Gang of Four.  His movie, “Whitney”, directed by Angela Bassett, aired on Lifetime in 2015.