Jewish R.I. theater critic to be featured author/speaker at ‘Behind the Book’ event


PROVIDENCE – On July 16, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island’s “Behind the Book” series will feature Bob Abelman, author of “All the World’s a Stage Fright” and a theater critic for Jewish Rhode Island.

Prior to his recent arrival in Rhode Island, Abelman was an award-winning theater critic for the Austin Chronicle, in Texas, and the Cleveland Jewish News, and a Fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts.  For Jewish Rhode Island, he writes reviews of the Providence Performing Arts Center’s Broadway and Encore series productions. He also covers the Rhode Island theater scene for The Boston Globe.

“All the World’s a Stage Fright,” an American Fiction Award finalist, is a fast-paced, laugh-aloud, fictionalized memoir.  It centers on a clandestine critic embedded in a professional production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” with the intent of writing about the experience and driving up his newspaper’s readership.

But soon, the stunt becomes one man’s personal battle with iambic pentameter, the classically trained actors he has panned in the past and a vindictive stage manager with a bone to pick.  There’s also a competitive corps of reviewers lying in wait and eager to critique one of their own.

“The book started its life as a standard memoir,” says Abelman, who was actually cast in a professional production of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Yentl” and wrote a series of articles about the experience.

As a backup, he also got cast in a small role in “As You Like It” at another theater, but chose to perform in “Yentl” because the idea of acting in a revered 400-year-old play at a world-class venue was more than a bit intimidating.

“When I started writing the memoir,” Abelman recalls, “I began wondering what it would have been like if I had actually chosen to perform in the Shakespeare play.  So, I wrote about that instead, replacing lackluster facts about ‘Yentl’ with some entertaining fiction about ‘As You Like It.’ ”

“Behind the Book” featuring Bob Abelman is on Tuesday, July 16, 6:30–8 p.m., at LitArts RI, 400 Harris Ave., Providence.  The event is free. A moderated discussion and reading from “All the World’s a Stage Fright” will be followed by a book signing. Books will be available for purchase for $15 in cash or check, or through Venmo and Zelle.

The “Behind the Book” program features Jewish authors and books that address Jewish life, identity and culture. The summer series features local authors, including Phil Eil, author of “Prescription for Pain: How a Once-Promising Doctor Became the ‘Pill Mill Killer,’ ” on Aug. 20, and Rabbi Elan Babchuck, author of “Picking up the Pieces: Leadership After Empire,” on Sept. 23.

For more information on “Behind the Book,” email

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