A dozen years ago, Cheryl Strayed was asked to write the anonymous “Dear Sugar” advice column for the online literary publication The Rumpus.
Though she didn’t get paid during her two-year stint as “Sugar,” the then-emerging writer agreed to the job anyway, answering queries from readers with empathy and insightful advice enriched by brutally honest stories and struggles from her own experiences, aimed at helping readers navigate through grief, love, and forgiveness.
No doubt, Strayed also took on the unpaid job knowing it would provide plenty of usable fodder she could mine for a writing project of some sort or another down the line. Turns out, it has — several times over.
The ink had barely dried on her last column in 2012 before Strayed had repurposed her favorite and most popular columns as well as others previously unpublished as essays in the bestselling book Tiny Beautiful Things, first published in July of that year.
Strayed has also subsequently hosted two New York Times-produced podcasts derived from the work, “Sugar Calling” and “Dear Sugars.” Meanwhile, a new television show based on the book is in development and expected to debut on Hulu this year.
The book has already been adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos, the Oscar-nominated writer and Golden Globe-nominated actress of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
The play, a fantastical interpretation of Strayed’s real-life experience as “Sugar” contending with the demands of her readers, garnered designation as a New York Times Critic’s Pick during its 2016 Off-Broadway run at New York’s Public Theater.
Vardalos, who co-conceived the play with director Thomas Kail and Marshall Heyman, originated the role of Sugar in that production.
But right now, Tiny Beautiful Things can be seen at Baltimore Center Stage with Erika Rose taking on the role of Sugar. Ken-Matt Martin directs this new production also featuring Caro Deubberly, Evan Andrew Horwitz, and KenYatta Rogers.
Officially described as “a funny and cathartic show about reaching out when you’re stuck, healing when you’re broken, and finding comfort in shared humanity” — not to mention “a theatrical hug in turbulent times” by Variety — Tiny Beautiful Things, in the words of director Ken-Matt Martin, is a “beautiful exploration of life, love, grief, and humanity.”
Running through April 2 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert St. Tickets are $20 to $74. Visit www.centerstage.org or call 410-332-0033.
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