The University of South Carolina Aiken Department of Theatre's second production of the year is Tiny Beautiful Things, based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, and adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos. The show is directed by Mary Fran Crook and runs November 16-18 at 7:30 pm, and November 19 at 2:00 pm in the O'Connell Theatre in the Etherredge Center, on USCA's campus.
Based on Strayed's true-life experiences, Tiny Beautiful Things brings to life letters written to "Dear Sugar," an online advice column, published in The Rumpus, an online literary magazine. In 2010 Strayed, a struggling writer, was asked to take over the Dear Sugar column by a friend. Using her empathy and personal experiences, she began to help those who wrote to her, seeking guidance on obstacles large and small.
Originally published in 2012, Strayed's book was a collection of essays made up of the letters and her replies. Nia Vardalos, a Canadian actor and screenwriter best known for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, adapted the book for the stage and starred in the original performance in 2016. In April of this year, Tiny Beautiful Things appeared as an 8-part miniseries on Hulu.
Crook, an Adjunct Professor of Theatre at USCA who also serves as the Senior Production Manager to JOYE in Aiken, said she was initially drawn to the script because of the creative challenges it presented. "I was really interested in it to begin with because of all of the different staging and production possibilities these different letters provided," Crook said. "Additionally, the stories told in the letters range from heartbreaking to hilarious, and I thought it would be a great chance for our students."
The USCA production features Eiyana Brown as Sugar, with Jacob Daignault, Emily Enos, Taylor Fazekas, Maddy Gallam, Finn Hutto, Eric Loggins, Tyler Redmond, Gracie Willis, and Ethan Woods as the letter writers. Ashleigh Ponder serves as the Production Stage Manager, with Cade Melnyk as the Assistant Stage Manager. Summer Burch is the Sound Designer, with Jaden Napier as the Properties Lead, and Josh Chambers as the Assistant Lighting Designer. Guest Artist Marc Hurst is the Lighting Designer for the show, while Adjunct Professor Collette Miller is designing costumes.
Tiny Beautiful Things runs for four performances: November 16-18 at 7:30 each night, and November 19 at 2:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased online at www.etherredgecenter.universitytickets.com or by calling (803) 641-3305. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for Military, Senior Citizens, and USCA Faculty and Staff, and $8 for students. Patrons should be aware that the play deals with mature subject matter, including abuse, sexual harassment, and other trauma. For questions or directions, please call the box office as well.