In 2014's Wild, Portland author Cheryl Strayed was played by Reese Witherspoon on the big screen. Well, this year, she'll be played by Nia Vardalos on the stage.
This November, Hamilton director Thomas Kail—the biggest human being in theater right now—will direct a stage production based on Strayed's advice-column book Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of columns written anonymously by Strayed for the Rumpus under the name "Dear Sugar." The book will be adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos, writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
"It's kind of a funny story," Strayed tells WW. "[Kail] wrote to me in July 2013, and said he'd read tiny beautiful things, he felt like it would be great play and talked to me about making that happen. I dragged his email into my to-do file. I've been so overwhelmed, I never responded."
This was, of course, a pre-Hamilton Kail—and at the time Strayed's book Wild was just out in paperback and about to get made into a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon.
Related: Read our oral history of the boots from Wild here.
But seven months after the forgotten e-mail from Kail, Strayed saw a comment by Nia Vardalos on her Facebook page.
"She said, 'Oh, I'm such a fan. I really want to talk to you about something,' Strayed remembers. "I thought, 'Wait a minute—that's Nia Vardalos."
Strayed happened to be in Los Angeles already, so she met with Vardalos on the immediate—beginning the process that would eventually lead to this play.
Tiny Beautiful Things will premiere November 15 at the Public Theater, the 60-year-old just off-Broadway theater that is the birthplace not only of Hamilton but Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Hair.
"Sugar is played by Nia," says Strayed. "There will be other actors, it's a dialgoue between a letter writer and me—me writing a letter to someone who wrote me a letter. So it's very true to the book in that way. One of the things I've observed about the script is how many different notes that it hits—she's interested in the very emotional, sometimes sad content and some of the light and funny content."
Strayed says she's been invited to be a part of the process—as with Wild—but it's very much Vardalos' adaptation.
In the meantime, she'll be busy writing her next book—and also helping bring Tiny Beautiful Things to the small screen, alongside Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Strayed's husband, filmmaker Brian Lindstrom. TBT was greenlit for an HBO pilot in October. Lindstrom and Strayed will be the writers on that project.
Strayed says she hopes to be able to film that pilot and potential HBO series in Portland. "I will certainly fight like a motherfucker to have that in Portland," Strayed says. "I'll twist some arms. If we can shoot Tiny Beautiful Things in things in Portland, then we have to; it's based on a couple that live in Portland. We need the rain, the whole feel."
Strayed is aware she's been in a lot of places the past few years.
"Book, movie, TV, theater—all I need now is a band," she says.