Nia Vardalos Adapted Tiny Beautiful Things, Now in Chicago and Across the USA

Greek-Canadian actress Nia Vardalos. (Photo by Kostas Katomeris/ EUROKINISSI, FILE)

CHICAGO – Greek-Canadian actress and Oscar nominee Nia Vardalos recently spoke with The Chicago Tribune about My Big Fat Greek Wedding and her latest project, Tiny Beautiful Things which she adapted from the novel of the same name by Cheryl Strayed.

She told the Tribune the now the legendary story of how My Big Fat Greek Wedding came about as the struggling actress noticed stand-up comedians were getting television development deals, but improv performers, like Vardalos herself who spent time at the iconic Second City in Chicago, were not garnering much attention from the wider entertainment industry. Having seen others achieve success with one-person shows based on personal experiences, Vardalos penned a screenplay, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which she adapted for the stage. While performing in Los Angeles, she took out a small ad in the Los Angeles Times. Rita Wilson, also of Greek descent, saw the ad, and then saw the show. Her husband Tom Hanks then also saw the show and Wilson told Vardalos they wanted to adapt the play for the screen, but Vardalos, had already written the screenplay and had also copyrighted it before the stage version opened. This, of course, opened the door for Vardalos to receive her Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Returning to the stage in recent years, Vardalos adapted Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling book Tiny Beautiful Things for the stage and appeared as “Sugar” in the show which premiered at the Public Theater in New York City in November 2016 under the direction of Thomas Kail, the director of the hugely successful musical Hamilton.

As noted in the play’s description, “Tiny Beautiful Things personifies the questions and answers that ‘Sugar’ was publishing online from 2010-2012. When the struggling writer was asked to take over the unpaid, anonymous position of advice columnist, Strayed used empathy and her personal experiences to help those seeking guidance for obstacles both large and small. Tiny Beautiful Things is a play about reaching when you’re stuck, healing when you’re broken, and finding the courage to take on the questions which have no answers.”

Vardalos told the Tribune, “I think the show is about listening, empathy, compassion and the human right to grieve and move on. Cheryl’s advice is delicate, candid, honest and brutal. And you know, this all was so outside my comfort zone.”

Janet Ulrich Brooks is now appearing in the role of “Sugar” in Tiny Beautiful Things through October 13 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. More information is available by phone: 773-871-3000 and online: www.victorygardens.org.

Theater companies across the country are also producing the play including Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Massachusetts, Red Barn Theatre in Key West, Florida, New Visions Arts in Newport, Oregon, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Fans should check their local theater listings for more information.

Vardalos was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to Greek-Canadian parents Doreen Christakis, a bookkeeper and homemaker, and Constantine Vardalos, a land developer. She is best known for her film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which earned her an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay. Vardalos married American actor Ian Gomez in 1993, following his conversion to Greek Orthodoxy. In 2008, they adopted a daughter and Vardalos wrote about the adoption process for The Huffington Post and in her book, Instant Mom. In 2018, Vardalos and Gomez divorced after 23 years of marriage.