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Seattle Rep production of Tiny Beautiful Things. Photo by Alabastro Photography.

Letters of strangers have intimate, incredible impact in 'Tiny Beautiful Things'

Many people recognize the name Cheryl Strayed as the author of the best-selling novel, "Wild." it was even made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon.

But before she made it big - Strayed was an advice columnist using the alias Sugar.

"Sugar is a mom, she is a wife, she’s a writer, towards the beginning of her career," said actress Julie Briskman, who brings Sugar to life onstage in "Tiny, Beautiful Things."

"'Tiny Beautiful Things is based on the letters of Cheryl Strayed," she said. "Adapted into a play by Nia Vardalos, and the main thing I can say about this piece is that it’s about love and humanity and transformation and healing."

As Sugar, the writer fielded people's most personal, and sometimes painful, questions about how to handle situations in their lives.

"One that resonates with me is a father that writes in about his son ,who was 22 years old and was killed by a drunk driver," said Briskman. "And the father is not able to write a letter in the form of a letter so he sends Sugar a list of all of his feelings. The way she responds is so breathtaking because it’s based on her experiences, and particularly losing her mother at a young age. She’s able to generously give advice to this man at the depth of his deepest sorrow. So it’s really beautiful."

Other notes are more lighthearted, and for the actress - playing a real-life person has been a unique experience.

"You channel her essence," she said. "I’ve learned a lot getting to live with her, her great spirit of generosity - her, her belief in love and humanity and the way she listens to people is astonishing."

The show has been having a powerful impact on Seattle audiences.

"You hear people crying. You hear people trying not to cry. You see people getting up and leaving and coming back because they’ve gotten themselves together," said Briskman.

In this theatrical experience, the letters of strangers can have an intimate - and incredible impact.

"I hope they get hope, and I hope that they get love and I hope that they get that everything is possible."

You can see "Tiny Beautiful Things" at the Seattle Rep, playing now through June 29, 2019.