When you entered the theater, you may have noticed old mailboxes placed in the lobby, or even some letters hanging on the walls. While it sets a wonderful ambiance in the Lederer Theater Center before the show starts, we didn’t put them here just for decoration. It’s all part of a community engagement effort at Trinity Rep where we encourage audience members to pick up letter writing, just as shown in Tiny Beautiful Things.
We ask patrons to reflect after the show and write a message to someone who needs to hear from you. It could be a message to yourself, to someone who hasn’t heard from you in a long time, maybe someone who has died, or even someone you talk to every day. Letters can be posted in the lobby anonymously with the writer’s permission, but you can also place it in a sealed box so no one else can read it, or take it home for yourself.
Artistic Director Curt Columbus, Director of Community Engagement Michelle Cruz, and resident company member Angela Brazil, who plays Sugar in Tiny Beautiful Things agreed that during the pandemic, it was important for folks to reflect and share experiences.
“Curt was really excited about having this post office space in both the outer lobby and inner lobby downstairs, and having an activated community space again,” Michelle said. “And it’s a reflective space: we are still in a pandemic, but I think the letter writing will give people time to just reflect on their past, or on the show. So many times, we see a performance and then just go to our cars and leave, but I think for this show, it can open up feelings in some folks and we want to offer a space to do just that.”
Michelle also described letter writing as a “lost art” in a world of typing and texting, and hopes that guests may continue writing physical letters in the future.
While the initiative ties into the show’s themes of writing letters, you will not receive any advice from a Trinity Rep “Sugar.” Instead, Michelle says it is a way to practice “radical empathy” towards oneself. You can learn more about what radical empathy is and why it’s important on page 7.
“By taking the time to write something whether or not anyone sees it, whether we write it and crumple it up or write it and put it into a space, it gives you a sense of time and space to just be,” Michelle said. I think that’s a big part of the vision.”
This isn’t the only way we’re asking the community to participate in letter writing. Early in the pandemic, What Cheer Writers Club launched the Dear Rhode Island project, which was basically a pen pal program during the time of the heaviest of social distancing. Trinity Rep is partnering with What Cheer Writers Club/Dear Rhode Island to get folks both in and out of the theater into letter writing.
“Physically having those letters be sent to folks, it was really popular, and pretty transformative,” Michelle said. “I had followed that campaign through the pandemic, and I thought that was just a really beautiful way to be able to communicate, so part of the community piece we’re having folks write about different things in their lives. Our prompt for this community letter-writing campaign is remembering a beautiful gesture”.
There will be letter-writing stations at the Writers Club for submission, but will also allow digital submissions. We’re asking folks to tell us about a time when you have expressed or received a “beautiful gesture.” There will be letter-writing stations at the Writers Club and Trinity Rep for submission, but will also allow digital submissions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.