Me and Sally Field

FROM the Desk of Gary Garrison
Me and Sally Field

Originally Published in The Dramatist

Because of a long list of childhood “dents” in the psyche (being the runt of the litter, not being remotely attached to anything that resembled an organized sport, being “creative” in a way that made people whisper and point and suffering through checker-board acne, poorly formed teeth and equally malformed hair), I spent the better part of my early adult life trying to putty over those dents by being a people pleaser. I learned early on that by salving other people’s injuries, I somehow dulled the ache in me. That’s a really dangerous lesson to learn early on.

Actually, I didn’t so much “learn it” more than I embraced it with every fiber of my Southern Baptist being. In return, and if I was really lucky, I might overhear someone say, “What a nice guy,” “He’s so easy to get along with,” or the ultimate: “I like him.” Ahhhhh, that was the brass ring: “I like him.” That was the only music to my ears that I wanted to hear because my need to be liked and acknowledged was so large, so completely all-consuming, (think Sally Field without the statue, without the dress but with an exact brazen lack of humility).

The need to be liked was troublesome enough in my personal life (a trail of co-dependent relationships followed behind me everywhere I went), but when it began appearing in my professional life, it was pure disaster. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever made a single addition or deletion to your text for any reason other than YOU thought it was the right change to make. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever sat in a casting session and not said a word about a less-than- desirable actress about to be cast in your play. Or you see the renderings of the design of your set and you’re first thought is “how the hell did he come up with that?!” but you didn’t dare say out loud, “how the hell did you come up with that!?” in any form or fashion. You know what I’m talking about when an idiot-as- Producer says, “

We’re so desperate to be produced that when we finally do get that call that says, “we’re doing your play,” we’re beholden to the point of almost genuflecting our gratitude. Too often that attitude follows you into every rehearsal, design meeting, p.r. discussion, dramaturgical meeting and program note. More importantly, in the effort to be appear to be someone who’s a good team player and not someone who’s difficult, resistant or even the least bit eccentric, we’ll subjugate our artists-selves for what we perceive as the more “acceptable” selves – the person your mother would be proud of but not your drama teacher.

I’m not suggesting we bull-doze our way into a collaboration, and that it’s only our way or it’s the highway for the other artists involved. But I am suggesting we could all do with a healthier amount of self-assessment wherein we recognize our equal value in the creative process. While we’re lucky to have any theatre or producer acknowledge our gift, they’re equally lucky to have us.