Happy Mess–Dramaturgy Packet–Mattering

Happy Mess by Ian Paul Messersmith
directed by Sarah Campbell
dramaturgy by Ariana Burns
packet prepared Summer 2020

(Moscow Idaho’s Rotary Park water tower photo by Elaina Pierson)

Happy Mess is in development at the University of Idaho Theatre Arts Department through the Fall 2020 semester.


An important part of the human condition is the need to matter. A team of writers in 2004 writing for the journal Self and Identity defined mattering as:

…the perception that, to some degree and in any of a variety of ways, we are a significant part of the world around us. Surely, it is central to our sense of who we are and where we fit in to be able to say that others think about us (at least occasionally), seek our advice, or would care about what happens to us (Elliot).

In the Happy Mess script, Tommy is initially dismissed by his teacher, Ms. Harvey until she discovers his artistic skill. She begins nurturing that talent and supporting him. When he sees that he is important, that he matters, his self-esteem improves (Elliot).

Studies have found that people demonstrate a lower level of depression, fear, anxiety, and academic stress when they feel valued. They have higher levels of self-esteem and social support. This in turn results in healthier and happier lives (Lemon, Paputsakis).

It may seem to a simplistic concept but it is woven into the heart of Happy Mess which is a meditation on sacrifice. Mattering will power much of the motivations and how the characters connect and support each other through the challenges they face. Not to mention the delight they share in being together.

stocksnap from Pixabay

Elliot, Gregory C., Suzanne Kao, Ann-Marie Grant. “Mattering: Empirical Validation of a Social-Psychological Concept.” Self and Identity, 3: pp 339–354, 2004. Psychology Press.

Lemon, Jan Cummins. “An Investigation of The Relationship Among Wellness, Perceived Stress, Mattering, And At-Risk Status for Dropping Out Of High School,” dissertation, Mississippi State University, Mississippi, 2010.

Paputsakis, Rachel Jo. “Adolescent Gender Differences In Perceived Interpersonal Mattering,” dissertation, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, 2010.

Author: Ariana B

writer, anthropologist, artist, dramaturg

Leave a Reply