Topher Payne has had quite a year. In September the Atlanta playwright took his award winning show Perfect Arrangement—about gay individuals in the 1950s forced to hide their identities in sham marriages—to New York, where it garnered rave reviews and standing ovations in a six-week off-Broadway run. For an encore, Payne jetted back to Dunwoody in time to oversee the world premiere of his new Christmas play, Let Nothing You Dismay, a fast-paced family comedy centered around a couple adopting their first child. “For 16 years, I’ve been operating under the very firm belief that it’s possible for a playwright to have a national career and be based out of Atlanta,” says Payne. “This year I feel that I’ve begun to prove that yes, you can create your words here and send them out into the world.”
What has getting Perfect Arrangement produced in New York meant for you as a writer?
For 16 years now, I’ve been operating under the very firm belief that it is possible for a playwright to have a national career and be based out of Atlanta. This year, I feel that I’ve begun to prove to myself and to other Atlanta writers that yes, you can create your words in Atlanta and send them out into the world. It’s been incredibly encouraging.
Where did the idea for Let Nothing You Dismay originate?
I had the idea writing a holiday show in my head for quite a while, but I wanted to tell the story of family as I experience it. It’s this collective of family of origin and family of choice. Both of my sister’s children came into our family through open adoption, and there was something so beautiful about welcoming these two into our family. So that’s why Kevin and Allie, the couple at the center of the show, are awaiting the arrival of their first child via a phone call.
The advance word is that the play is incredibly fast-paced, correct?
It’s a quick-change comedy. An actor walks down a hallway and, three lines later, walks off an elevator as a different person. One of the theatrical pleasures of quick-change comedy is marveling that the actors can pull it off. The audience is keenly aware that somehow something is transpiring on the other side of that wall that they can’t even begin to comprehend. It’s like a magic trick.
On the calendar: Catch the new holiday show, Let Nothing You Dismay, from local theater fixture Topher Payne at Dunwoody’s Stage Door Players from December 4-20.
This article originally appeared in our December 2015 issue under the headline “Growing Payne.”