Gay Atlanta always knew he had it in him. With a decade and a half of professional writing under his belt and fans from stage to written page, local boy Topher Payne makes good with an off-Broadway hit.
“A Perfect Arrangement” staged in Atlanta and Chicago over the last few years. Finally, Payne’s little play with the big message on the pulse of the gay marriage debate bowed last month at Primary Stages in New York City.
In 2014, we said it was about time the rest of the country caught up with Atlanta in recognizing Payne. That’s when tthe show won a prestigious national playwriting award for its story following two married straight couples in the 1950s -- who happen to be living next to each other because they’re actually gay couples.
With national eyes on him, Payne tells Towleroad that the birth of “A Perfect Arrangement” was personal.
In 2009, I got married in Massachusetts and came back to Georgia, where my marriage license was purely decorative. My husband took my name when I got married… it was just smart if something happened to us… It was just easier if we had the same last name to prove that we were family, and then we could just be brothers or cousins or whatever the situation called for. There was such an absurdity to that, which was of course frustrating and soul-sucking, and also just really funny… At some point, the story that became the Martindales and the Baxters really grew out of that.
With marriage equality as one of the hottest topics this year, it’s a show whose time has come. But while grateful for the opportunities it provides, the show's New York debut isn’t the end-all-be-all for Payne by a long shot, he admits to ArtsATL.
This is a big opportunity for me and I know that and I respect it and I recognize it, but I was doing perfectly fine before this happened. I look at the opportunity with the New York production of representing Atlanta-based playwrights. My job in the next few months as we’re promoting this show is to make it very clear that anything you like about this play, you like because it was written here. I write the way that I do because of where I live.
I have no delusions about the idea that I’m the best writer in town. I’m loud. I refuse to be ignored. There are writers who I admire immensely who I wish would be a little louder about their own work. And this is my opportunity to do everything that I can to turn that spotlight just a little bit.
In the full interview, Payne goes on to talk about the bum rap theater gets in Atlanta, and how that circumstance feeds a supportive vibe between local playwrights. He also discusses writing as a lifetime process that ensures he won’t stop telling quality stories any time soon.
That’s a good thing for local theater and audiences. Whether he’s blowing up “Angry Fags” or making Creative Loafing’s gays to watch cut, advocating for fair gender roles in print or bending them himself on stage, Payne is an Atlanta force to be reckoned with.