A Critic's Notebook: Southern Belles, Ecco and Witches

Payne and Associates bake up some sugar


  • Courtesy OnStage Atlanta/Process Theatre
  • SUGARBAKER AND ASSOCIATES: Atlanta playwright and Osborn winner Topher Payne (lower right) plays Julia Sugarbaker in "Designing Women Live." The popular fundraising event at OnStage Atlanta also stars Johnny Drago as Mary Jo, Tony Smithey as Charlene, and DeWayne Morgan as Suzanne.

Well, I declare. Only in Atlanta...

Onstage Atlanta had to reschedule a couple performances of its popular Designing Women Live fundraiser last weekend so that the show's Julia Sugarbaker, Atlanta playwright Topher Payne, could go to Louisville, Kentucky, to accept one of the nation's top awards for emerging playwrights.

Payne, who portrays the elegant, no-nonsense elder Sugarbaker sister in the twice-yearly fundraising event with a cast of male actors in drag playing the lead roles in live performances of episodes of the '80s sit-com, recently won the prestigious 2014 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for his work Perfect Arrangement. Payne accepted the award at a ceremony on Saturday evening, April 5, at Actor's Theatre of Louisville, which hosts the annual Humana Festival of New Plays. He zipped home afterwards to perform two shows as Julia Sugarbaker on Sunday. I'm fairly confident in reporting that he's the only Osborn winner ever to do so.

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I was lucky enough to interview Payne at the beginning of this year for Creative Loafing's annual "20 to Watch" issue. The ever-productive writer repeatedly claimed that this would be a somewhat idle year for him. As it turns out, when he's not accepting awards or dashing home to don shoulder pads, faux pearls, feathered wigs and Southern sass, he is - among many other activities - preparing for the Atlanta premiere of his play Lakebottom Prime later this month . The show, which was originally commissioned by the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia, is a farce about the historic draining of the lake in Columbus' Wildwood Park in 1924. Well, I certainly hope he's enjoying all this time doing so little: it will be great when he finally gets back to work.

Both Designing Women Live and Lakebottom Prime, a Process Theatre production, run at OnStage Atlanta's new space at 2969 East Ponce De Leon Avenue, a couple blocks from the Dekalb Farmer's Market. Designing Women Live runs through April 13, and Lakebottom Prime opens April 25. For more information, visit OnStage Atlanta and Process Theatre.



Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Principal Oboe Elizabeth Koch Tiscione will make her ASO solo debut performing the Strauss Oboe Concerto April 10-13 at Symphony Hall.

"The Strauss concerto is a true challenge for any oboist because of its impossibly long phrases and marathon-esque physical demand, but all of the hard work will be worth it in the end," says Tiscione. The piece may be a daunting challenge for the soloist, but it will make a lovely evening for the rest of us. When asked what midtown spot she thought might make the perfect pairing for concert-goers before or after the Strauss, Tiscione recommended her favorite restaurant Ecco for dinner and cocktails The weekend's program, which will be led by Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles, will also include Strauss's Metamorphosen and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. "It will also be such an honor to collaborate with Donald Runnicles - one of the world's foremost masters of Strauss's music," says Tiscione. For more information, visit the ASO.


Image Oh, Goody!

Goody Corey, Goody Nurse, and Goody Proctor, that is. The well-known characters from Arthur Miller's classic 1953 play The Crucible are also in composer Robert Ward's Pulitzer Prize-winning operatic adaptation of the work. Staged by Carroll Freeman and accompanied by the GSU Opera Orchestra under Michael Palmer, Georgia State University School of Music Opera Theatre will perform a fully-staged production of the opera this weekend, April 11-13, at GSU's Rialto Center for the Arts. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Rialto.