Georgia Ensemble Theatre Presents the World Premiere of Swell Party

Swell Party at Atlanta's Georgia Ensemble Theatre

(seated L-R) Kate Donadio, Jo Howarth, (standing L-R) Scott DePoy, Tess Malis Kincaid, Tony Larkin, Weston Manders, and Suehyla El-Attar. Photo by R. Todd Fleeman

Georgia Ensemble Theatre, North Fulton’s only professional theatre company, will continue its 2012-2013 20th anniversary season-long celebration with the world premiere, Swell Party by award-winning playwright Topher Payne, directed by Shannon Eubanks, running January 10 through 27, 2013, at the Theatre’s home, the Roswell Cultural Arts Center.

About the Play

Georgia Ensemble Theatre commissioned this new play by Topher Payne as part of its 20th Anniversary Season celebration. The plot focuses on the events surrounding the mysterious death of tobacco heir Smith Reynolds. The year is 1932. Smith has just returned to his family’s North Carolina estate from an extended trip to New York. He brings with him a surprising souvenir: a wife. The new Mrs. Reynolds is a popular jazz singer and actress, a dozen years older than her husband. A wedding party is flat-out ruined when the groom turns up dead. As the guests gather to reconstruct, along with the County Solicitor, the evening’s events and try to solve the mystery, it becomes clear that for Southerners, the truth isn’t nearly as important as a good story.

From the Playwright

Topher Payne talks about “Party Planning” for GET on his website ( In January of 2011, Georgia Ensemble Theatre produced the World Premiere of my play, Tokens of Affection. The production was a gamble – our artistic partnership was brand-new, and there was no track record to show how GET subscribers would respond to an untested script.vThe gamble paid off – Tokens of Affection was a success both on the stage and at the box office. That production marked the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Georgia Ensemble Theatre, as Bob and Anita Farley (Artistic and Managing Directors of GET) announced that the development of original works would henceforth be part of their mission. Bob, Anita, and I talked about their upcoming 20th anniversary season. They were interested in taking another leap – the development of a commissioned work, starting from scratch. They asked if I had any ideas, and I told them a story that had been kicking around in my brain for the better part of a decade – the marriage of Smith Reynolds, youngest heir to the RJ Reynolds tobacco fortune, to Libby Holman, the Broadway star who served as an inspiration for the musical Chicago.  I cannot begin to express the amount of faith and trust a producer is forced to muster when assigning a commission: when they announce the play as part of their season, THE PLAY DOES NOT ACTUALLY EXIST.  After nearly a year of steady growth,… the extraordinary production team has been assembled, and now we have confirmed an extraordinary cast. These artists are among the best in the city. I am honored, blessed, and so excited to share this story with audiences. The journey to Swell Party has been so fulfilling,… And it’s all happening because a theatre decided to be bold and make new, living, evolving art.

The Cast: Swell Party features a cast of wonderful Atlanta actors including Weston Manders as Smith Reynolds, Suehyla El-Attar as Broadway star Libby Holman Reynolds, Kate Donadio as the secretary/debutante Babe Vaught, Scott DePoy as the solicitor Erle McMichael, Jo Howarth as matriarch Kate Reynolds, Tony Larkin as the best friend Ab Walker, and Tess Malis Kincaid as the acting coach Blanche Yurka. Three of the cast of seven are making their GET debuts: El-Attar, Howarth and Manders. This production also marks the launch of GET’s new understudy/mentor program with Kennesaw State University and Gainesville Theatre Alliance. Zach Bromberg, Caitlin Findlay and Audra Pagano are the first participants in this new exciting program.

Tickets: Ticket prices for Swell Party range from $23 to $33 (Senior/Student discounts available for select performances). “Recession-Buster” perimeter tickets may also be purchased for $10 or $20 based on availability. 2012-2013 “Three-Play” Season Packages, and individual show tickets are available now online at, or by calling the Box Office at 770-641-1260.