Friday, May 12, 2006

Barter Theatre

Once upon a time there was a man named Robert Porterfield. Mr. Porterfield was a struggling actor living in New York City. After a while he decided to go back home, back to Southwest Virginia, and he did just that. However, before he left the city he convinced a group of his actor friends to come with him and start a theatre...and they did. In the year of 1933 the Barter Theater was born and it is still going strong today. The name for the theatre comes from the practice of exchanging food and supplies for this case food, tobacco, or even live animals for entertainment. The audience would get to see a great play and the actors would get to eat. Now of course today tickets cost money...however, the theatre occasionally offers a pay what you can night where canned goods are collected in exchange for tickets, keeping the tradition alive.
The Barter Theatre is a treasured historical landmark for many reasons. It provides a full season of theatrical productions; classical to contemporary, musicals, comedies, and dramas. It is the oldest working theatre in the state of Virginia, and one of the oldest in the nation. It is the official State Theatre of Virginia. It is an important landmark for the town of Abingdon, Southwest Virginia, Appalachia, and the United States. The Barter also offers Appalachian writers a chance to have their works brought to life through the annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights. A few plays are selected each year to be performed during the Virginia Highlands Festival, also founded by Robert Porterfield, on the Barter's main stage.

I actually had an opportunity to "tread the boards" during the spring of 2004. I performed minor roles in 2 shows and I will never forget my experience. It was an honor and a priviledge to work with great actors from all over the US, with many credits from Broadway to regional and local theatres. I got a chance to perform on the same stage that has been graced by Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Ned Beatty, Kevin Spacey, and Patricia Neal....just a few Barter alumni. The Barter has a resident theatre company, mostly equity actors, but does hire non-equity when needed. The Barter has annual auditions at the theatre, and also attends SETC, UPTA, and auditions in New York, Atlanta, DC, Richmond, and Asheville, NC.

Yes I am a little biased in writing about the Barter.....I hope it lasts forever. That being said, it is definitely worth your time to go and check it out....either on the web or in person. Plan a'll thank me later

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