During the Great Depression, an enterprising young actor named Robert Porterfield founded Barter Theatre. While working in New York City, he and fellow actors found themselves out of work and hungry. Yet in his home region of Southwest Virginia, there was an abundance of food, but lack of live theatre. So, he returned home with an extraordinary proposition:
“With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh!”
With this idea, Barter Theatre opened its doors on June 10, 1933. The price of admission was 35 cents, or the equivalent in food. The concept of reading “ham for Hamlet” caught on quickly. By the end of the first season, the Barter Company cleared $4.35 in cash, two barrels of jelly and enjoyed a collective weight gain of more than 300 pounds.
In a typical year visitors to Barter Theatre can experience up to five productions in one weekend. Watching Barter Theatre’s resident company of professional actors perform in a side-splitting musical comedy in the afternoon, and a heart wrenching drama in the evening is part of the magic that this one of a kind theatre creates.
In addition to the company of professional actors that live and work in Abingdon, Barter Theatre is also home to The Barter Players, a group of professional artists who perform world-class theatre for children of all ages.
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