Barter Theatre, Abingdon

Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia

Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia

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Barter Theatre, Abingdon

The Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia first opened on June 10, 1933.  From its humble and unusual beginnings it is now one of the longest running professional theaters in the US.

The Barter Theatre was created as a repertory company by Robert Porterfield, an enterprising actor who was born in nearby Wythe County and had studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.  As this was during the Great Depression, Porterfield allowed the patrons to barter produce from their farms and gardens to gain admission to see a play, which gave rise to what became the formal name.

The theatre opened its doors on June 10, 1933 with the proclamation:

“With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh”

The price of admission was 40 cents or equivalent amount of produce. Four out of five Depression-era theatergoers paid their way with vegetables, dairy products and livestock.   All the seats for the first show were filled. The concept of trading “ham for Hamlet” caught on quickly. At the end of the first season, the Barter Company cleared $4.35 in cash, two barrels of jelly, and a collective weight gain of the actors and supporting crew of over 300 pounds.

Today, at least one performance a year celebrates the Barter heritage by accepting donations for an area food bank as the price of admission.

In 1946, Barter Theatre was designated as the State Theatre of Virginia. Porterfield served as director until his death in 1971.

Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia

Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

Today, the Barter Theatre is one of the last year-round professional resident repertory theatres remaining in the United States.  Many well-known stars of stage, screen and television have performed early in their careers at Barter, including Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Ned Beatty, Hume Cronyn, Gary Collins, Frances Fisher, Kevin Spacey, Larry Linville, John Glover, Jim Varney, and Wayne Knight. Will Bigham, the 2007 winner of On The Lot, a reality show competition for filmmaking, acted at Barter Theatre for several years.

Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia

Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

Summary
Barter Theatre, Abingdon
Article Name
Barter Theatre, Abingdon
Description
The Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Virginia first opened on June 10, 1933. As this was during the Great Depression, patrons where allowed to barter produce from their farms and gardens to gain admission to see a play, which gave rise to what became the formal name.
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Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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1 Comment

  1. What a great history Mark. Nice images.

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