Abingdon, Va.’s, Barter Theatre gets its name from a Depression-era tradition. An enterprising young actor named Robert Porterfield and his fellow actors found themselves out of work and hungry in New York City. Porterfield contrasted that to the abundance of food, but lack of live theatre, around his home region in Southwest Virginia. He returned to home with an extraordinary proposition: bartering produce from the farms and gardens of the area to gain admission to see a play.
Barter Theatre opened its doors on June 10, 1933, proclaiming, “With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh.” The price of admission was 35 cents or the equivalent in produce, 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 enjoyed a collective weight gain of over 300 pounds.
Seventy-eight years later, Barter Theatre is open February-December and most weekends welcome up to four shows, which makes it easy to enjoy this State Theatre of Virginia. The schedule includes “The Road to Appomattox,” “Dracula Bites,” “Swag Gas and Shallow Feelings,” followed by winter productions of “Wooden Snowflakes,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Call of the Wild,” and “Rudolph.”
Reserve tickets in advance or, while in Abington, purchase them at the box office located by The Barter Café on the hill overlooking Main Street and the theatre. The café is open daily for lunch with extended hours for performances. The casual atmosphere offers up memorabilia from shows past and simple tasty food including sandwiches, desserts, and coffees.
For more information visit bartertheatre.com or call 276.628.3991.