Barter Theater Announces 90th Season Productions | WJHL

ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) – Over the past two years, businesses have had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some succeeded, but others had to close.

The Barter Theater in Abingdon was almost one of them and it is now set to celebrate its 90th season in 2023.

“We have seen our crowds grow and grow as we start again. They were very small and they are getting bigger and bigger,” said Katy Brown, production art director. “And in fact, Murder on the Orient Express…will be Barter’s highest-grossing fall show ever in its history.”

When the theater made its announcement for the 2022 season, there was no audience but a lot of uncertainty. On Friday, the theater announced a full lineup for next year to an audience packed with special guests who have helped the theater through tough times.

“It’s been incredibly special in a way that we’ll never take for granted again — being able to be in the same space with other people,” Brown explained. “Live theater is unlike any other art form in the world. It’s so good to go see a movie, but it’s different when you’re there and how you react reflects the story.

People can enjoy The Last Romance, Macbeth, Keep on the Sunnyside, Footloose, Sense and Sensibility, Skeleton Crew, Country Girls, Misery, To Kill a Mockingbird, Clue, Miracle on 34th Street and I’ll Be Home for Christmas l ‘next year.

“[The productions are] stories of people going beyond… doing more than they thought they could… connecting further than they thought they could reach,” said Barter Theater Marketing Director Morgan Egan. “It’s a really exciting theme to explore as we move into the next year – a few years ago, during the pandemic – we didn’t know what it would be like.”

In 2019, the theater faced a shortfall of half a million dollars. Then the pandemic hit and production had to stop. Brown became Production Artistic Director in 2020. She navigated Virginia’s State Theater through the pandemic, delivering “on-demand productions” and “Live on Stage at the Moonlight Drive-In.”

“[When the Barter Theatre opened in 1933], they had no money. When Robert Porterfield brought in actors from Broadway, he couldn’t even afford their cars. They stopped here. People were trading food for tickets,” Brown explained. “They didn’t make any money. They made five dollars their first summer but gained over 350 pounds. They must eat. We felt it so strongly during the pandemic…. that time you say, ‘I don’t know what the resources are, but we’re going to try to be creative as much as possible to make sure that we’re able to continue to serve this community to make this art form and to may the legacy of this incredible theater continue for another 90 years.

Now, in 2022, the Gilliam and Smith Stages and Barter Players are all back in full force in hopes of carrying on the Barter Theater legacy for years to come.

“We are the oldest professional theater company in the country,” Egan said. “It’s a story we often hear that people’s very first theater experience was coming to a show at Barter with their school.”

You can reserve tickets for the remainder of the 2022 season and begin subscribing to 2023 productions at the Barter Theatre. website.

Marjorie N. McClure