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SummerArts: Theater

Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (Abingdon, VA)

Barter Theater, 127 West Main Street
Click here for schedule

(July 6 – August 11, 2012) Presented by the Barter Theatre, the annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights celebrates the Appalachian tradition by showcasing the stories of the region, both past and present. The Barter Theatre was founded at the height of the Great Depression by actor Robert Porterfield, who had the ingenious idea that the people of Southwest Virginia might be willing to barter produce from their farms and gardens to gain admission to see a play. When the theater opened on June 20, 1933, the price of admission was 40 cents or an equivalent amount of produce. Four out of five Depression-era theatergoers paid their way with vegetables, dairy products, and livestock; today, at least one performance a year celebrates the Barter heritage by accepting donations to an area food bank as the price of admission.

The Appalachian Festival, held each summer at Barter, has gained national attention via several of its shows. For example, the 2001 Festival production of Douglas Pote’s Keep on the Sunny Side went on to tour 23 states, and the play has been independently produced by theatres across the country. Among the many other works that have been seen at the Festival are Catherine Bush’s The Other Side of the Mountain and The Quiltmaker, Deborah Brevoort’s The Blue-Sky Boys, and Frank Higgins’ American Made.

Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights Information

  • Public Transportation: Not easily accessible
  • Handicapped Accessiblity: Yes
  • Performance/Programs: The AFPP presents 6 readings during each festival, plus 1-2 “mini-productions”
  • Admission: Readings are free (though donations are encouraged), and the mini-productions cost $20.