History of the Barter Theatre
The depression was hard on Robert Porterfield, a young, unemployed actor from southwest Virginia. Seeking a way to get food while looking for work, in 1933 he took over an old movie theatre in the small town of Abingdon, Va. Porterfield offered admission to live stage performances in exchange for food items. A sack of potatoes, a half-bushel of apples, whatever produce the local folk had available for "barter" in exchange for a ticket would suffice. This practice of bartering for admission to plays gave the Barter Theatre its name.
A grand tradition
In 1946, the Barter Theatre was designated the State Theatre of Virginia. It was the first entity to receive such a form of official recognition that is now in practice nationwide. The Barter was also a founding member of the League of Resident Theatres, a national association of professional theatres. Having celebrated her 65th birthday in 1998, the Barter Theatre is now the longest-running professional equity theatre in the entire United States.
Over the years many famous actors and actresses would initiate their acting careers at the Barter Theatre. These include Ernest Borgnine, Gregory Peck, Hume Cronyn, Ned Beatty, Patricia Neal, Gary Collins and Larry Linville to name just a few.
Today, the Barter accepts cash only (in its various forms) as payment for admission. But the stately theatre retains all of the historic charm exhibited during Porterfield's reign. Most performances play to a packed house and Barter Theatre tickets are a hot commodity for visitors from all over the world.
We invite you to visit our lovely and historic town of Abingdon. And while you're here, be sure to take in a play at the Barter Theatre. It's an experience you're guaranteed to remember always!
Directions to the Barter Theatre
The Barter Theatre is
located at 133 West Main Street, Abingdon, Va. If coming north on I-81,
take exit 17 and turn left onto Cummings Street (go under
the bridge). If coming south on I-81, turn right onto
Cummings Street and proceed to the 2nd traffic light. Turn right onto Main Street. The Barter Theatre will be on your left (across the street from the Martha Washington Inn).