Our passion can be felt in two unique venues of live performance. From Barter Theatre, able to accommodate 507 patrons, to the more intimate Barter Stage II with 167 seats around a thrust stage...where the action is up-close and personal. Set inside a historical building across the street from Barter Theatre, Barter Stage II is a great place to enjoy a Barter production. Also, located in the lobby at Barter Stage II is The Caf?. You can stop in for lunch or dinner any day, and enjoy delicious specialty sandwiches, desserts, coffees and more! The Player Company, the youth stage of the Barter, produces plays for teachers and students.
Imagine a live hog or a dead rattlesnake for the price of admission. We are a theatre of curiosity. And endurance.
During the Depression, Robert Porterfield, an enterprising young actor, returned to his native Southwest Virginia with an extraordinary proposition: Bartering produce from the farms and gardens of the region to gain admission to see a play.
So on June 10, 1933, Barter Theatre opened its doors, making Barter Theatre one of the oldest professional theatres in the nation. Proclaiming "With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh." The price of admission was 40 cents or the equivalent of produce. About 80 percent of the Depression-era audience paid their way with vegetables, dairy products and livestock.
The actors performing at the building were distracted not only by the occasional squealing pig or clucking hen, but noise from the town jail, which was located directly beneath the stage. The jail space was later used as a holding area for dogs suspected of rabies. It was eventually converted into dressing rooms for Barter actors. To the surprise of many, 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 over 300 pounds.
Today, at least one performance a year celebrates the Barter heritage by accepting donations for an area food bank.