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Barter Theatre

Barter-Stage-1You may not have expected world-class, professional theatre productions just 14 miles away from the small town of Damascus, in Abingdon, Virginia.  Barter Theatre, established in 1933, is a professional theatre company with 26 different shows performing in their current season. From February to December, a resident acting company of professional artists perform on two stages. The historic Barter Theatre main stage accommodates an audience of up to 506. This building has a grand and rich history, dating back to 1831. The second stage at Barter Theatre in Abingdon is called Stage II. This smaller and the more intimate stage is on ground level with 167 seats around a thrust stage (seating is on three sides of the stage). All tickets for Barter Theatre are reserved seating. In 1946, Barter Theatre was designated as the State Theatre of Virginia.

From Austinville, in WytheCounty, Southwestern Virginia, Robert Huffard Porterfield, a 28-year-old actor, returned to his native Southwest Virginia with a dream; to allow patrons to barter regional farm produce to gain admission to see a play. So on June 10, 1933, during the Great Depression, Barter Theatre opened its doors, proclaiming “With vegetables, you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh.” With the price of admission at 35 cents or the equivalent amount of produce, four of every five Depression-era theatre-goers paid their way with dairy products, livestock, and vegetables.

It surprised the town of Abingdon how popular Barter Theatre became. Trading “ham for Hamlet” really caught on. It was reported that “during the first season, the Barter Company cleared $4.35 in cash, two barrels of jelly, and a collective weight gain of over 300 pounds.”



Show Season Sample

The seasons of Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia includes shows like:

  • Walking Across Egypt
  • Little Women
  • I’ll Never be Hungry Again
  • Unnecessary Farce
  • Half a World Away
  • Les Misérables
  • Southern Fried Funeral
  • The Blonde, the Brunette, & the Vengeful Redhead
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • The Gin Game
  • Good Ol’ Girls
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • Dial “M” for Murder
  • Thicker Than Water
  • The Ghost in the Meadow
  • A Visit from Scarface
  • Sanders Family Christmas
  • Another Night Before Christmas

The Barter Players

Each season there are also a group of classic theatre productions for kids of all ages.  The current season of The Barter Players is:

  • A Thousand Cranes
  • Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin
  • Cinderella
  • Mother Goose: The Musical
  • Little House on the Prarie
  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas


Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia has celebrated their 80th anniversary season.  Barter Theatre is “an experience you’ll never forget.” Call us at Damascus Old Mill for special theatre packages which include inn reservations, dinner, and reserve seating theatre tickets. You can get additional information on the dates and availability of theatre tickets by calling Damascus Old Mill or the Barter Theatre box office at 276-628-3991, or visit Barter Theatre’s web site at – Barter Theatre is a professional theatre experience you will never forget.

Want to visit Damascus?

Why choose the Damascus Inn for your Appalachian or Creeper Trail lodging? Known as “Trail Town, USA,” Damascus is traversed by several trails, including the famous Virginia Creeper Trail, Appalachian Trail, the Crooked Road Musical Heritage, the Trans-America National Bicycle, the Iron Mountain, and the Daniel Boone Heritage Trails. Damascus, Virginia is one of only a few towns where can you walk through the center of town and say you hiked the Appalachian Trail!