You 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 different shows performing each 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.
The Barter Theatre has a rich and interesting history. From Austinville, in Wythe County in 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.”
Today, Barter Theatre is in their 88th season. They have two regular stages, the Gilliam Stage and the Barter’s Smith Theatre. However, these stages are not open at this moment due to the pandemic and concerns about the safety of theatre patrons. All shows are currently taking place at The Moonlite Drive In. A team of professionals and medical advisors are regularly discussing plans on how/when to safely reopen the Gilliam Stage and the Barter’s Smith Theatre. We will keep you updated on when Barter Theatre will once again welcome patrons back to these stages. In the meantime, take in a show at the Moonlite Drive In during your stay at Damascus Old Mill Inn.
For more information on this venue, you can visit The Moonlite online. During your stay at the Damascus Old Mill Inn, we highly recommend you take the time to see one of these shows. It is such a unique and novel way to experience live theatre. It is truly an experience you’ll never forget.
Call us at Damascus Old Mill Inn for special theatre packages which include inn reservations, dinner, and reserve seating theatre tickets, 276-475-3745. You can get additional information on the dates and availability of theatre tickets by visiting the Barter Theatre’s website at www.BarterTheatre.com.
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!