Information on:

Barter Theatre

127 West Main Street

About Us:
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.


bridget neal

Monday, April 9, 2018
A gem in the town. We visit several times per year. We are never disappointed. Sweet snacks, soda, water, wine, basic coffee available. Has gift shop. Location is always clean. Staff is always professional and friendly. We do miss Political Dogs and wish Barter would continue to have an available restaurant for the theater crowds.

Janet Cohen

Saturday, May 26, 2018
Went here for the first time tonight and really enjoyed 'Sister Act'. They did a fantastic job for a community theater & their scenery changes were most impressive!! I visited from out of town & will definitely go back if I come back. Bravo!!

Nick Williams

Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Saw Sister Act and I have to say, that was one of the best plays I've ever seen. Perfectly cast, with incredible use of props and superb choreography. Great people here in a beautiful theatre.

Steve Petty

Saturday, July 7, 2018
Steel Magnolias was excellent in every way. The Barter grounds were more beautiful than I've ever seen. Keep up the good work.

Beverly Hill Miller

Friday, June 15, 2018
Great experience. Great play. Arranged for a group to go and all went without a problem. Be prepared to spend a little time finding parking across the street .

Barter Theatre is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media