Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (AFPP)

January 23-26, 2020 at Barter’s Smith Theatre

This annual festival celebrates the richness of the Appalachian tradition by showcasing the stories of the region, both past and present, and the inspiration it provides the writers who live here.

Since 1933, Barter Theatre has been developing new works and nurturing area talent. The AFPP has gained national attention by developing a process that has resulted in new plays being produced not only on Barter’s stages, but in regional theatres across the country.

Keep on the Sunny Side, by Douglas Pote, first read at the AFPP in 2001, went on to a full production on both of Barter’s two stages before touring to 23 states in 2004-05. Enjoyed by more than 100,000 people, this poignant love story about A.P. and Sara Carter has been produced by theatres throughout the country. Black Pearl Sings by Frank Higgins, was first read and developed in 2006 at the AFPP and, in 2010, was listed as one of the most produced plays of that year by TCG.

Barter’s Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights is made possible by the generous support of Bert Bach and Henry and Flora Joy

Contact Us

Nicholas Piper

Director of New Play Development

2020 AFPP Lineup

We’re very excited to announce the lineup for Barter Theatre’s 20th Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights. We have a great collection of plays to celebrate this hallmark anniversary of the AFPP, so we hope you’ll come out in January and be part of the process of developing the new plays that matter to you. AFPP readings are free admission to the public, and the readings will take place at Smith Theatre.

The Smith Theatre Lounge will be open for lunch at 11:30am. Come join us before the readings!

Thursday, January 23 at 7:30pm

They Must Be Women Now by Nedra Pezold Roberts

When Charlene, alias Sweet Tea, flees back home to Half Way, Georgia after getting fired from her job in Atlanta, she finds herself back in her mother’s world of Althea’s Bridal Boutique and Bail Bonds.  There’s Althea, who’s trapped in her fantasy of the perfect marriage.  There’s Olivia, a seamstress who helps others with their alterations both literal and metaphorical.  And then there’s Betsy, there to try on her wedding dress, which is fitting a little too tight.  These women, all confined in traps forged by their own time, culture, and individual journeys, are forced to discover themselves—and challenged to “become women now!”

Friday, January 24 at 1:00pm

Charlottesville by Catherine Bush

When Civil War re-enactor Curtis Jenkins is accused of being racist by a black 4th grader, he begins a fantastical journey down the rabbit-hole known as American race relations. On his voyage, he meets famous figures, both living and dead, who question his family’s legacy from Robert E. Lee. Then, one hot August day in Charlottesville, a Unite the Right rally explodes into violence, and Curtis must decide for himself how to judge the Past from the Present.

Friday, January 24 at 4:00pm

In the Middle of Nowhere by Bret Murphy

Cynthia Scott is a retired art professor who escapes to the Black Mountains of North Carolina after leaving her partner in Atlanta.  After purchasing a rundown trailer and two acres of land, her plan of settling into a life of solitude and shame is disrupted by a number of people in the community: a young man recently released from prison, a “Meals on Wheels” volunteer, and a true “mountain woman”.  Despite her desire to be left alone, these new relationships force her to confront her ultimate question:  will she accept forgiveness?

Saturday, January 25 at 11:00am

Winner of Barter’s College Playwriting Festival Reading

Come hear the winner of Barter Theatre’s 2020 College Playwriting Festival read by the Barter Acting Company!

Saturday, January 25 at 1:00pm

Project X by Taylor Hatch

In 1944, a high school science teacher reads a newspaper ad: “Physicists Needed for Project X: a Project that will Win the War.” Eager to aide in the war effort, he immediately whisks his young family off to a secret city in the hills of Tennessee where he soon learns that his assignment is much heavier than he anticipated. As the weight of the responsibility and secrecy threatens to pull his family apart, he must make a choice that will affect generations to come. Based on a true story.

Saturday, January 25 at 4:00pm

The Field by Emily Emerson

The town of Avon is in trouble. With the local furniture plant closing down and hundreds out of work, everyone is in need of a miracle. One morning, a mysterious crop circle appears in a cornfield and with it, a series of unexplainable events cause the citizens to confront the question: If miracles do exist, what do you do with one when you get it? 

Sunday, January 26 at 1:00pm

Nightjar by Hannah Hartmann

This is Eastern Kentucky, coal country. The miner in his coal vein can’t stand up straight; a young man in his black vein is charged up in might. In 1950, a mining family is kicking off coal dust; business is good, and Della is the first of her family to leave for college. In 2017, the coal dust’s scrubbed clean, but Della’s still here, housing a family she didn’t expect. NIGHTJAR is a test of grace under pressure, from the interior and the exterior.

Sunday, January 26 at 4:00pm

The Quiet Zone by Augusto Federico Amador

In Green Bank, WV (pop. 143), home to the Robert C. Byrd telescope and located within the “National Radio Quiet Zone,” Krista has found relief from her turbulent past in her garden.  But when her estranged daughter, Becky, arrives with a hidden motive, Krista can no longer evade the consequences of being an absent mother. A story about lost and rediscovered motherhood.

AFPP Heritage Dinner

Thursday, January 23 at 5:15pm – 7pm
Morgan’s of Abingdon
190 East Main Street Abingdon, VA 24210

Celebrate our region with a benefit dinner prepared especially for Barter Theatre by  Morgan’s, known for its riffs on traditional Appalachian cuisine with locally sourced  ingredients. Enjoy a “foodie chat” with restaurant co-owners Chef Stephen Gilbert & Morgan Gilbert, and a preview of this year’s AFPP offerings by festival director Nicholas Piper. Click here to view the menu.
Tickets: $75 per person plus cash bar
Admission includes center section seating at Barter’s Smith Theatre for the 7:30pm AFPP reading of They Must Be Women Now by Nedra Pezold Roberts.
To purchase your seat at the Appalachian Heritage Dinner, please contact Elizabeth Hickman by January 16 at 276.619.3315 or
A portion of your ticket is tax deductible. Proceeds benefit Barter Theatre’s Appalachian Festival of Plays & Playwrights.

Project Outlines

Barter’s Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights is actively planned and organized throughout the year.
Here’s what happens, a brief rehearsal process (six hours/play) takes place in June with an emphasis placed on clarity, not effect—getting the playwrights words and story out to the audience. The plays are read by members of Barter’s Resident Acting Company.
Following each public reading there are audience and artist discussions about the play, led by Richard Rose, Producing Artistic Director, and a panel made up of local and regional theatre professionals. The reading and discussion is an invaluable tool to a playwright seeking to discover what’s working in the play and what needs work. Over the years, the AFPP has developed an audience who love to be a part of the process of helping playwrights develop their work. This process works because the playwright has a chance to hear from the very people who will eventually be buying tickets to their play!

Submission Guidelines

Plays must be written by an Appalachian playwright (currently living in the Appalachian Mountains which, for our purposes, run from New York to Alabama) OR the plays must be set in the Appalachian region.
Plays must be unpublished and must not have had a full professional production.
Full length plays are preferred.

To submit your play electronically:
Send a PDF of the script along with contact info and a brief synopsis of the play to:

To submit your play by mail:
Please submit the full script in a three-brad folder or unbound, along with your contact info (please include email and phone) and a brief synopsis of the play. Plays will not be returned. Mail to:

Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights
c/o Barter Theatre
PO Box 867
Abingdon, VA, 24212

Deadline for Submissions: Sunday, April 5th, 2020

The playwrights of the selected plays will each receive $250 plus transportation and housing so that they may attend their reading.

College Playwrights Festival (CPF)

January 17-19, 2020 at Barter’s Smith Theatre

Barter Theatre’s College Playwrights Festival is a one-act playwriting festival dedicated to celebrating college undergraduate playwrights by giving them an opportunity to develop their work in a professional environment. Participants spend time with professionals here at Barter Theatre and the final event is open and free to the public.


Barter’s College Playwriting Festival is made possible by the generous support of Bert Bach and Henry and Flora Joy.

Contact Us

Barrett Guyton
Festival Director

2020 CPF Lineup and Events

Barter will offer free theatre workshops to any college student who wishes to attend. Meet other college students studying the arts, mingle with the Barter company, and learn something new! Workshops will all take place at Barter’s Trigg St. Building (201 Trigg St. Abingdon, VA, 24210). All readings will take place at Barter’s Smith Theatre.

The Smith Theatre Lounge will be open for lunch January 19 at 11:30am. Come join us before the readings!

January 17 at 10am-12pm

The Business of Playwriting Workshop

Catherine Bush, Barter Theatre’s Playwright in Residence, will be offer a workshop on the business side of playwriting. What should my website look like? Where should I submit my work? How do I get my plays read? Come benefit from the years of Catherine’s experience in the playwriting business. To register for this workshop, please email

January 18 at 10am-12pm

Directing Workshop

Dr. John Hardy, Associate Artist at Barter Theatre, will lead a workshop for college students that will focus on directing a play—preparation, rehearsals, working with actors, new plays and playwrights. Whether you’re an actor, director, playwright, or designer this workshop will be an invaluable resource to any theatre artist looking to pursue a career in the arts. Come learn from one of the most esteemed theatre artists in our region!  Free to all college students!

January 19 at 1pm

Bell by Sarah Hinerman (Fairmont State University, WV)

Peter is no longer a boy anymore. In spirit of Peter’s adulthood, his father, Hook, decides that it is the perfect time to pass on the family business–his dingy little bait shop. Little did they both know, that this deed would change their lives forever… And forever is an awfully long time.

January 19 at 2pm

A Broken Watch by Emily Pope (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

Finn, a modern day bookstore owner, has been chasing Evie for most of his life. When he finally has a window of opportunity to earn Evie’s affection, his roommate Leo and their friend Lucy attempt to help him get what he’s always wanted, with surprisingly unintended consequences.

January 19 at 3pm

Revolutionary by Lee Kromer (Davidson College, NC)

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of HappinessLiberté, Égalité, Fraternité. These ideals are the basis of the modern freedom ideology, so if Yasmin fought for them, she must be the good guy, right? Right? Maybe not. Worse, the dream she believed in no longer believes in her. This play, inspired by the story of Leila Khaled, asks a simple question with a not-so-simple answer: what makes someone a terrorist versus a revolutionary?

How does it work?

Each participating college submits plays from their students to the festival. A panel of Barter Theatre professionals reads each play, chooses the top six plays, and the selected plays have public readings during the Festival.

The top six playwrights will have:
One-on-one mentorship with a Barter professional before the festival to work on their play
The opportunity to be present at all rehearsals of their play during the Festival
Talkbacks with playwrights of the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights, Barter professionals, and mentors

What are the guidelines for the plays?

Each playwright must be sponsored by a teacher from their school. This simply means that the teacher has read the play and thinks it is ready to submit. A teacher may sponsor as many students as they wish.
Each play must include a completed submission form, cover page, and character list. Each play should be between 30-50 minutes and a maximum of six (6) actors per play will be cast (if doubling can occur, please notate in character description page).
No adaptations and no musicals. Playwrights can write about any topic they choose, but it must be an original piece.
Submissions will be accepted from undergraduate playwrights who attend colleges and universities in the states of Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi.

When is the Festival?

The College Playwrights Festival will be from January 16-19, 2020. Public readings will take place, 3 per day, on January 18-19, 2020 at Barter’s Smith Theatre.
The play chosen as First Place in the CPF will also be read during the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights on Saturday, January 25, 2020.
Participants will be housed from Wednesday, January 15 through Sunday, January 19, 2020 and will receive a meal stipend.

How do I submit?

All play submissions must include the submission form below and be emailed to:
Submissions must be received by November 1, 2020. Please note: this is not a postmark date, but a received date; late submissions will not be accepted. Winners will be notified by mid-December.

Young Playwrights Festival (YPF)

The Festival

The Young Playwrights Festival is an annual event that cultivates and celebrates the talent of high school students. The purpose of this Festival is to encourage the development of students’ writing skills and creativity, with the added benefit of discovering talented playwrights in our region.

The Process

Teachers must attend at least one workshop in which Barter professionals give them the tools for teaching playwriting to their students. After receiving classroom instruction on playwriting, students develop plays and submit them to a select group of Barter professionals for feedback and critique. The plays are not to exceed 10 minutes in length. The three winning plays are lightly staged at Barter Theatre by professional actors, and the five honorable mention plays are given a reading. Schools are invited to a morning performance of the plays, where students have the chance to see their peers’ work. A nighttime performance, awards ceremony and reception is open to the public. Writers of the top three plays receive cash prizes and a mentoring session with a Barter professional, which allows the students to have valuable one-on-one time with experts in the field of theatre and playwriting. The first-place student’s teacher receives two tickets to any performance at Barter Theatre.


Winners work with Barter professionals to enhance and or lengthen their plays. Awards are presented each year to the winning students and schools.

Contact Us

Barrett Guyton, YPF Coordinator

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 867
Abingdon, VA 24212