Weathering the Storm - A Message From Katy Brown

Dear Friends,

Since 1933, Barter Theatre has defied the odds as the nation’s longest running professional theatre located in the heart of Appalachia. Barter Theatre was founded during one of the worst crises in our history, The Great Depression. During this time, Barter Theatre opened its doors, proclaiming “With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh.” The price of admission was 35 cents or an equivalent amount of produce. Four out of five theatregoers paid their way with vegetables, dairy products and livestock. Through the last 87 years, Barter has fought through the various obstacles that this nation has faced, many of which have forced other theatres of our size to close their doors. Barter has always adapted, and it has done so while building one of the country’s only resident acting companies and thriving– despite being the only professional theatre of its scale and quality, located in a rural area.

As we look back at Barter’s humble roots, we find ourselves in the midst of another national crisis with the emergence of COVID-19. The onset of this public health emergency slows the positive momentum Barter had been building as we transformed the organization to cope with the shortfalls we experienced in 2019. With your help since August, we were moving into a period of stability at the theatre, with a clear vision on how to move forward, and all measures indicated a strong financial start to our 2020 Season. 

It is with a heavy heart that I recognize the 2020 season at Barter Theatre, my first as Producing Artistic Director, will not look anything like I had thought when I announced the season on our stage in October. In the last two weeks, we have constantly planned, and, almost immediately, shifted our plans in the effort to continue to provide our patrons with the performances they have come to treasure. As the full impact of this global crisis became clearer, we made the difficult choice to postpone the opening of our 2020 season and suspend all production related operations. With Gov. Northam’s “Stay at Home” order now in effect through June 10, Barter leadership is again revising the strategy for opening the 2020 season. We will be in touch as our plans firm up.

The consequences of this delay leave me heartbroken for Barter employees, many of whom have made countless sacrifices in an effort to ensure the season would be ready to open in the next two weeks. It is with these people in mind, all those who have made possible this beautiful experiment tucked in the Appalachian Mountains, that I write to you now. 

Depending on how long the virus constrains the nation’s normal daily life, consequences could be terribly serious for Barter. We simply don’t have the cash on hand to be able to continue running the organization for a long period of time without producing shows and revenue. We have already taken the severe action of scaling back our staff to a very limited number of part-time employees, and we need your help to weather this storm, so that Barter Theatre can continue to bring the joy of professional theatre to our region, and can assist in re-starting the local economy when the time comes.

Please help Barter Theatre by doing one or more of the following today:

  1. Make a tax-deductible donation. All funds collected are for Barter Theatre’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, focused on ensuring the theatre resumes its operations when conditions allow. Give at—or call 276-619-3315, M-F during regular business hours—or write a check payable to Barter Theatre and mail it to P.O. Box 867, Abingdon, VA 24212. 
  2. Buy a Barter gift card or tickets for later this year. By purchasing your tickets now, you help give us the influx of cash needed to mount the rest of Barter’s season. Purchase online at or call the box office at 276-628-3991.
  3. Donate your spring tickets back to Barter. Although we may not be opening the spring productions, you can still donate your tickets back to Barter as a tax- deductible contribution. To donate your tickets you may use our ticket inquiry form. Or take advantage of Barter’s flexible exchange policy by moving your tickets to a production later this year. For either transaction, please complete the form at or leave a message with Barter’s box office at 276-628-3991.
  4. Tell your friends you support us. You can serve as a powerful ambassador for Barter Theatre at a critical time. By sharing the information here with your friends and family, you can reinforce the power of Barter’s legacy and help attract greater support when it is most needed.

Your support has never been more important than it is right now. Please give today. 

Be safe, and take care of yourselves and the people you love–

Katy Brown's Signature

Katy Brown
Producing Artistic Director
Barter Theatre

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