A! Magazine for the Arts

Barter Planning Third Act

May 22, 2007

EDITOR'S NOTE: Used by permission. Elizabeth Dawson writes for the Wytheville (Va.)Enterprise. The story appeared in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier on May 17, 2007.

ABINGDON , Va. -Barter Theatre is working on its future, including an upgrade to its ticketing system, plans for its 75th anniversary, producing a book and adding a third theater to the Abingdon campus.

Yep, a new theater.

Producing Artistic Director Rick Rose said a third theater will be added to the Barter's campus within the next three to five years. He said the new facility will be a family theater and seat approximately 350. It also will include a gift shop and a museum.

"We're really at a point where a third theater makes sense," Rose said.

Barter's attendance has increased steadily over the past several years. Last year saw a 12 percent increase with a record-setting 160,000 patrons seeing shows.

A 2001 economic study showed demand for an additional venue. In the four years since, Barter's capacity has reached the critical mass in annual attendance, which indicates the need is growing, Rose said.

But before a new theater is built, Rose said actor housing improvements are essential.

Since Barter employs resident actors, its must provide adequate and livable housing. Simply put, if a theater is added, so too will actors.

The Barter also plans on upgrading its ticketing system. The new system, called Choice Ticketing, will combine the current ticketing program and the development program, which will better allow the theater to serve its patrons and donors.

"Our old program is no longer being supported, and this integrated program will allow easier online ticket purchases and will allow us to keep better in touch with our patrons," Communication Specialist Courtney Bledsoe said.
Barter officials hope to have the new program up and running this summer, she said.

Moreover, the Barter is in the process of a complete Web site redesign scheduled to launch this fall. "It will be user-friendly and contain more information about the Barter Theatre and our programs," Bledsoe said.

Barter is also in the middle of planning its 75th anniversary for 2008. The planning incorporates several special events, including a community celebration to be held around Barter's birthday next summer.

In addition, the theater is producing a book on the Barter's history, which will be full of photographs.

At the same, the production staff is readying for the summer shows that include "Tradin' Paint," "Oliver" and "Baby: A Musical and More Fun than Bowling."