ABINGDON, VA. – Barter Theater, one of the nation’s longest running professional theaters and an anchor of the region’s arts scene since 1933, has launched a fundraising drive to address a severe revenue shortfall.
According to Richard Rose, Barter’s producing artistic director, “The 2019 season offers a variety of musicals, classics and comedies, and we’ve had very positive reactions to them from patrons and reviewers. As a nonprofit organization, Barter Theatre relies on ticket sales for 64 percent of its income each year, with tax-deductible donations to Barter’s Annual Fund for Artistic Excellence providing most of the additional revenue.
“Unfortunately, significantly lower ticket revenues have left the theater’s budget far below where it should be at this point in the summer.”
Rose says Barter has already taken one major step toward a solution. “When ticket revenues started declining a couple of months ago, Barter employees began working diligently to shift priorities. Together, we curtailed expenses by over $250,000. Those adjustments helped, but they are not enough. A significant infusion of support in the next few weeks from Barter patrons and donors provides the only path through this difficulty.”
As Rose points out, people have three good options to help the theater. “First, if you have been thinking about buying tickets to Barter’s fall and Christmas productions, I encourage you to make those purchases as soon as you can. Seat selection will never be better than it is right now.
“Second, any immediate contributions to Barter’s Annual Fund will make a difference.
“Of course, my favorite option is the third one,” Rose says, “which is to purchase tickets and donate. That is a winning combination for Barter Theatre and this region all year long.”
A 2013 economic impact study by Destination Services concluded that Barter generates $40 million each year in local business and tax revenue, and well over 400 jobs. Because Barter’s patrons usually account for a huge segment of regional tourism, the businesses that gain customers when Barter’s attendance grows also lose customers when attendance drops.
“Right now, Barter Theatre needs help from the people who care about it and its impact on the region,” Rose says. “This theater owes its creation to one of the most difficult eras in our nation’s history. Since then, Barter has overcome its share of rough patches thanks to the devotion, ingenuity and financial commitment of people who love it.
“With that same spirit, I am convinced Barter and the region can emerge with an even stronger sense of shared purpose. Robert Porterfield, Barter’s founder, used to say, ‘If you like us, talk about us.’ But right now, if you like us, support us.”
To purchase Barter Theatre tickets and donate online, visit bartertheatre.com. To purchase tickets by phone, call the box office at 276-628-3991. To donate by phone, call the advancement office at 276-619-3315.