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Barter Theatre, located in Abingdon, Virginia, opened on June 10, 1933. It is one of the longest-running professional theatres in the nation. In 1933, when the country was in the middle of the Great Depression, most patrons were not able to pay the full ticket price. Robert Porterfield, founder of the theatre, offered admission by letting the local people pay with food goods, hence the name "Barter". The original ticket price for a play was 40 cents, or the equivalent in goods. In 1946, Barter Theatre was designated as the State Theatre of Virginia. Today, Barter is one of the last year-round professional resident repertory theatre's remaining in the United States.
Porterfield served as director until his death in 1971. Rex Partington was selected as the next artistic director, serving from 1972-1992. Since 1992, Richard Rose has served as the Barter Theatre's third artistic director.
Many well-known stars of stage, screen and television have performed early in their careers at Barter, including Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Ned Beatty, Hume Cronyn, Gary Collins, Frances Fisher, Kevin Spacey, Larry Linville, John Glover, Jim Varney, and Wayne Knight. Will Bigham, the 2007 winner of On The Lot, acted at Barter Theatre for several years.