ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL)- Over the last couple of years, businesses have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have pulled through, but others had to close.

Barter Theatre in Abingdon was almost one of them and now it’s getting ready to celebrate its 90th season in 2023.

“We have been seeing our crowds increase and increase as we started back. They were very small and they’re getting bigger and bigger,” said Producing Artistic Director, Katy Brown. “And in fact, Murder on the Orient Express… will be the highest-grossing fall show Barter’s ever done in its history.”

When the theatre made its announcement for the 2022 season— there was no audience but a lot of uncertainty. Friday, the theatre announced a full lineup for next year in front of an audience full of special guests who helped the theatre through tough times.

“It’s been incredibly special in a way that we will never take for granted ever again- being able to be in the same space with other people,” Brown shared. “Live theatre is not like any other art form in the entire world. It’s so great to go see a movie, but it’s different when you are there and the way that you respond reflects the story.”

People can enjoy The Last Romance, Macbeth, Keep on the Sunnyside, Footloose, Sense and Sensibility, Skeleton Crew, Country Girls, Misery, To Kill a Mockingbird, Clue, Miracle on 34th Street and I’ll Be Home for Christmas next year.

“[The productions are] stories of people who are reaching beyond… doing more than they thought that they could… connecting farther than they thought they could reach,” said Barter Theatre’s marketing director, Morgan Egan. “That’s a really exciting theme to be exploring as we move into this next year– which a couple of years ago during the pandemic– we didn’t know what it would look like.”

Back in 2019, the theatre faced a half-a-million-dollar shortfall. Then the pandemic hit and production had to stop. Brown came on as the Producing Artistic Director in 2020. She navigated Virginia’s State Theatre through the pandemic, offering “on-demand productions” and “Live on Stage at the Moonlight Drive-In.”

“[When the Barter Theatre opened in 1933], they didn’t have any money. When Robert Porterfield brought Broadway actors down he couldn’t even pay for their cars. They hitchhiked down here. People traded food for tickets,” Brown explained. “They didn’t make any money. They made five dollars their first summer but they gained over 350 pounds. They got to eat. We felt that so strongly during the pandemic…. that time when you say, ‘I don’t know what the resources are, but we’re going to try to be creative as we possibly can to make sure that we are able to continue to serve this community to do this art form and for the legacy of this incredible theatre to continue for another 90 years.'”

Now in 2022, the Gilliam and Smith stages, and the Barter players are all back in full force in hopes to continue the legacy of the Barter Theatre for years to come.

“We are the longest-running professional theatre company in the nation,” said Egan. “It’s a story we hear often that people’s very first experience with theatre was coming to a show at Barter with their school.”

You can reserve tickets for the remainder of the 2022 season and start subscribing to 2023’s productions on the Barter Theatre’s website.