Friday, April 25, 2008

Will Work For Food -- a review

Logo of The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia

What do Ernest Borgnine (actor: From Here To Eternity, The Dirty Dozen, McHales Navy), James Burrows (director, producer: Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart Show, LaVerne and Shirley, Taxi, Frasier, Friends), Frank Lovejoy (actor: Home of the Brave, House of Wax, Playhouse 90), Patricia Neal (actress: Oscar winner in Hud, The Homecoming, The Fountainhead), and Gregory Peck (actor: Oscar winner in To Kill A Mockingbird, The Guns of Navarone, Duel in the Sun), have in common?

Answer: They started their careers as starving thespians who received food as their pay at The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.

The Barter Theatre began as a small-town depression-era food line for actors and actresses who were unable to make a living in the cash-starved post-Depression years of American Theatre, and under the leadership and inspiration of Robert Porterfield grew to become the longest-running professional Equity theatre in the nation. With an annual attendance of over 160,000 the Barter currently performs as many as five shows daily, year-round.

Writer Joe Goodpasture takes the reader on a compelling backstage tour of the facility, its modest beginnings and its almost spiritual growth, and provides insightful depiction of the minds, personalities, and motivations of the men and women who were/are the legacy of The Barter. Goodpasture's wife Anne McIver Goodpasture provided research and editorial assistance.

Every student of American Theatre will find a favorite place in their collection for Will Work For Food, on sale at the Barter gift shop and the Stage II gift shop in Abingdon, Virginia, and soon to be available online.