The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Monday, 19 February 2024 19:56

This 90-year-old theater is on a mission to provide a space for Black artists

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ABINGDON — A historic Southern theatre is fostering the next wave of Black playwrights through Black Stories Black Voices, making a visible impact in the Southern Appalachian theatre community and beyond. 
While theaters nationwide face declining numbers, Barter Theatre is experiencing a surge in audiences eager to witness the creativity of Black artists.
Since the founding of Black Stories, Black Voices in 2020, organizers and artists alike have seen an outpouring of support:
— Growing audiences, especially among Black community members.
— Doubled submissions for play development.
— Becoming a go-to resource for discovering Black talent in theatre.
The 90-year-old Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia is on a mission to provide a safe space for Black artists and audiences to share their stories and assert their belonging in American theatre. In the past four years, it’s become clear: Barter isn’t just a safe space for Black artists — it’s drawing larger, enthusiastic audiences too.
Cris Eli Blak is the latest playwright to participate in Barter’s initiative, which engages Black theatre makers from across the Southern states to identify, develop and present the region’s Black stories on stage. A winner of the 2024 Appalachian Festival of Plays & Playwrights, his play “Girl on a Hill” will be performed on Feb. 23.

— Barter Theatre