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Barter Theatre's spring season starts with two adventurous classics

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ABINGDON, Va. — One of the most unique experiences in the region is offering theatergoers more opportunities for family fun this spring.

When Barter Theatre kicks off its spring season on April 8 at the Moonlite Drive-In, audience members can take advantage of a new concession stand and preshow performances.

Using their phones, patrons can purchase popcorn, soft drinks and candy delivered to their vehicles by Barter Theatre employees on golf carts.

Before the performances begin each evening, patrons will enjoy music from DJ Moonlite, who will host the preshows, complete with an audience call-in segment.

“After a long winter, we think this is a terrific way for families to have a fun outing in a safe environment,” said Katy Brown, producing artistic director at the Barter Theatre. “We hope people will come out, bring a picnic and celebrate spring by enjoying a unique evening of theater at the Moonlite.”

Safe environment

Barter at the Moonlite Drive-In has become one of the most unique experiences in the region, said Brown. “Families are able to watch live theater from the comfort of their cars in a completely safe environment.”

According to Brown, more than 40% of the audience members who have attended recent performances at the Moonlite during the pandemic are new to Barter Theatre or have not seen shows in years.

“It’s a whole new audience of people who love the laidback atmosphere. You can hang out and eat food with the family. You can even come in your pajamas, if you like. We’re so thankful to have this option until it’s safe to be back inside the theater again.”

Audience members can remain in their vehicles throughout the performance for a completely touchless experience.

“If you sit really close, you can watch it like a play. If you’re further back, we shoot closeups for the big screen so you can watch it like a movie. It’s the best of both worlds. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Brown said.

The Barter Theatre is playing an important role in helping other theaters throughout the country create their own outdoor theaters during the pandemic.

“We were on the front edge of this new concept by July last year,” said Brown. “When we started at the Moonlite, I had the pleasure of telling the audiences that they may be some of the only people in the world to see live theater at that time.”

Spring season

Beginning April 8, the production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” will entertain audiences with a dose of magic, betrayal, love and forgiveness.

Set on a remote island, this fantastical play tells the story of Prospero, who is marooned and left to die on a remote island. He struggles between his desire for revenge against his enemy, Antonio, and the power of forgiveness.

“We wanted to focus on adventure this spring because most of us have been cooped up in our houses this winter,” said Brown.

“Barter has a history of presenting exciting, accessible adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays so that they can be enjoyed by everyone. We think the Moonlite Drive-In is the perfect place for people to enjoy this magical play.”

“The Tempest” plays through May 14.

Through Shakespeare in American Communities, a program presented by the National Endowment for the Arts, Barter Theatre is able to bring their production of “The Tempest” to participating high schools throughout the region. A film of the play, workshops and study guides will allow students to connect with the work and better understand the plots, themes, costumes and sets.

Brown said the education activities will be sent to the high schools by mid-April. Any high school wishing to participate in the program can contact Barter group sales at emailgroups@bartertheatre.com.

The production of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” opens April16, offering audiences a magical tale that follows four siblings as they step through a wardrobe into the land of Narnia. They meet the White Witch, whose curse keeps the land in an eternal winter. Together, with the help of fauns, beavers and even the great lion, Aslan, they seek to fulfill the prophecy and bring spring to the land of Narnia.

“It’s a beautiful coming-of-spring story and very appropriate at Eastertime,” said Brown.

The production of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” plays through May 15.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at www.bartertheatre.com or by calling the Barter box office at 276-628-3991.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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