By Meg Dickens
The Barter Players wrapped up its tour of the Southeast United States with a bang at Heritage Hall Theatre on March 29. They held three performances. The first two were closed performances of “Call of the Wild” for local third through sixth graders. More than 600 students attended in total. The last performance was an open show of the historical fiction musical written by an Abingdon resident, playwright Catherine Bush, in 2012 called “Aesop’s Fables.”
According to Sarah Van Deusen, the Barter Players have a long history with Heritage Hall. “We have a special bond with this place. We feel at home here.” Heritage Hall is steeped in local history. What used to be a high school auditorium was transformed in 2005 into a platform where students, musicians and actors alike come to perform for the community. Heritage Hall House Manager Randy Dandurand declares the hall holds 388 seats.
The Barter Players enjoy performing for younger audiences. “They don’t sugarcoat things,” says Garrett T. Houston. “They don’t hold anything back.” Kids can also tell when you are “acting.” That is why being genuine and real is so important. It was clear how genuine the Barter Players were as they wandered through the crowd conversing with children and other attendees before and after the performance. They often travel to perform for students. Watching these performances as a child is actually what inspired Van Deusen to become an actress.
What does it take to bring a play to life? While touring, these actors are in charge of every aspect of the production. They check with venues, drive, set up and maintain sets and costumes, do sound checks and so much more. Multitasking is a must-have skill as well as bravery, imagination and nerve. Barter has a company motto: “run to the fear.”This basically means to get out of your comfort zone and confront your fears head-on so you can achieve personal growth. This motto is similar to the life lessons in “Aesop’s Fables.”
“Aesop’s Fables” is full of life lessons in an easy to digest format. Such as “it is better to bend than break,” “slow and steady wins the race,” “love tames the wild beast” and the main moral “love lives on.” Aesop uses his stories to help his stubborn, grieving master, Xanthus, deal with the loss of his wife, Calliope. The magic in Aesop’s stories reflects back the power of storytelling and following your passion. Both in life and acting, you must be open to the possibilities.
Did you miss “Aesop’s Fables?” The Barter Players will be performing it on their stage in Abingdon, Virginia from April 10 through April 21. Come see this excellent troupe and keep in mind how much effort goes into their work. They have performed “Aesop’s Fables” 72 times so far.