Barter Theatre will present its 20th Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (AFPP) during the last week of January, with eight original plays presented by Barter’s resident acting company and participants in the College Playwriting Festival.
For years, the festival has offered a platform for playwrights to showcase and workshop their work with live audiences. Community participation helps make each play stronger and gives visitors a chance to develop work that may one day end up as a full production. This year, readings from these works-in-progress will stage from Jan. 23-26, with free admission at Barter’s Smith Theatre.
Each live reading will feature members of Barter’s acting company and an immediate follow-up audience discussion with the playwright. All plays are written by Appalachian writers or focus on the Appalachian region.
In addition, an AFPP Heritage Dinner, which benefits the nonprofit theater, will be held at Morgan’s on Thursday, Jan. 23, from 5:15-7 p.m. Dinner will be prepared by chefs Stephen Gilbert and Morgan Gilbert, and the event will feature a preview of the plays presented by festival director and Barter actor Nicholas Piper. Seats are $75 per person and must be purchased by Jan. 16. Call 276-619-3315 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a seat.
Below is the lineup of plays, including synopses from Barter’s website:
“They Must Be Women Now,” Nedra Pezold Roberts
Thursday, Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m.
When Charlene, alias Sweet Tea, flees back home to Half Way, Georgia after getting fired from her job in Atlanta, she finds herself back in her mother’s world of Althea’s Bridal Boutique and Bail Bonds. There’s Althea, who’s trapped in her fantasy of the perfect marriage. There’s Olivia, a seamstress who helps others with their alterations both literal and metaphorical. And then there’s Betsy, there to try on her wedding dress, which is fitting a little too tight. These women, all confined in traps forged by their own time, culture, and individual journeys, are forced to discover themselves—and challenged to “become women now!”
“Charlottesville,” Catherine Bush
Friday, Jan. 24, 1 p.m.
When Civil War reenactor Curtis Jenkins is accused of being racist by a black fourth grader, he begins a fantastical journey down the rabbit hole known as American race relations. On his voyage, he meets famous figures, both living and dead, who question his family’s legacy from Robert E. Lee. Then, one hot August day in Charlottesville, a Unite the Right rally explodes into violence, and Curtis must decide for himself how to judge the past from the present.
“In the Middle of Nowhere,” Bret Murphy
Friday, Jan. 24, 4 p.m.
Cynthia Scott is a retired art professor who escapes to the Black Mountains of North Carolina after leaving her partner in Atlanta. After purchasing a rundown trailer and two acres of land, her plan of settling into a life of solitude and shame is disrupted by a number of people in the community: a young man recently released from prison, a “Meals on Wheels” volunteer, and a true “mountain woman.” Despite her desire to be left alone, these new relationships force her to confront her ultimate question: will she accept forgiveness?
Winner of Barter’s College Playwriting Festival Reading
Saturday, Jan. 25, 11 a.m.
The College Playwrights Festival (CPF) is built around free workshops for college students ready to learn the ins and outs of playwriting, directing and more. The festival takes place from Jan. 17-20 and features one-act plays written by college students. Live readings of the finalists will stage on Jan. 19 from 1-4 p.m. at Smith Theatre, and the winner from those finalists will also earn a spot in the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights lineup. The Jan. 19 lineup includes “Bell” by Sarah Hinerman (Fairmont State University), “A Broken Watch” by Emily Pope (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) and “Revolutionary” by Lee Kromer (Davidson College).
“Project X,” Taylor Hatch
Saturday, Jan. 25, 1 p.m.
In 1944, a high school science teacher reads a newspaper ad: “Physicists Needed for Project X: a Project that will Win the War.” Eager to aide in the war effort, he immediately whisks his young family off to a secret city in the hills of Tennessee where he soon learns that his assignment is much heavier than he anticipated. As the weight of the responsibility and secrecy threatens to pull his family apart, he must make a choice that will affect generations to come. Based on a true story.
“The Field,” Emily Emerson
Saturday, Jan. 25, 4 p.m.
The town of Avon is in trouble. With the local furniture plant closing down and hundreds out of work, everyone is in need of a miracle. One morning, a mysterious crop circle appears in a cornfield and with it, a series of unexplainable events cause the citizens to confront the question: If miracles do exist, what do you do with one when you get it?
“Nightjar,” Hannah Hartmann
Sunday, Jan. 26, 1 p.m.
This is Eastern Kentucky, coal country. The miner in his coal vein can’t stand up straight; a young man in his black vein is charged up in might. In 1950, a mining family is kicking off coal dust; business is good, and Della is the first of her family to leave for college. In 2017, the coal dust’s scrubbed clean, but Della’s still here, housing a family she didn’t expect. "Nightjar" is a test of grace under pressure, from the interior and the exterior.
“The Quiet Zone,” Augusto Federico Amador
Sunday, Jan. 26, 4 p.m.
In Green Bank, WV (pop. 143), home to the Robert C. Byrd telescope and located within the “National Radio Quiet Zone,” Krista has found relief from her turbulent past in her garden. But when her estranged daughter, Becky, arrives with a hidden motive, Krista can no longer evade the consequences of being an absent mother. A story about lost and rediscovered motherhood.