The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

36 Bremmer, Gregg, Piper, & Rose

had a bit of a negative thought of itself that has kept Appalachia from being as prominent in national culture as it should be. Anyone who grew up in Appalachia grew up with the phrase, “Never rise above your raising.” That was a mentality—when I was working with the poor in West Virginia and Kentucky, we called it “the culture of Deliverance ,” the movie Deliverance . It had an immense impact on how the United States as a whole began to view Appalachia in a negative way. We wanted to create this festival to change that. We wanted to change culture, and we have. If you talk to a lot of the economic impact people, AFPP has helped change the culture of how Appalachia thinks of itself and how people from outside begin to think of Appalachia. We wanted to give Appalachian authors the opportunity. Authors from Appalachia weren’t considered very important by New York or the rest of the cultural landscape. Most of the shows that have been produced by Barter from Appalachian premieres have gone on to a hundred plus productions around the United States; and many now get productions immediately following or within the year or two following being a part of the AFPP. Much like SART, we needed to create product. We wanted to create product about the region. People coming in, tourists coming in want to see product about the region. They want to immerse themselves in the culture as well, because we have one of the few really genuine cultures left in the United States that has a long history that hasn’t been too morphed by the modern world. To talk a little bit about the original theatres, you can’t talk about Appalachian theatre without talking about Appalshop, founded by Bill Richardson during the War on Poverty in the late 1960s. Appalshop is extremely monumental in terms of the work that they did with their Roadside Theater, but also mostly with their film and radio programs. They really brought and bring Appalachia and a lot of Appalachian issues to the forefront. You have Trail of the Lonesome Pine with the June Tolliver Playhouse in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, which is the State Outdoor Drama of Virginia, founded in 1964, and it has been going on ever since. You have the Road Company out of Johnson City from 1975 to 1998. They did twenty plays during their time. Bob Leonard, who now teaches at Virginia Tech, was a major founder. Kathie deNobriga and Ed Snodderly were the main founders of the company. They created a lot of interesting works that played nationally and internationally. They toured a lot around the United States. They were also the first to use the poet Jo Carson’s work. She did Daytrips for them, which we’ve done at Barter as well.

Then, you have Barter Theatre; we’ve done some of Lou Crabtree’s work with a piece called The Fault Line (also known as Lonesome Stranger ) and others, such as Doug Pote, obviously. I was going to correct Nick: Sunny Side has now been seen by almost a million people, including all of the other productions that have been done and the national tour. We did a piece by Victor Depta called Plays from Blair Mountain early on that examined a whole other side of Appalachia. We’ve done some stuff to explore child abuse, as well as mental health issues and environmental issues, such as the American chestnut. Barter Theatre is the oldest fully professional theatre in the United States. We’re the second oldest continually operating theatre in the United States. The only older continually operating theatre in the United States is Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The only theatre that makes claim to being older than Barter as a regional theatre is Cleveland Playhouse, but Cleveland Playhouse did not become an equity company, a union company, until after Barter Theatre existed. Barter has been a full equity professional company from the beginning. Cleveland Playhouse started out as a community theatre. They did some professional work in the late 1920s, mostly tours that they brought in. However, they didn’t really become a full professional theatre until after World War II. So, Barter actually has the claim to be the first fully professional regional theatre in the nation. We have been working with our mission statement and moving in the following direction: “Barter Theatre’s purpose is to open minds, expand imagination, and reveal truths through live theatre.” And that’s what we really strive to do both from an Appalachian point of view and clearly Appalachian is one of our tenets of who we think we are. KB: Shall we open it up to any questions you all may have? Audience Member: Yes, I have one. Do you find as much interest in theatre among the up and coming generation as in previous generations with the competition of movies? And do you still see a good group of writers coming up? RR: I think the verdict’s out. I understand that people don’t have time to go to the theatre or money to go to the theatre until they’ve established their careers and until they’ve become a certain age. Do they really start really getting involved in that way? On the other hand, here’s what I feel about theatre for the next generation and why theatre for them is the one place they can get truly live experiences and where they see people come together. They are less religion oriented than

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