Student Matinees

Student Matinees

Our Student Matinee Program features Barter Theatre’s Resident Acting Company in world-class plays and musicals chosen especially for students. The Barter Players also perform shows especially for students at Barter or at your school when they tour during part of the year.

Student Matinees and The Barter Players productions are built to go hand-in-hand with school testing curriculum requirements, and we offer free, downloadable study guides, which include questions, activities and vocabulary to help prepare your students for the show. Material correlates with specific state testing curricula.


Student Matinee Sponsor:

Appalachian Power

Bristol Office Supply

Dominion Foundation


BAE Systems

Bank of Marion

Student Matinees Right Side

To find out information about any of these programs and to book your student group's reservations today, contact Group Sales.
Special rates for student groups are available!

Student Matinee Shows

The Barter Player Shows

Field Trips

Take a field trip to Barter Theatre!

Book a performance at Barter Theatre and give your students an experience they will never forget. Barter offers student matinees throughout the school year, with a variety of performances appropriate for elementary, middle and high school students.

A field trip to Barter is more than just a performance.

  • Download our free show-specific study guides (based on your state’s Standards of Learning Test)
  • Schedule a free talk-back with Barter professionals
  • Take a behind-the-scenes tour of historic Barter Theatre

Barter offers discounted package rates for student groups. Contact our group sales department for more information.

View student matinees

Get tickets

Book a field trip for your students
(276) 619-5406

Free Study Guides

Student Matinees and The Barter Players productions are built to go hand-in-hand with school testing curriculum requirements – and Barter’s staff does the work for you, with free downloadable study guides for each play. Study guides include questions, activities and vocabulary to help prepare your students for the show. Material correlates with specific state testing curricula.


Spend approximately 15 minutes with the actors, designers or directors of the show you’ve just seen, and let your students get answers to their questions about the show from an insider’s point of view. Talkbacks are free when you see a play; however, they must be scheduled in advance.

Behind-the-scenes Tours

Learn the history of the oldest regional theatre in the country and experience a backstage tour of Barter Theatre. See how a show is created from rehearsals to costumes, props and sets with a Barter Theatre production tour. Tours are $2 per person for school groups.

Barter Youth Academy

Extraordinary Education, Exceptional Experience

For all the latest information, follow us on .


Is there a budding stage star in your household? If your child wants to step into the spotlight and explore storytelling through performance, take note:  


Registration for Spring 2016 Classes is now open! 

To view the Spring 2016 Schedule CLICK HERE.


Registration Ends February 8th

Classes are beginning to fill very quickly:
Abingdon, Elementary 2 - FULL
Abingdon, Pre-Academy 1 - FULL
Bristol, Elementary - FULL
Bristol, Pre-Academy - FULL
Kingsport, Elementary - FULL

Register today to get your spot before it's too late!

Keep watching this page and our Facebook page for more information! 

CLICK HERE for more information or to register!

Have questions?  Check out our FAQ!


Spring Classes begin in February!

Abingdon: Classes begin the week of February 9th, Demo Night is April 11th

Bristol: Classes begin Monday February 15th (No class on March 28th), Demo Night is April 18th

Kingsport: Classes begin on Monday, February 15th (No class on March 28th), Demo Night is April 21st

*NOTE* The Middle School/High School classes in Kingsport and Bristol will have TWO demo nights: Both Middle/High School classes will perform their demos on April 18th at the Paramount Theatre in Bristol AND April 21st at the Renaissance Center in Kingsport.

Elizabethton: Classes begin on Saturday, February 13th (No class on March 26th), Demo Night TBA


Entrance to Barter Youth Academy Demo Night is $5. Tickets may be purchased at the door. 


What is BYA? The Barter Youth Academy is a performance-based educational program that allows students of all ages a chance to learn and develop their performance and storytelling skills. Using the acting and rehearsing techniques of the Barter Resident Acting Company, students work through the theatre experience from the audition to the final performance on-stage in front of a live audience. BYA provides a safe, positive environment to enhance the abilities for the beginning performer, as well as shaping the talents of the advanced youth actor.

How does it work? Each workshop begins with a casting call similar to an audition process, which the BYA directors use for a teaching tool to enhance audition skills. The workshop then runs for eight weeks and culminates in a live, minimally produced demonstration onstage called “Demo Night”. This gives each student a chance to display their hard work for their family and friends!

What does BYA teach? BYA teaches everything from basic theatre terms to help any young student feel comfortable in a professional theatre environment to advanced acting techniques utilized by such great teachers as Meisner, Chekov, and Strasberg. Workshops change every session with new plays or musicals to work on, as well as new techniques to help your student grow. All while working on some of the greatest plays and musicals ever written for the American Theatre.

When are workshops? Spring and fall workshops are dedicated to traditional acting and performance with classic and contemporary plays. Sessions generally start around early February and early September. Summer workshops focus on musical theatre and starts after school ends in June. Workshops meet more often in the summer to allow for extra time needed for music rehearsal and choreography. 

Who can enroll in BYA? Anyone between the ages of 5-18! BYA workshops are designed for 5-6 yrs (Rising Stars), 1st-2nd grade (Pre-Academy), 3rd-5th grade (Elementary Workshops), 6th-8th grade (Middle School Workshops), and 9th-12th grade (High School Workshops). Not all age groups are available at all locations.

Does BYA do anything besides Workshops? Yes! “BYA Nights” at the Barter Theatre allow academy students and a friend or family member to attend a Barter Show at a deeply discounted price. It’s a fun way to meet Barter Staff and BYA students from all over the area.

How do I register? The tuition for BYA is $200. Summer Musical Workshops are $200. Pre-Academy (1st and 2nd Grade) tuition is $110. 

$50 deposit due at registration.

Scholarship applications are available online for those who are eligible.

If you have questions call 276.619.3344 or email


Follow Barter Youth Academy on facebook and twitter.

“Through BYA our child has gained confidence and the technical skills needed to perform onstage. She has adored her director and loves working with her cast members. Each production is helping her really grow and blossom as an actor.” -BYA Parent

“I like everything about BYA and it’s really fun!” -BYA Student, age 5

“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved with BYA; it has been one of the best experiences of my life.” -BYA Student, age 17

If you need help over the phone with registration or payment options, please call 276-619-3344.


How youth acting classes change lives

Last Monday and Tuesday, over 600 parents, grandparents, family, and friends filed in to Barter Theatre in Abingdon and The Paramount Theatre in Bristol, to watch their children perform in Barter Youth Academy’s “Demo Night”.  It was the end of the summer session, and the culmination of 8 weeks of intensive training, rehearsal, anxious nights memorizing lines, and many hours spent shuttling children to and from their classes.  You could feel the nervous excitement in the room, as much from the family in the audience as from the children waiting in the wings.  An opening night is an opening night, whether you are an elementary-schooler making her stage debut, or a seasoned Broadway veteran. 

Some young performers seemed destined for the stage, completely comfortable in the spotlight, delighted as they realized they could make the audience laugh and applaud.  Others were hesitant, speaking softly at first, or nervously bouncing on their toes, unsure of what to do with their hands.  By the end of the performance, though, all of the students were grinning, as they took their bows to a standing ovation. 

Program founder and Artistic Director of the Barter Youth Academy, David Alford knows just how meaningful a moment like that can be.  Not only is he a member of Barter’s Resident Acting Company, but he is a parent to several students in the Barter Youth Academy.  He’s seen firsthand how acting can open a door to a whole new world for young people. Time and time again, students that walk into a BYA class may feel a little hesitant at first, soon find solid footing and begin to enjoy the imaginary stories they help create with their fellow classmates, and step into a completely new person’s shoes for awhile.

Interestingly, Barter Youth Academy teachers say that acting classes are as beneficial for the “class clowns” as they are for shy children. 

"I’ve seen kids go from being very shy and kind of closed in to being more accepting of each other and supportive of each other. Over time, they really do become more confident in themselves,” said Allison Woods, who teaches Pre-Academy (ages 5-7). The more outgoing children “learn to assume a leadership role. If they can listen and follow directions, then I give them a leader role, and they go “Oh, she’s put me in charge!” and they actually become more responsible and really remember the rules.” 

One grandparent of an 11-year-old commented on how much her granddaughter had felt at home in her class. “She said it was better than her softball team the year before. She enjoyed softball, but she told me that when you’re on stage you’re really a team, because if someone forgets a line, you have to help each other get through the scene.”  

Over the past 18 months, Barter Youth Academy has grown from 89 students in Abingdon, to over 300 enrolled students all over the region, from Mountain City, TN to Marion, VA. Students from ages 5-18, with all abilities and experience levels are welcome, and scholarships are available.

Alford says that he expects the program to continue to grow, especially if he can find additional funding for the BYA scholarship program.  “About 24% of our students receive some sort of financial assistance, through the generosity of a couple of key donors and foundations.  There’s a great need out there, especially in our region, so we are hoping to continue to expand over the next few years.” 

Young Playwrights Right Side


First Bank & Trust
Crutchfield Corporation
Williams-Berry Foundation
Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities
Consol Energy, Inc.
Prather Foundation
Virginia Retired Teachers Assoc. Dist. 1

Young Playwrights Festival

The Festival

The Young Playwrights Festival is an annual event that cultivates and celebrates the talent of high school students. The purpose of this Festival is to encourage the development of students' writing skills and creativity, with the added benefit of discovering talented playwrights in our region.

The Process

Teachers must attend at least one workshop in which Barter professionals give them the tools for teaching playwriting to their students. After receiving classroom instruction on playwriting, students develop plays and submit them to a select group of Barter professionals for feedback and critique. The plays are not to exceed 10 minutes in length. The three winning plays are lightly staged at Barter Theatre by professional actors, and the five honorable mention plays are given a reading. Schools are invited to a morning performance of the plays, where students have the chance to see their peers’ work. A nighttime performance, awards ceremony and reception is open to the public. Writers of the top three plays receive cash prizes and a mentoring session with a Barter professional, which allows the students to have valuable one-on-one time with experts in the field of theatre and playwriting. The first-place student's teacher receives two tickets to any performance at Barter Theatre.


Winners work with Barter professionals to enhance and or lengthen their plays. Awards are presented each year to the winning students and schools.

2015 Festival

November 2, 2015
Student Program: 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Barter Main Stage; Awards Ceremony: 7 p.m. Barter Stage II

Find out More

For information about YPF, please contact Barter Theatre’s YPF Coordinator.
(276) 642-1007

Project REAL

Reinforcing Education through Artistic Learning

Megan Atkinson, Project REAL Director

Barter Theatre’s Project REAL Serving Barter’s mission to use theatre as a vehicle for education to enrich lives, Project REAL provides qualified teaching artists who assist educators by utilizing theatre techniques, and integrating the student's life experiences with the curriculum, in order to provide lasting knowledge in a transformative educational program, measurably improving learning and allowing students to take responsibility for their own education and shape their communities, now and in the future.


Who are we? 

We are Project REAL—Reinforcing Education through Artistic Learning. We are teaching artists who understand that when we tap into the students’ learning styles and relate classroom curriculum to students’ lives, they will take ownership of their education.

How so? Project REAL’s techniques mainly focus on implicit learning. According to Eric Jensen in his book titled Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Implicit learning involves hands on physical activity that include tasks we do in our everyday living, which allow us to unconsciously generate meaning that goes beyond the surface. We are unaware that we are learning in those tasks.

What do you mean by “Generating meaning”? Generating meaning means making an emotional connection. Jensen quotes neuroscientists by saying that, “…emotion turns out to be one of the most important regulators of learning and memory. The more intense the emotional state, the more likely we are to remember the event.”

Why physical activity? Movement gets the blood pumping. Blood flow gets our brains oxygen in order to learn. Movement gets endorphins going, which makes us happy to learn. Movement is also vital for students who learn best through kinesthetic techniques.

Who do we work with? We started our work exclusively with high schools—grades 9-12. We have since expanded to work with multiple grade levels and multiple learning abilities. The process of collaboration has been different with every school we’ve had the opportunity to serve. Because of this we encourage interested parties to contact us to start the conversation about how we can best serve you. We will adapt our program and cater to the needs of any school or group interested in collaborating with us.
What do we do? We use theatre-based activities to create a classroom environment that encourages differentiated learning, expression of ideas, and critical thinking while also connecting the material directly to the personal lives of our students.

Why we do what we do? Theatre is the perfect venue to address all learning styles and can be a catalyst for open dialogue. A lesson on Beowulf turned into a discussion about homelessness; activities about topography became a debate on what makes an ideal community; student-created scenarios depicting dependent and independent variables discussed the impact of television watching on studying and grades. These activities encourage the students to become an active participant within their communities.

How do we do this? Our first action is to cultivate a strong relationship with the classroom teacher. With the teacher’s deep knowledge of the subject matter and of the students themselves, we are able to determine the needs of the students and how to best engage them in the lesson. This collaborative partnership is essential in our work.

The teacher will also inform us of what material they would like us to discuss when we visit. We will then create a lesson plan focused on the material. Before we teach the lesson, we present it to the teacher to make sure we have addressed the desired content. This collaborative process culminates with the teaching artist leading the class in exploration of the material.

What subjects benefit? We cover all subject matters and all topics. Here are just a few of the classes we’ve had the opportunity to visit: Algebra I and II, biology, business management, computer technology, ecology, geometry, Latin, literature, mythology, personal finance, Spanish, topography, world history. Our work supports the standards of learning as well as Common Core State Standards.

What else? Dream Catchers. Meeting after school one to two hours a week with the teaching artist, students will create a Forum Theatre piece that will be performed for the public. This group consists of students who have an interest in using theatre to solve problems within their community. The goal of The Dream Catchers Group is to “d ream of the ideal”. They will get to explore issues about which they are passionate while having the opportunity to dream up solutions to these problems and how to make them a reality.

Professional Development. The theatre tools we use to help the curriculum come alive for the students a re tools we want to share with our partner teachers. Structuring workshops as part of teachers’ professional development gives the faculty an opportunity to integrate some of the tools they’ve seen firsthand into their future lesson plans.

Why is this program important? Project REAL provides an opportunity for all students to learn in a non-traditional, educational setting. By using specific theatre techniques, we are able to accommodate all learning styles at the same time. It also allows for the students to talk openly on any given issue in a safe environment. This program supports the teachers and reinforces what they are teaching in their class rooms.

Want to know more?

Contact Megan Atkinson, Project REAL Director