Carlton's HANGING MARY Kicks Off Barter Theatre's Appalachian Festival of Plays & Playwrights


Nashville playwright Matthew Carlton's original work Hanging Mary is a highlight of Barter Theatre's twelfth annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (AFPP) July 6-July 13 at Barter Stage II in Abingdon, Virginia. In fact, Carlton's play will kick off the series of free readings of new plays included in the festival.

Encouraging audiences to take part in the development of new plays that will ultimately be performed for them makes AFPP truly unique, according to Nicholas Piper, director of the AFPP and new play development for Barter Theatre.

"We're helping to tell their stories, so we want them to be a part of the process," Piper explains. "This program has become a success because of the audience's involvement. More and more, theatres across the country are looking to Barter's AFPP as a place to find works that connect with their audiences."

Eight new plays have been selected to be read by Barter's professional company of actors. Admission is free, and each reading is followed by a discussion with the audience, selected panelists and Barter artists.

And the process works, Piper contends: Some of Barter's most popular plays have been developed through the AFPP including Keep on the Sunny Side: The Songs and Stories of the Original Carter Family by Douglas Pote, First Baptist of Ivy Gap by Ron Osborne and last year's The Road to Appomattox by Catherine Bush. 

Later this fall two plays-both of which were read during AFPP 2011--will be given their first professional productions at Barter: The Wind Farmer by Dan O'Neill and October, Before I Was Born by Kingsport native Lori Tate Matthews.

In addition to staged readings, Barter offers a limited run of a mini-production-July 31-August 11-the Second Stage of the development process, which is essentially a full production with minimal technical elements. Catherine Bush's Walking Across Egypt, adapted from the novel by Clyde Edgerton, tells the story of Mattie Rigsbee, a woman who is always ready to help those in need. But when a stray dog shows up on her porch, 78-year-old Mattie decides she is too old to keep it and calls the pound. Little does she know that her encounter with Lamar Benfield, the dogcatcher, will send her on the journey of a lifetime.

Matthew-Carltons-HANGING-MARY-Kicks-Off-Barter-Theatres-Appalachian-Festival-of-Plays-Playwrights-20010101"Because of the great success of the world-premiere of Where Trouble Sleeps-also written by Clyde Edgerton and adapted for the stage by Bush-we are all excited about the continued collaboration of these two writers," Piper adds.

On July 31, opening night of Walking Across Egypt, a special event is scheduled at 6 p.m.: Barbecue and Fixings on Porterfield Square with Nicholas Piper, director of the AFPP, Barter playwright-in-residence Catherine Bush and author Clyde Edgerton speaking on the importance of the AFPP, followed by a performance of Walking Across Egypt at Barter Stage II. Tickets are $32 for this one-day special event and include dinner and performance. Tickets are $20 for all other performances of Walking Across Egypt. 

"Audience participation is vital to the AFPP process, so we invite locals and tourists alike to attend," Piper maintains. "For many playwrights, this is the first time their work is being read in front of an audience and the first time they are hearing the words spoken by the characters. All the playwrights are excited to have a reading of their work by Barter professionals, and we are happy to have the opportunity to help them develop their work."

For more information, call (276) 628-3991 or go to for details.

The 2012 Selected Plays for Barter's Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights:


Hanging Mary by Matthew Carlton On September 13, 1916, in Erwin, Tennessee, an elephant was hanged for murder. Against the backdrop of a floundering circus, Hanging Mary explores issues of justice, prejudice and fear in the true events leading to this absurdly tragic and dark chapter in East Tennessee history.

READING #2: FRIDAY, JULY 6, 4 p.m.

Even Longer and Farther Away by Chelsea Marcantel There is a town between the mountains that stays quiet in the winter.  When Nyada returns to this town after many years away, no one remembers who she is or why she had to leave; no one except her dying sister, and a curious teenage waitress who won't leave her alone.  Over the course of only a few days, Nyada is forced to confront what kind of person she truly wants to be in the place she has tried so hard to forget. A story of two sisters, one town and a secret as vast as the whole wide world.

READING #3: MONDAY, JULY 9, 1 p.m.

In the Night Café by Evan Guilford-Blake Inspired by both Vincent van Gogh's famed "The Night Café" and Edward Hopper's iconic "Nighthawks," In the Night Café, explores themes of loneliness, the need for contact and the sleepless isolation of the "nighthawks" of American society. Throughout, its four characters reveal themselves, their hopes and dreams, and their efforts to find love, meaning and understanding in the confused and confusing world around them.

Matthew-Carltons-HANGING-MARY-Kicks-Off-Barter-Theatres-Appalachian-Festival-of-Plays-Playwrights-20010101READING #4: MONDAY, JULY 9, 4 p.m. 
Buffalo Gal by donnarkevic
On Saturday morning, February 26, 1972, no one living along the seventeen miles of Buffalo Creek, West Virginia, expected three coal slurry impoundment dams to burst, sending a fifty-foot wall of black water through the hollow, devastating the small town. Buffalo Gal portrays a brief window into the lives of six people living beneath the dams, their own troubles and triumphs suddenly altered forever within a matter of moments.

READING #5: TUESDAY, JULY 10, 1 p.m.

Thirsting By the River Gilgamesh by Ramona L. Morris In an isolated mountain community in Depression-era West Virginia, Isaac, a handsome, charismatic man in his early twenties, leads his followers with a combination of prophetic powers and sexual energy. Out of the "wilderness" of the great stock market crash comes Jeremiah Wentworth with promises of a better life for the "holler" and more power for Isaac. Their union is a dark one, forged by revealing the evil secrets that haunt their sleeping hours-secrets involving murder and greed. A unique and exciting adaptation of the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh.

READING #6: TUESDAY, JULY 10, 4 p.m.

Thicker Than Water by Douglas M. Parker Shortly before 10  a.m. on June 20th, 2001, Andrea Yates quietly called each of her five young children into the bathroom of their suburban Houston home and drowned them, one by one, in the family tub. In statements made to police within minutes of her crime, she revealed a mind tortured by hallucinations and visions, visitations from the Devil, and motives that shifted moment by moment through a range of fantasies involving everything from a desire to punish herself to a desire to save the world.  At the time of the tragedy, and throughout Andrea's subsequent trial, a growing media frenzy rushed to simultaneously defend and demonize her – turning her into the ideal Rorschach test for a society obsessed with violence and values, and leaving Andrea to find her own way through conflicting visions of media, motherhood and madness.

READING #7: FRIDAY, JULY 13, 1 p.m.

Half a World Away by Ruth Tyndall Baker Than, a 17-year-old Burmese boy, has a lot on his mind.  Aside from the pressures that all teenagers must face, Than is struggling with his new culture in Indiana, his father's anger and harsh discipline, and his own guilt over the death of his mother.  While trying to navigate the pressures of family and school, Than must also choose his future…will he invest in the promise of America, or return to fight for the honor and tradition of his native Burma?

READING #8: FRIDAY, JULY 13, 4 p.m.

The Boy In the Box by Sean O'Leary One-hundred-and-two year old Allard Charles has long played the role of a minor celebrity due to the fact that he spent the first fifteen years of his life confined by his mother in a box.  Now that he hasn't long to live, Allard has decided that he must use this speaking engagement to reveal the darkest secret of his life in the box. A secret he has never shared before. A secret that may impact us all.

Pictured: (at top) Matthew Carlton; and (middle) the professional actors of Barter Theatre during the 2011 staged reading of Catherine Bush's adaptation of Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton. The play will be presented as a mini-production during the 2012 AFPP.

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