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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

The Bard: 20 Years at Barter Theatre

Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia, glows after sundown.
Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia, glows after sundown.

At Barter we have a maxim by which we live: "Art = Growth."

December 28, 2011

A! Magazine: Does it feel like you've been at Barter for 20 years?

RICHARD ROSE: There are moments when I feel that I've been here for 20 years or more, and other times when it feels like it has passed in minutes. I can still remember many, many great moments from my first season here.

One of our employees said that working at Barter was like working at the White House. That's how fast-paced and how hard everyone around Barter works. We often joke among ourselves that every day at Barter can feel like a week, every week like a month, and every month like a year. While that's funny, it is also very true. By mid-season, you can barely remember what shows you did at the start of the season.

At Barter we have a maxim by which we live: "Art = Growth." To make every day a learning experience, to take nothing for granted, and to make the best of every decision — all this takes a great deal of energy, concentration and passion. We are constantly changing, evaluating, and doing everything we can to serve our customers and the community while keeping Barter as healthy and vital as it can be. That's hard, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

In the end, I really must say that my years at Barter Theatre, whether difficult, impossible or immensely successful, have been filled with joy. I have had the honor of working with the extraordinary people who fill Barter every day with their love of their art, their work and this historic and important organization. So, 20 days, 20 years, it's flown by and no two days are ever the same. I have been blessed to be here each and every day.

Isn't it unusual for an artistic director to have such a long tenure at a professional theatre? To what do you attribute your success and longevity at Barter?

The average tenure for an artistic director in professional theatres around the U.S. is the same as the average tenure for coaches in basketball — around seven years. When I came to Barter, I had no expectation that I would be here this long.

But Barter has a history of longevity with its leaders. In its almost 80 years, Barter has had only three artistic directors: Robert Porterfield served for nearly 40 years, Rex Partington for 20, and this year is my 20th. Barter's loyalty to its leadership is exemplary. Further, the working relationship with the Board is just as it should be, with a great exchange of ideas, challenges and respect in both directions.

Through my tenure here, I have turned down several offers that were two to three times the compensation that I receive here at Barter. I love this organization and all of the people involved with Barter. As one colleague put it allegorically, I have basically turned down offers from the Mets and the Yankees; once you do that, you've made the statement that you are here to stay. Barter has demonstrated their support for me and I've returned that with my loyalty as well. I think it is a wonderful working relationship and a tremendous area in which to live and work.

Is Barter a true repertory company?