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11th Annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights

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Appalachian Festival of Plays and PlaywrightsAbingdon, VA -- The eleventh annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (AFPP) will be held July 26 – August 6, at Barter Stage II during the Virginia Highlands Festival. "Founded in 2001, the AFPP gives voice to the stories of our region, and the community is invited to take part in the development of brand new plays," said Nicholas Piper, director of the AFPP.

Each year, Barter presents a mini-production and seven staged readings of new works. Each is followed by a discussion with the audience, selected panelists, and Barter artists. These discussions are valuable to the playwrights as the feedback will be used to further develop their work.

"The AFPP is unique in that the audience gets to take part in the development of the new plays that will, ultimately, be performed for them," said Piper. "We're helping to tell their stories, so we want them to be a part of the process. 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."

Some of Barter's most popular plays have come through the AFPP including Keep on the Sunny Side: The Songs and Stories of the Carter Family, by Douglas Pote, First Baptist of Ivy Gap by Ron Osborne, and The Quiltmaker by Catherine Bush. Each of these plays has gone on to enjoy productions in theatres across the country. In fact, Black Pearl Sings by Frank Higgins was first developed at the AFPP and, in 2010, was one of the most produced plays in the country. This season alone, Barter is producing several plays that have benefited from the AFPP process, including Saving Old Smokey, The Road to Appomattox and Wooden Snowflakes.

"The Codgerella" has been chosen as the 2011 AFPP mini-production. A mini-production is the second stage of the development process and is essentially a full production with minimal technical elements. Written by Mark Cook, "it is a story about how it's never too late to live an authentic life," said Piper. In this funny and moving play, three men gather at Gus's Diner each day to have coffee and talk about their lives. Enter Anne, a college student waiting tables for the summer whose presence suggests to them the possibilities of life and also its limitations.

Tickets for "The Codgerella" are $20 and can be purchased in advance by calling 276.628.3991 or by visiting www.BarterTheatre.com. Admission is free to staged readings, but donations are accepted at the door. For a complete listing of staged readings, visit www.BarterTheatre.com/festival.

"Audience participation is vital to this process, so we invite locals and tourists alike to attend," added Piper. "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," said Piper.

Barter's AFPP is made possible with the support Dominion, the 2011 festival sponsor, as well as the VCA and the NEA. Purchase tickets and get more information by calling 276.628.3991 or visiting www.BarterTheatre/festival.com for details.

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