On the stage and behind the scenes

The NarroWay Blog

Chapter 40: In Spite of Everything

looking distraught

BIRDIE –
It was January, 2006. We left ourselves SIX MONTHS to turn the warehouse we bought into the theater we needed.

REBECCA –
Not only did the facility have to experience a make-over but the electrical and structural requirements were gi-normous. Under the guidance of civil engineer and cast member, Kel Grenga, the roof had to be reinforced to support thousands of pounds of equipment. Huge custom steel beams were installed.

huge steel beam

BIRDIE –
The warehouse was equipped to run minimal electrical needs but NarroWay required a whopping 1000 Amps of power.

REBECCA –
The warehouse had a few single-stall restrooms scattered about. NarroWay needed restrooms to accommodate an audience of 350!

 

workers comtemplating
wires hanging out of ceiling
temporary electric pole

BIRDIE –
And where were 80-100 cast members going to costume?

REBECCA –
Well, it wasn’t going to be in their cars because they would have to park at neighboring businesses and leave the parking lot to accommodate buses.

BIRDIE –
An extra-wide18-step steel staircase had to be installed to get the cast from the stage to the 50’x60’ second-floor portion of the facility - space which also contained the staff offices.

outdoor stairwell

REBECCA –
Where would the cast change who couldn’t run the flight of stairs?

BIRDIE –
In the tunnels that were created underneath the audience seating!

REBECCA –
Rehearsals? The “theater” was a construction site! Hard hats required!

BIRDIE –
So a near-by church agreed to rent their facility on rehearsal nights.

cast members at rehearsal
cast at rehearsal
cast members at rehearsal
cast at rehearsal

REBECCA –
The church was nothing like the theater so we used masking tape on the floor and to show how things would lay out.

BIRDIE –
When we got closer to opening, we had to rehearse in the under-construction theater. We set up halogen work-lights for the cast to see and Rebecca and I stood on partially constructed frames which would eventually contain audience seats.

birdie on platforms
cast in theatre under construction

REBECCA –
Since we had no backstage, the door onto the stage was the outside door so we couldn’t lock it or the cast couldn’t get on stage. We had a 4’ high loading dock on one end of the stage so we backed up a tractor-trailer.

BIRDIE –
The only way the cast could get on stage-right was to scurry down the flight of stairs from the cast area, up the ramp we built into the side of the trailer, run through the trailer, out the back, and, wah lah, enter stage-right – appearing calm, cool, collected!

trailer with ramp

REBECCA –
And how in the world were we going to feed an audience?

BIRDIE –
There isn’t time to detail the amount of planning, researching, organizing and training that process took - and it still is an amazing feat of cast teamwork.

REBECCA –
Did someone say a set?
We needed to change shows, but we had no storage or backstage space for set pieces.

BIRDIE –
So Rebecca came up with the idea of creating uniform-sized rolling pieces...

REBECCA –
“Trucks.” They were 8’L x 9’H x 2’W.
Enter father / daughter team and cast members, Gary & Alisha Anders.

Gary and Alisha Anders

They built the trucks, then we contracted artist, Derek Corbin, to paint the canvas scenes to cover the trucks. We rolled the trucks into configurations to create a background. While an active scene was facing the audience, stagehands would change the backside canvas into the next scene.

trucks with diner scene
trucks with various scenes

BIRDIE –
July, 2006. It was OPENING WEEK.

REBECCA –
The building wasn’t finished. The lights for the show were not programmed. The lights weren’t even installed! The electricians were moving at a snail’s pace with wiring. Lora McCoy, technical director, was hanging lights and I was trying to tell her where to hang them.

BIRDIE –
The phones were ringing. Tickets were selling out. Patrons were excited to see how NarroWay could make a theater out of a warehouse and transition from that huge amphitheater into, well, they didn’t know what to expect!

REBECCA –
Then we got a call from the renowned Charlotte Observer! For the first time in NarroWay history they decided it was the perfect time to send a reporter to cover our opening and to review our first show.

BIRDIE –
Monday, July 4, would be our last sleep. Rebecca, Lora nor I would close our eyes or lay our heads down for the next four days....If this story had taken place 3000 years ago, I’m sure it would be recorded in the Bible somewhere!

REBECCA –
Saturday, July 8, 2006 - our “grand” opening. The cast arrived.

BIRDIE –
Rebecca and I left to shower and dress. The cast prayed.

REBECCA –
We returned with audience already arriving, only to find out that our devoted friend and right-arm, Lora, had collapsed from sleep deprivation.

BIRDIE –
So the doors opened that day watching a heroic Lora, barely conscious, being whisked away to the emergency room; a steadfast cast, trying to stay composed, serving food to a chattering audience; while Rebecca and I desperately tried to figure out how to turn on the blasted lighting board!!!

rebecca looking distraught

REBECCA –
In spite of everything, we opened The NarroWay Theater.
And Lora lived.
The lights were a mess.
Birdie and I had dark circles around our eyes.
But the cast shined like diamonds and the audience loved the show!

BIRDIE –
And that’s why, when some well-meaning soul asks, “So...how did you come up with the idea of a theater like this?”

REBECCA –
We laugh.

cast on stage

More photos

plumber
theatre front under construction
stripping floors
birdie in warehouse
theatre side under construction
rebecca sanding
seating platforms under construction
installing steel beams
mess in warehouse
hanging insulation
steel beams installed
backside of warehouse
installing sign
front under construction
scaffolding around warehouse
cast dancing on stage
1940's singers
actor jumping
1940's dancers

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Chapter 41: Fiasco
Chapter 39: Bulldozed


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