On the stage and behind the scenes

The NarroWay Blog

Chapter 43: The NarroWay Cast

narroway cast

REBECCA –
Before we left everything.
Before we started it all.
Once God had shown us the vision.
When we were so afraid.
Early in the morning, before sunrise, Birdie and I would leave the house which the church provided for the staff. We walked a block, to the sanctuary. There we lay on the altar until the stained glass gathered the first rays of a rising sun.

BIRDIE –
“God!! Oh God!!”, we prayed, “If you are calling us to this overwhelming task, please call a people to walk alongside us!”

REBECCA –
But before it was uttered, God had heard our prayer. He had seen the need before it arose.

 

BIRDIE –
You see, all those years we wrote musicals and toured youth teams in Myrtle Beach, Dr. Joe Brown, then pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte, asked us to perform at his extraordinary church.

REBECCA –
That large sanctuary would fill up with church members and visitors who lived in the area. Some of the people who attended our performances in Myrtle Beach would travel to the church to see a performance the second time!

BIRDIE –
During those years of “passing through”, some of those who sat and watched those performances have since told us: “In my heart, I sat there thinking, I would love to be a part of something like that.”

REBECCA –
You see, before we even knew to ask, God was gathering a people.

cindy kessler
tyrone wade

BIRDIE –
Rebecca and I would be amiss to go any further into The NarroWay Story without telling the story of the NarroWay cast.

REBECCA –
We’re not going to give you the mushy stuff like “we love ‘em.” We want to tell you SPECIFICS about a typical NarroWay cast member.

BIRDIE –
On Friday, cast members arrive for sound checks at 5PM, or as fast as they can get through Charlotte rush hour traffic - after an 8-hr+ work day.

REBECCA –
They haul in a tub of costumes – up a flight of 18 steps. If they have children, they haul in multiple tubs.

BIRDIE –
If it is raining, they haul in wet tubs – because they leave the parking lot empty for our audiences.

kim with basket
shirley with tub
cast on steps
lady with costuming tub

REBECCA –
We rush through corrections, warm-ups and positions.

checking microphone
sound check
trio sound check
repairing props

BIRDIE –
While this is happening, the Kitchen Crew is tirelessly plating up to 350 freshly prepared meals, filling ice cups and preparing drinks.

plating food
plating food
kitchen crew
pouring drinks

Parking attendants are outside and box office workers are at the front desk.

parking attendant
box office staff

REBECCA –
Once the Front of House team announces that the audience is arriving, some cast members take their places in concessions and the gift shop. Others serve as group greeters, boarding buses and personally welcoming groups as they arrive.

making popcorn
operating cash register
group greeter
door greeter

BIRDIE –
If there are no issues, about 6PM, the point person opens the hallway so the audience isn’t packed into the lobby.

point checkin

REBECCA –
That’s when the directors and cast discuss last minute details. Then we all pray.

cast meeting
cast-praying
teenagers praying
children praying

BIRDIE –
Before all this happens, about an hour before the cast arrives, every performance, I walk through every area and every door in the facility. With holy anointing oil, I lay my hands on every portal and every significant object, and I pray. I pour out my heart to God regarding what is about to happen.

birdie praying

REBECCA –
Before we pray as a cast, we ask the cast to share any encouraging word that the audience might have said to them. Their faces light up when a fellow cast member has a story to tell.

BIRDIE –
When Rebecca says “Amen” after the cast prayer, they scatter like an ant colony. Ushers line up at entrances. Servers grab their aprons and gloves and wait for their assigned seats to fill.

ushers in place
ushers in place

REBECCA –
They seat the audience. Carry the trays. Take the drinks. They deliver the delicious show-themed meal. Then, when the audience finishes, they take away the soiled trays.

putting trays in place
serving dinner
refilling drink
removing trays

BIRDIE –
Younger kids are assigned to take soiled trays backstage where the trash-man stands at receptacles and tosses the trash. Then, the cutest of all things happens, the preschoolers, 3-5 are called out of the child play area: Tray runners, report to duty!!

REBECCA –
The “tinies” dart out of that play area like an army on mission.

BIRDIE –
Their job: to run dirty trays from backstage right to the tray cleaning area, where other cast members hand wash each tray and re-stack for the next performance.

child with trays
small child with trays

Here's a little clip of the tray runners in action. And it's important to note, NO speed enhancements have been made to this video!

REBECCA –
Birdie serves meals at the kitchen. I serve drinks on stage.

birdie serving meals
rebecca serving drinks

When most of the audience is served, we prepare to start. Clean up is full steam while Birdie and I talk to the audience.

BIRDIE –
Those who are first on stage change into their costumes. Others finish the clean-up.

REBECCA –
I say, “Ladies and Gentlemen ...” and the cast which has done ALL this, takes the stage to perform.

BIRDIE –
They finish around 10PM and drive home.

REBECCA –
That’s Friday.

BIRDIE –
On Saturday they do ALL that again, except, when the first show is over, the cast cleans the entire theater in about 30-minutes, eats “lunch” and starts sound checks for the next show by 4:15PM.

kids cleaning
kids gathering cups

REBECCA –
Then we do it all again.

BIRDIE –
Show ends around 9PM.

REBECCA –
That’s Saturday.

BIRDIE –
We currently have a cast of 500 people.
They are divided into two casts for every show that NarroWay performs.
The two casts alternate performance weekends.

REBECCA –
A significant number of cast members alternate in all the shows. Some are on stage EVERY time NarroWay performs.

BIRDIE –
There are twenty cast members who joined the original cast in 1997, and have never missed a year.

donna patterson and teresa dodd
rachel and justin polburn
john phillips
john jefferies
dick mccoy
katie mcfry

REBECCA –
Our cast has cleaned up vomit, done the Heimlich maneuver, fallen, been cussed at and been to the emergency room more times than we can count.

BIRDIE –
Once, an elderly woman, traveling on a tour bus, wet her pants as she came off her bus. A cast member ran to the cast area, retrieved her own clothes, put them on the lady and sent her into the show. Then she took the lady’s clothes, washed and dried them, while performing the show. At intermission, she found the lady and helped her dress.

REBECCA –
They are lawyers, teachers, tech geeks, housewives, doctors, carpenters, photographers, nurses, mechanics, business owners, retired, secretaries, computer programmers, managers, preachers, videographers, and so on.

photographer

Photographer / Graphic Designer

mechanic

Mechanic / Small Business Owner

security system expert

Small Business Owner

nurse

Nurse

Truck driver

Truck Driver

homemaker

Homemaker

psychotherapist

Psychotherapist

salesman

Retired Salesman

mechanical engineer

Mechanical Engineer

martial artist

Martial Arts Instructor / Entrepreneur

supervisor

Supervisor

Computer network engineer

Computer Network Engineer

BIRDIE –
Some have found their life mates at NarroWay.

Phillips Family
Lail Family

Several have tackled this schedule while pregnant, then missed a few days for baby to be born, and returned with a brand new cast member!

pregnant lady
pregnant lady

We currently have 37 children who have spent their entire life span serving on the NarroWay stage.

two kids

On stage before birth!

Connor Hill

Around 2009

Connor older

And in 2016

Piper baby

On stage in 2007

Piper child

On stage in 2016

three young girls

All 3 are now teens!

Karas baby

On stage in 2004

karas teen

Backstage in 2017

kelsey toddler

A toddler in 2002

kelsey on stage

Drastic change in 2016

REBECCA –
Most cast members travel 30-60 minutes, one way, to get to NarroWay.

BIRDIE –
One travels from Kentucky. Another from Tennessee.

Ena Thompson
Vivian Martin

REBECCA –
Red Cast rehearses 3+ hours on Mondays. Blue Cast on Thursdays. In rehearsals, they are under near-constant constructive criticism. Teaching. Pushing. Perfecting.

BIRDIE –
They have to hide from Rebecca to fellowship!

cast at restaurant

Preceding the opening of every show, we have two TECH WEEKS.

REBECCA –
At NarroWay, we have other names we call Tech Week.

BIRDIE –
Every night of tech week we rehearse from 5-10PM.

REBECCA –
If it ain’t pretty, we go later!

rehearsing on stage

BIRDIE –
NarroWay is not for the faint of heart. We have a big cast, but more have quit than have stayed.

REBECCA –
Only the strong survive!

BIRDIE –
The number one question Rebecca and I hear:
“Where did you get these people? They are outstanding!”

REBECCA –
And the answer to that question, my friend, brings us full circle - to those early mornings when we lay on that altar.

BIRDIE –
They are a gift of God.

cast in garden scene

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Comments 1

Guest - BRENDA BIGGAR on Thursday, 02 February 2017 16:11

THE MOST WONDERFUL PLACE. I HAVE BEEN THERE TWO TIMES WITH MY GRAND-KIDS. GODS SPECIAL PLACE. WE LOVE IT. GODS SPECIAL PEOPLE. THANK YOU ALL OF YOU.
BRENDA BIGGAR

THE MOST WONDERFUL PLACE. I HAVE BEEN THERE TWO TIMES WITH MY GRAND-KIDS. GODS SPECIAL PLACE. WE LOVE IT. GODS SPECIAL PEOPLE. THANK YOU ALL OF YOU. BRENDA BIGGAR
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Chapter 44: The Tail of Three Bassets
Chapter 42: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!


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