On the stage and behind the scenes

The NarroWay Blog

Chapter 20: And the Lord Said, "Renovate!"


birdie leaning on light pole
rebecca with a board

How often does someone have an opportunity to literally see God call into existence something out of nothing?

The NarroWay Story is a first-hand account of how GOD created NarroWay. Rebecca and I are in the story but it isn’t about us.

I sometimes feel like I should try to make the story entertaining, but, honestly, the heart of this story was, and still is, “get up early, work long and hard, obey God, sleep little, repeat.”

When God said to call the company “NarroWay Productions,” He gave NO MORE INFO.

That’s because God knew me! If He had told me what NarroWay was supposed to be I would have taken over from there!


birdie looking up
rebecca confidant

As it was, we fleshed out God’s will day-to-day, unaware that there even was a plan.

Through it all, two of our greatest supporters were Teresa (Tessie) and Dr. Joe Brown.
When we performed THE DELIVERER they drove from Charlotte, NC to Kentucky.

When we toured with CrossRoads, they came to see our Myrtle Beach performances.

They were busy people. By this time the Charlotte, NC church they led had exploded into a mega church. In fact, we started performing there on the way back from our beach tours. Our exposure to this large congregation proved to be key to NarroWay’s successful start.

joe brown family
tesse and rebecca

After our 1995 outdoor performance at Jenny Wiley, we felt it was time to come indoors – but not back to the church building.

There was a run-down movie theater positioned on main street in Pikeville called The Weddington Theater. The power was off. Water was standing in the floor at places. Cobwebs spookily sagged from the ceiling.

The seats were musky. The walls were dirty. The floor was sticky with old popcorn grease and spilled soda syrup.

Wallpaper was peeling off.

The lighting and sound – non-existent! And only a small ledge existed as a stage.

We gave that building one good look and said:


With the help of Joe and Virginia Justice we negotiated our first big business deal! We leased the Weddington Theater for $1.00! (We still owe them the dollar!)

We had spent two years in an outdoor amphitheater and now the Lord said, “It’s time to RENOVATE!”

rb with joe and virginia
birdie with a hammer
rebecca carrying blocks
set construction
james working on seats
steaming curtains
crew on break

Once renovations were underway, we re-wrote TWO THIEVES AND A SAVIOR, started rehearsals and began building a set to produce a two-act powerhouse performance.

I wanted to create a special cape that would instantly flip from a black mourning cloak to a white angel robe. Virginia Justice created a prototype. Then she, along with Pat Hammond and their costuming team, went to work sewing!

Not just one cape, but one cape for everyone in the cast!
Girl, you’re lucky they didn’t crucify you!

virginia on floorThis is how Virginia responded - at first!
virginia sewingBut she and her team went to work!
cape model
cutting patterns
cutting patterns
stack of capes

The effect was SPECTACULAR!

It was! The scene was dark and dismal. Lights faded to black. A sudden quick swoosh and a wind gust of flipped capes, and, in less than a second, the stage was filled with radiant angels!

white capes on stage

When we started NarroWay, performing TWO THIEVES AND A SAVIOR, we didn’t have the finances or time to re-create the cape effect. This wonderful church donated all those specialty capes to NarroWay.

Since then, hundreds of cast members have worn them, in a variety of shows, more than a thousand times. The capes are now over twenty-years-old and still being used on the NarroWay stage!

Every performance at The Weddington was packed.
Unbeknownst to me, this would be the last time I would perform in our shows.

In show preparations, Rebecca was always offstage, correcting things, until the last rehearsal.

When I went on stage I tried to remember what I was supposed to do – rather than what everyone else was doing.

Rebecca was one of four assigned to do a solo in the opening Angel song. Meaning she had to remember where she was supposed to be, what she was supposed to sing and how to flip that blasted magic cape of hers with only one “real” rehearsal!

On top of that, I was constantly thinking corrections.
Our first performance, we had flipped our capes (mine, not so good) and we soloists were in position. When it came to David’s solo, HE DIDN’T SING! I was saying to myself, “Keep smiling! Don’t act like anything happened” - all the while wondering how anybody could miss a bless-ed one-line solo!

From my conductor’s position I saw Rebecca. Her face was glowing like an archangel as the un-sung music played on.

I, too, looked at Birdie. I understood her frustration as a director. But I didn’t know the words to David’s solo.

But it wasn’t David’s solo.

It was mine. And that was my last solo.

four soloistsThe infamous four soloists. Note which one appears to be disheveled.
rebecca in costumeI just hate correcting myself!

More photos

crowd at performance
nativity scene
dancer girls
Jesus carrying cross
scene on hillside
end of dance scene
newspaper article
promotional flyer
theater marquee
ena thompson
girls in biblical costumes
preparing for show
guys looking at set
birdie building
sawing lumber
working off scaffolding
cleaning doors
painting on set
guy on ladder
painting door frame
hanging gold curtain
cleaning lobby
repairing marquee
set frame
rebecca on set
loading lumber
wallpaper repair
guy in truck
don and charlie on break
teens in back of truck
boy with crowbarJohn Lucas is currently pastor of First Baptist Church Pikeville.
Bob Borders
rebecca in doorway
james weddingtonJames Weddington is currently pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte.
older lady in theater seat
lady sewing
neil in hatRegretfully, we have no photos of Neil Thompson & Birdie bailing maggot-infested water!
jenny reading script
Nathaniel Levy
taking a break
sound technician
David Hefner with Birdie
lighting technician
jamie painting
birdie at rehearsal
two ladies eating
rebecca eating snack
guy with birthday cake
virginia justice on set
birdie with sound techs
teens on steps
curtain call
birdie after show


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Chapter 21: The Day the Phone Rang
Chapter 19: Never Hang Your Hat on a Rolling Set

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