On the stage and behind the scenes

The NarroWay Blog

Chapter 40: In Spite of Everything

looking distraught

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

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

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

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

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Chapter 41: Fiasco

directors looking concerned

We opened the NarroWay Theater with a WW2, patriotic-to-the-bone NarroWay original: “Not Just Another Love Story.” During our first year at the NarroWay Theater, that show ran from our opening on July 8, 2006 until Christmas. That is when we turned the beloved “Jerusalem In Lights” into “The Real Christmas Story.”

For the first time ever, the NarroWay cast was WARM during the Christmas show!

For the first time ever, we had restrooms instead of porta-johns! The sound of a flush was the sound of victory!

For the first time ever, the cast had a place with enough room to change costumes, a place with mirrors!!

For the first time ever, the cast didn’t have to “watch for snakes” before going on stage or be warned to re-apply sun screen at rehearsals.

For the first time ever, we took the Weather Channel off the top of our preferred television listing!

Recent Comments
Guest — Phyllis Simpson
I was there for 2 of the shows and it was faultless to my eyes even though I did see a few brooms and shoves very descriptive movi... Read More
Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:55
Guest — Betty Moore-Bell
Oh.my.goodness! How I have laughed at your misfortune! I'm so sorry (tee hee)! Thanks for sharing! The visual is priceless!... Read More
Wednesday, 18 January 2017 16:23
Guest — Amy Manuel
This should be made into a movie. It would be epic!
Wednesday, 18 January 2017 17:14
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Chapter 42: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

basset hound napping

Ah, the simple life. I hear there are some who have discovered it. But I’m thinking the only way you have it, is if you’re “smoozing” off someone who doesn’t....

So, here’s the situation. When re-construction was finished on the NarroWay Theatre, we ended up with a theater capacity of 425 and a lobby capacity of 170!

And we ended up with bills!
Loan payment: $8800.00.
Electrical: $2800.00+.
Water & Sewer: $600+.
Liability insurance. Facility insurance. Gas heat. USDA fees. Fire sprinklers and air conditioner maintenance fees...
And the beat goes on...

The 170 capacity lobby also housed the concession area, the gift shop, the box office and the restrooms.

And did we mention that within months of opening we had to take a chunk of lobby space to expand the ladies’ restroom? That added another $38,000.00 to our debt.

We had told the architect we needed LOTS of ladies stalls! The original facility had five. He said that should be plenty! Key word there being HE.


I’m assuming he thought we just weren’t going to sell any tickets! The first few performances, intermission ran 30+ minutes – not because popcorn was selling, but because there was a stripe of fuming women lined up as far as the eye could see.

women in lobby

Have you ever tried to present the good news of the glorious gospel to a woman who was “really about to go” thirty minutes ago?

Anyway, the best we could do was to add 6 more stalls. It still wasn’t enough. Plus we minus-ed 6 stalls worth of people from the 170 capacity.

Theaters depend heavily upon revenue produced by concessions and gift shop sales and we were simply out of lobby space.

crowded lobby

On top of that, the issues surrounding having no backstage space worsened.

In summer, it got so hot under the black canopy that lipstick melted in their pockets as the cast ladies awaited their stage entrances. It became a sauna on a warm day.

backstage canopy

No matter how lovely the hairstyles were when they left the 2nd floor dressing area, they were a flat, sweaty mess after standing a few seconds in the sauna.

In winter, it was frigid. And if it was pouring the rain, the cast had to run, costumes and all, out from under the black canopy to get into the trailer for a stage right entrance.

We had just survived several months with little income, (only what we could make from traveling and performing Mystery Theaters). Plus, we were in debt up to our ears. So, we couldn’t consider making improvements.

Then we were in rehearsal one afternoon in August 2008 when the police came.

There was a robbery next door and a man had been shot and killed. (You can still see the full newspaper article online here.)

news article

Next door translated: just a few steps across our parking lot.

While being questioned by police, we realized that those criminals had gone by NarroWay’s open doors and might have, just as easily, walked into NarroWay.

The cast dressing areas weren’t secured either, because the doors had to remain open for the cast to get back and forth.

A week later, we started plans to enclose a backstage area.

We couldn’t afford it – likewise, we couldn’t afford not to.

We agonized over the finances. This was when we started our 400 NAILS donor program. The thought was, if we could find 400 people willing to give $25+ a month, we could add a backstage.

I remember asking Sammie Johnson, one of our elderly cast members, “Sammie, we can’t afford to add on to this building. Do you think people would give $25 a month?” Sammie is a widow and I knew she would be honest. She replied, “Sure they will! And I’ll be the first!”

And she was!

Sammie Johnson
Sammie on stage

Since that time Sammie has never missed a month giving.
Though we’ve never gotten 400 contributors, those who do give have enabled us to stay up through some hard times. Their names are posted on plaques every year on the NarroWay Wall of Faith.

We broke ground a year later, September 2009.

During construction we had to keep shows running. The cast was hopping over trenches, ducking under pipes and dodging ladders and lumber.

footer dug out
props backstage
construction site
construction at stairwell
construction site

We told this architect to make the addition as large as possible, so he followed that invisible right-of-way line set by the state. That’s why there’s a crazy cut-in toward the front of the addition.

outside wall

I’ll never understand, how on earth you pay for that much property only to be told it’s not yours, it’s “right-of way?”

At the time we started the project, the economy was terrible. That wasn’t good for business, except that the banks had low interest rates. So, the banker says we can take a risky flexible rate at 4.25% and take a chance of it jumping as high as 10% or lock in at 7%.

We switched banks, enabling us to move our existing 7% debt. We procured a new loan to cover the existing plus the addition, and took the risk at 4.25%.

And that risk made all the difference!

By June 2010 NarroWay had a backstage. Why, we even had a covered walkway for our animals to get on and off stage!

animal walkway

Sleepless nights.
Long hours.
Over the years we’ve heard a lot of people say, “I want to be an entrepreneur so I can determine my own schedule.” But that’s not how it works.

As you can see, if your name is on all the papers, you don’t own the business. The business owns YOU.

Sometimes selling happy meals seems like the dream job!

directors at McDonalds
directors with job application

More Renovation Photos

Keep in mind, all of this happened while carrying out a full performance schedule - in this theater!

construction crane
steel framing
block layers
Box office renovation
hallway renovation
seating renovation
block framing
canopy awning
truck pouring concrete
metal stairway
stage set pieces
backstage enclosed
Birdie with foreman
Construction foreman
box office pillars
indoor construction
inside theatre renovation
masons at work
backstage walkway
concrete walkway
enclosed stairwell
stage under renovation
indoor backstage
Recent Comments
Guest — David Wells
Great history!
Wednesday, 25 January 2017 21:43
Guest — AM Mosher
Enjoyed this story from beginning to end!! What a magnificent journey! You girls certainly have a lot to be very proud of!! God i... Read More
Friday, 27 January 2017 17:10
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    Fort Mill SC 29715
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