Saturday, February 23, 2008

Merrimack Hall Nominates Ron Harris for Virginia Hammil Simms Award

Merrimack Hall is proud to announce that Ron Harris is our nominee for the prestigious Virginia Hammil Simms Award. Given annually to the individual who has done the most to advance the arts in Huntsville through volunteer service, this award is named for one of the early pioneers of Huntsville's vibrant arts community. Mrs. Simms was actively involved in the formation of some of Huntsville's most important art institutions, such as Community Ballet Association and the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, and was one of our community's most prominent philanthropists. I was speechless, thrilled, humbled and grateful to have received this award in 2007, and feel so honored to be able to nominate an artist of Ron Harris' caliber for this year's award.

Ron has been a driving force in Huntsville's theatre community for more than 30 years. He retired in 2005 from a teaching career that included 10 years at Johnson High School and 20 years as the director of the Lee High School Magnet Drama Department. His students have received regional, national and international recognition over the years and have won countless awards for their productions. Ron has also received numerous awards for his work as an educator, director, designer, writer and actor.

There is not a theatre organization in North Alabama that hasn't used Ron's expertise, as either a costume designer, set dresser, set designer, actor or director, and for every job he has taken as a professional, there are multiple ones he has taken on as a volunteer. His eye for detail and love of art motivates him to be sure that every production he is involved with is as professional as possible. While he is officially retired, he can still be found working at Lee High School's productions, coaching and mentoring individual students, and hosting impromptu performances in the backyard theatre he built right after his retirement.

When Ron became involved with us in the planning of Merrimack Hall, he put his creative talents to work for us. Every Friday night for a year, he met with us to review our architectural drawings, help select things like seat and curtain colors, help us define our mission and identify our programming goals. He told me that he had three dreams for himself after his retirement - to have a movie produced, to build a theatre in his backyard, and to have someone build a new theatre in Huntsville. Those three dreams all came true for him the summer after he retired, so he is working on a new set of dreams for himself! His play, "Like Moles, Like Rats" was produced last summer, has been accepted into four prestigious independent film festivals and is set for theatrical release later this year. Visit for more information.

The Virginia Hammil Simms Award will be presented in April.

Debra Jenkins, Founder

No comments: