Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Pair at Merrimack Hall

Fans of the Fox television series "So You Think You Can Dance" will recognize the name Sabra - she was the Season 3 winner of the dance competition show. She is the incredible contemporary dancer who wowed the judges week after week last year and was Wade Robson's favorite to win from the beginning. We are so excited that she is coming to Merrimack Hall to teach master classes and is bringing with her Kameron Bink, another of last season's Top 10 finalists.

We will be holding classes for dancers age 6 and up. Each age group will have a choice of two classes with Sabra and two with Kameron. They will teach an additional advanced class together, offering a total of 9 classes. They are also attending a meet and greet that will include your own personal photo with them. After pictures and autographs, Kameron and Sabra will take questions from the audience about what it's like to be on "So You Think You Can Dance," what it's like to be a professional dancer, and anything else that the audience would like to know about them! Registration is open at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 21 at www.merrimackhall.com.

After having Wade Robson with us twice this year, we knew we wanted someone else from the TV show. Wade wants us to bring Mandy Moore, which we are working on - her schedule is totally full for the summer, but we are looking at alternative dates. But Wade was rooting for Sabra all season, so of course, we were too! We can't wait to meet Sabra and Kameron and are so excited that area dancers will have the chance to learn from the two of them!

Debra Jenkins

Karla Bonoff and Kenny Edwards Concert Was HOT!!!

Another remarkable artist presented yet another remarkable performance at Merrimack Hall last Thursday, May 15, 2008. Karla Bonoff and Kenny Edwards garnered three standing ovations from a crowd of devoted fans. But it wasn't only the great music that made the evening memorable. Merrimack Hall's fire alarm malfunctioned, sending the entire house into a hot flash not seen since we had "Menopause the Musical" here!

Apparently something went wrong inside an air duct, causing the fire alarms to go off, so with strobe lights flashing and the computerized voice saying "please evacuate the building," the audience remained calmly in their seats! Alan rushed to the control panel to try to diable the alarm, but couldn't get it to shut off. In a panic, he called Scott and Reisa Schrimscher, the general contractors on the building (and very good friends) who dropped what they were doing and rushed over here, arriving simultaneous with 2 fire trucks. While Alan kept trying to turn off the alram, Scott and Reisa were frantically trying to find a phone number to call to disable the system. They finally located a 1-800 number and Alan wrote it on his hand. He dialed the number.....and reached some adult phone sex line!!! What a wrong number that was!

Karla and Kenny said that in 30 years of touring, they had never had a fire alarm go off - lots of power failures but no fires! They waited patiently, as did the audience, and finally after 20 loud and long minutes, the system was re-set, the fire department left and the show resumed! We're hoping the house doesn't get that hot for a while!

Debra Jenkins

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"The Great American Trailer Park Musical" Sure to be Fun!

We can't wait for Wednesday night's opening performance of "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," coming to Merrimack Hall from New York. This professional touring show features a cast of eccentric characters that live in Armadilla Acres - "where the livin' is easy, and so are the people!" I've been listening to the soundtrack for the past few days and find myself laughing and singing along to songs like "I'm Gonna Make Like A Nail and Press On."

We are going to have lots of fun events going on in our lobby - give-aways from different businesses, drawings for prizes - we're even going to have a Flamigo Toss at intermission! This will not be your ordinary "night at the theatre." We haven't gone as far as some other theatres who have had "Trailer Park" - some have had mullet contests (the haircut, not the fish) or encouraged their audiences to dress in their favorite "trailer trash" outfits. But we do have their merchandise on sale - who doesn't need a cigarette lighter that includes a bottle opener on the end? Or a camo drink coozie that says the easy living slogan?

We hope we'll see you next week!

Debra Jenkins, Founder

One-On-One With Billy Bob Thornton

We are so excited about Billy Bob Thornton's return to Merrimack Hall this summer, and are especially thrilled about the question and answer session he has agreed to hold for area actors and fans! Billy will sit down with a moderator, in front of an audience, on Saturday, August 2 at 4:00 p.m. for a 90 minute interview that will be structured like our version of "Inside the Actor's Studio." Billy will talk about his music, his movies and his life and will also take questions from the audience. This will be such a unique and cool way to get to know one of the most prolific artists of our generation!

When he was here last summer, we found Billy to be one of the most down-to-earth guys we've ever met - he's just a good ole' southern boy from Arkansas! There was absolutely no "Hollywood" about Billy Bob! He was genuinely excited to be in Huntsville and to entertain his fans with his band, The Box Masters. It was great enough that he agreed to return with The Box Masters, but when we learned that he would agree to sit down and talk one-on-one with an audience we were thrilled! We might even see Billy bring Carl Childers to life again, as he did on our stage last summer.

Billy's manager has told me that Merrimack Hall is the only sit-down venue that Billy is willing to play this year, as he prefers to play in a bar or arena setting as opposed to our theatre setting. But he wanted to come back here because he had such a great time with us last summer - lots of his friends and family came down from Arkansas for his shows, as well as several of his friends from Muscle Shoals and Nashville. Billy seemed truly impressed with our venue and congratulated Alan and me for setting up our non-profit organization and providing the venue to Huntsville as our gift. Needless to say, we were pretty proud to hear words of endorsement from an artist of Billy's stature.

Tickets for One-On-One with Billy Bob Thornton are on sale now. More details on the format of this event and the moderator will be available soon!

Debra Jenkins, Founder

Merrimack Hall Choreographers Win at Panoply

Merrimack Hall is so proud of two choreographers, Leigh Caruso and Cynthia Quintela, for the excellent work they presented at Panoply's Choreography Competition April 25 and 26.

Panoply's prestigious Choreography Competition recognizes the work of choreographers with cash awards and attracts choreographers from across the southeast. This year's competition, which was held in the Von Braun Center's concert hall, brought 56 different pieces that were judged by a panel of esteemed dance professionals. The dance pieces were entered into 5 categories - ballet, modern, jazz, tap and hip-hop. An elimination round was held first and pieces were selected as "Honorable Mention"and performed on stage in Big Spring Park on Friday night of the festival, with other pieces selected as finalists to compete in the concert hall on Saturday night. This year, 8 pieces were selected as Honorable Mentions and 15 pieces were selected for the final round of competition.

Leigh, Merrimack Hall's Director of Dance Education, set a work entitled "Free My Soul" on a group of 8 dancers, including Leigh. The dancers came to Merrimack Hall from two different dance organizations - Alabama Youth Ballet and Huntsville Community Ballet - and worked at Merrimack Hall for several weeks in preparation for their participation in Panoply's Choreography Competition. "Free My Soul" was entered in the ballet category, which had the largest number of entries of all the categories, so the competition was tight! For Leigh, who graduated from Vanderbilt University in May 2007, this was the first time her work has been seen in her hometown since she was in high school. She was thrilled, and I was extremely proud, when her piece was selected to perform as an Honorable Mention!

Cynthia is on the staff of Alabama Youth Ballet and teaches visual art at Huntsville High School, where she also directs the school's dance team. Cynthia's piece, "Because," was originally created for Merrimack Hall's "Evening of Dance" held in January. Dancers from Alabama Youth Ballet were featured in this jazz piece, which was selected for the final round of competition and went on to win the jazz category. Cynthia received a $500.00 cash award, along with the honor of being chosed as the finest jazz piece entered in the competition. Cynthia has a long history of winning awards in the Panoply Choreography Competition, having won the "Best of Show" award numerous times in the past.

These choreographers and their work represent exactly what Merrimack Hall has set as our mission - to provide performance opportunities for local performers along with the educational opportunities we are providing. I am so proud that Merrimack Hall has been a part of fostering the development of these two new works and has been able to provide assistance to two of Huntsville's finest choreographers. We are so thrilled for Leigh and Cynthia and for the well-deserved recognition that their work and their dancers received!