Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Merrimack Reunion A Great Event

This summer, Merrimack Hall hosted the Merrimack Reunion. The event drew 300 people who either worked in Merrimack Mills, lived in Merrimack Village or attended Joe Bradley School. It was great to hear feedback from people who have such feelings of pride and nostalgia in this neighborhood and in Merrimack Hall. There was lots of reminiscing going on that day and lots of great compliments on how well our renovations turned out.

Some of the folks attending the reunion put together a picture board that had amazing images of the neighborhood, the mills, the school and Merrimack Hall. One thing that was truly staggering was a photocopy of a paycheck. The check was dated 1910 and was for $.12. Can you imagine, bringing home $.12?

Former Merrimack resident Jim Yell came to visit us shortly after the reunion. He told me that he was impressed with what we've done in renovating and restoring a place that he held dear to his heart. Jim has become a major benefactor to Merrimack Hall, making a staggering donation to us. More than that, he's become a part of our Merrimack family now and is providing valuable assistance to the entire staff.

He's also working with Ron Harris on an original play that Merrimack Hall has commissioned Ron Harris to write. The working title is "Upon the Shoulders: The Merrimack Story" and is a historic fictionalization of events and people from Merrimack's past. We expect to present this production next August, so stay tuned for further developments!

Debra Jenkins

Merrimack Hall Receives Funding

We were so honored and humbled to receive a First Tier Grant from the Jane K. Lowe Charitable Foundation! This foundation, established by the late Jane Lowe, accepts grants from Madison County-based non-profit organizations. This year, they received more than 80 requests for funding and selected only 3 organizations to receive a First Tier Grant. Several other organizations received Second and Third Tier Grants, but we were one of only 3 to get $100,000.00 from the Foundation.

The money has been allocated for the purchase of a grand piano and a video projection system for the theatre. We will also be using these funds to start a ballet class for children with physical disabilities. We are working with United Cerebral Palsy to train our teachers and volunteers for this program. We believe that every little girl should be able to wear a tutu and be a ballerina if she wants to!

Many thanks to the Jane K. Lowe Charitable Foundation for believing in us!

It Was A Great Summer at Merrimack Hall

I can't believe that school has started and things are getting back to the normal old routine! We had quite a summer at Merrimack Hall - from dance workshops with stars from "So You Think You Can Dance," to "One on One with Billy Bob Thornton!" New folks joined our staff, we developed our first Season Brochure and we managed to have a great time doing it all.

Sabra Johnson, the Season 3 winner of "So You Think You Can Dance" taught a workshop here and brought Kameron Bink, Season 3 Top 10, with her. The dancers who took these classes loved Sabra and Kameron both and we are hoping to have them back with us for our "Evening of Dance" in January.

We were proud to be a part of the Huntsville City School's summer enrichment program and enjoyed having 120 middle school students with us each day in June for hip hop classes. Ann's Studio of Dance was here for their company rehearsal, and what a great group they are! The parents were so nice and helpful, the kids were well-mannered and polite...and boy can they ever dance!

Lisa Loeb's concert was great - she sang songs from new new children's album and there were quite a few kids in the audience! LeAnn Siefferman, new Programming Director, commented of Ruthie Foster, "if everyone in the world would listen to that music, it could end the war!" She was one of the finest artists we've had the pleasure of presenting.

And then there was Billy Bob! What a guy - we just love him and his entire crew and band! Lynn Hoffman of the A&E Channel moderated our "One on One" event and it was just like "Inside the Actor's Studio." Billy revealed so much about himself as an actor, and as a man, and we got tremendous feedback from everyone who attended. One of my favorite things about the weekend was meeting Tom Mayhue, Billy's tour manager, and Antony, his crew chief. Tom is developing a new reality series for A&E called "King of the Roadies" that is absolutely hilarious! He showed us footage and promotional videos on the program, that follows him around on the road, showing all of the situations that are part of the routine of his job. He and Antony have a hilarious banter that goes on all the time, and we see them doing things like breaking into cars that are blocking loading docks of theatres, that are side-splitting! Watch A&E for the start of this new reality show!

Scot Bruce's tribute to Elvis was a great show - Merrimack Hall sure can shake, rattle and roll! The best moment of the evening was when Scot got on one knee and sang "Love Me Tender" to a lady in the audience!

New staff members Hayley Smith (Director of Dance) and LeAnn Siefferman (Box Office and Programming Director) have been welcomed additions to our team and we've had a blast getting to know them this summer. Both are smart, funny, gorgeous, hard-working and just all around delightful women!

We have one more show before our season kicks off - Robert Post Comedy Theatre is a family-friendly comedy show. Our season has 12 productions and there's something for everyone - music, theatre and dance are all available. Individual tickets to our shows go on sale August 21, but there are great benefits to being a season ticket holder. Season ticket holders are the first to know when we schedule new events, and we have one looming on the calendar that many people will be excited about! Menopause the Musical wants to return to Merrimack Hall and if you are a season ticket holder, you'll know before everyone else does! Season ticket holders get first dibs on Menopause the Musical tickets, which we know will sell fast!

Hope to see you at a show soon!

Debra Jenkins