Thursday, December 22, 2011

Celebrity Scoopers at Maggie Moo's

It's a known fact that milk is a great source of calcium for strong bones. Some folks choose a tall glass of whole milk while others sip on a skinny skim milk latte. However, we all know the most delicious way to feed your bones is with three scoops of ice cream, any flavor of your choice! Merrimack Hall's students of Project UP agree and will be the celebrity scoopers tonight at Maggie Moo's Ice Cream and Treatery at Bridgestreet from 5-8 p.m.

Merrimack Hall is always looking for creative ways to fundraise and raise awareness of our Johnny Stallings Arts Program, an outreach that offers dance and arts education for individuals with special needs.  Maggie Moo's is opening up its doors to let us help them "do a dollop" and receive a portion of the proceeds. Whether you take gum drops, chocolate chips, sprinkles, or just plain vanilla, our students will be ready with scooper in hand!

Join Maggie the cow along with Project UP tonight at Maggie Moo's for a sweet treat this holiday season! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Donate to Dance

Plies and tippy toes. Tutus and tiny leotards. Giggles and poses in the mirror. A dance studio and art house to call their own. Our Johnny Stallings Arts Program encompasses these pastimes along with community performances, strong bonds of friendship and lasting memories. Merrimack Hall has journeyed down a long road since 2007 when the outreach first started with only nine students. As we wrap up 2011, the program now provides art, dance and musical theatre classes for 165 children and adults with developmental disabilities. For Merrimack Hall, the only way to venture is forward as we continue to grow in numbers and resources.
If you have ever made a purchase with Merrimack Hall, you probably received our holiday donation card in the mail. This year’s card features photos of some of our students and volunteers performing at last year’s holiday show. It also provides the opportunity to sponsor a student in the Johnny Stallings Arts Program.
You can give $25 to provide one child’s leotard, or you can even give up to $500 to sponsor a child for an entire year. There are several different options as well as your own personal choice of how you prefer to support our students.

This 2011 year has been a radiant one for Merrimack Hall. The organization’s founders, Alan and Debra Jenkins, have received recognition as the “Philanthropists of the Year.” Merrimack also received donations and grants from Toyota, Kiwanis and other major organizations in order to support our outreach. The staff at Merrimack Hall is truly coming together as one accord as it works together to collaborate amongst one another as well as in the community. As the news spreads of Merrimack Hall’s success, our financial and volunteer support is necessary to continue to move forward. More students will expand our program to have more classes. More classes mean more teachers, time and support needed. From costumes and productions to tuitions and facility use, it takes a lot of man and money power to make this nonprofit live out its dream of making our students’ dreams come true.

The end result of all the support, donations, grants, volunteer efforts, community awareness, dance and art classes, expansion of the building, and so many more aspects of this performance hall – the backbone is to exist as a place to belong for those who have special needs. Merrimack Hall wants to be the niche place for Darby who has Down syndrome and fights cancer, for Elianna who has cerebral palsy and goes through painful surgeries, for Katie who has Down syndrome and diabetes, for the kids who are barely teenagers who have already experienced chemotherapy, strokes and surgeries. Merrimack is becoming a place where they can forget about everything and just dance and be creative.
If you would like to be a part of a child’s life in our Johnny Stallings Arts Program, please visit or call to receive a card in the mail - 256.534.6455.


Hermione, a 4-year-old student in Dance Your Dreams!
  When Debra and Alan Jenkins took their first steps through the threshold of the dilapidating,
hand-me-down building that Merrimack Hall once was, they never could have fathomed the sincere amount of teardrops that would trickle down the faces of the families who watched their children perform onstage during Believe this December. Whether it be Down syndrome, cerebral palsey or autism, each child and young adult performer has some type of special need; however what truly makes them special is their pure perserverance and innocent determination that outshines what society and even doctors have limited them to be in life.

Project UP singing "Deck the Rooftop"
  This past December 1st, Merrimack Hall was proud to present Believe, the Johnny Stallings Arts Program holiday production. Almost 75 children took to the stage throughout the night as they performed to holiday classics. With reindeer, Santa costumes and snow at the finale, the show was the highlight of the season. These children attend weekly dance and musical theatre classes at Merrimack Hall. Each of them face some type of disability which is why the staff and volunteers at Merrimack are dedicated to not just assisting these students, but helping improve their quality of life physically, emotionally and socially.

Little girls from Dance Your Dreams! listening for reindeer
 It's more than just being a philanthropic advocate for children with special needs. Everyday one can see advertisments, telelvision commericals and printed materials that promote helping children around the world. The vision behind Merrimack Hall's Johnny Stallings Arts Program is to provide a place to belong for people who are born with disablities. For those who are born in perfect health, with all of your chromosomes, beautifully functioning legs and arms, or even a nervous system that sends all the right signals to your brain, you have been given a pleuthra of opportunities to become a writer, dancer, singer, athlete, scientist and even an artist.

Darby, who wants to be a writer, performing her solo
 For the individuals who show up to our classes,
their options are scarce, especially in North
Alabama. Merrimack Hall is seen as their place to dream of what they want to be because here, in our dance studio, on our theatre stage, or even in the art house, those dreams come to life as their own.

This holiday season, Merrimack Hall, a nonprofit 501(c)3, is accepting donations to help fund our growing outreach program. Visit our website to find out more about sponsoring a child in our program.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Plaid Tidings to You!

The Plaids posing for a quick portrait shot
One gold and red-striped hula hoop, a Helga the Viking horned helmet, a jar of Heinz mustard, and a vintage suitcase are just a few of the props to go along with those smiling doll-faced boys who are back at Merrimack Hall this week performing as “The Plaids” in Forever Plaid. The singing, dancing, tapping quartet is taking center stage and maybe even right and left aisle, next to your seat, as they engage the entire audience throughout the show.

Merrimack Hall is "Plaiding the City"
Forever Plaid, brought to Huntsville through Bella Note Solutions which also put on The Unexpected Boys in October and will be back in January for The Unexpected Surfer Boys, is a hilarious schmorgesborg of 50s pop hits along with some Christmas tunes that are all “plaided and pleated” with a story line of four perfectly choreographed, Broadway performers who die and come back to life to perform one last time. Not to mention, these fabulous four, who are also ferocious fellows, are pleasantly talented in playing the quirky instruments such as the melodica and the accordion.

The quartet rehearsing for the Thursday premiere

The crisscross crew from up North arrived Monday to begin rehearsing for their four performances this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. along with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. As the Merrimack staff watched them run through the acts on Tuesday and Wednesday, we would all agree that this show will be quite the Christmas collaboration of classic comedy and chorus line collectables from an era many years ago!

For tickets call 256.534.6455 or visit

Friday, December 2, 2011

Victoria Shaw TONIGHT!

What is it that we find so intriguing about famous rockstar, celebrities who perform at 5,000 seat venues worldwide and are completely untouchable as they also seem to lose touch with reality? It's a strange affinity that the normal folks like to call a "distraction from life." However, one genre of musicians that is never questioned or even bothered is the songwriters who stay under the radar and far from the lens of the paparazzi. Victoria Shaw, two-time Emmy award winning singer/songwriter, has found the key, not to Lady Gaga stardom, but to the hearts of those singing along to her lyrics sung by artists such as Garth Brooks, Lady Antebellum and even Olivia Newton-John.

Under the Covers with Victoria Shaw with Special Guests Gary Burr, award-winning songwriter, and Mark Hudson, of the Hudson Brothers, will be at Merrimack Hall tonight at the only 302 seat theatre in town, performing their favorite ballads and melodies accompanied with personal stories. Shaw started the Under the Covers series to bring some of her close friends and talented musicians out from behind the glass windows of the recording studios and onto the intimate stage at Merrimack Hall. "It feels like you're dropping in an a jam session with the Royles Royce of the singer/songwriter world," one patron said after attending the Under the Covers performance in August which featured Shaw, Robin Meade and Billy Dean. It's a bit off the beaten path that has its own strum about it.

Check out her website for more about her at

Tickets are on sale at or call 256.534.6455

Monday, November 28, 2011

Believe 2011 to Deck Merrimack Hall


Carolyn dancing at Believe 2010
 It’s coming this Thursday and entirely sold out! Believe, the Johnny Stallings Arts Program (JSAP) Christmas recital, highlights our students’ captivating smiles and spirits from Dance Your Dreams! and Project UP.  These boys and girls are some of the most special and unforgettable individuals you will find on stage this holiday season. As Santa's wish list fills up with requests for toys and presents, our waiting list for open seats to the show builds as well!

Haley Henderson, our artistic director, has packed the hall with gold and silver tutus, red and green bows as well as shimmering buttons and props of presents and trinkets of holly jolly! The students of JSAP can be heard all throughout the dance studio as they practice their songs, routines and lines. The lobby is garnished with garland and spruce greenery while the theatre is decked with a snowflakes and poinsettias! Our Believe stars and audience will have the best time of the year with a guaranteed white Christmas!

Sara and Olivia giggling on stage during Believe 2010.

The show will also feature Greg Screws, a Merrimack Hall favorite and news anchor at WHNT 19 News, as he sings and acts along with the kids. Our newest staff member, Kristen Wilson, will sing “The Prayer” with her father, and our volunteers will be alongside each student to assist them in every way. Although there are plenty of wonderful, classic Christmas plays, concerts and musicals to see around town, Believe is a jingle of its own.

The Johnny Stallings Arts Program has received a tremendous amount of support this year from the community, state and even nation! Grants, donations and box office proceeds make Believe possible. As we say goodbye to our Thanksgiving holiday and welcome our season of giving and good tidings, Merrimack Hall is thankful to celebrate the reason for the season as we merrily deck our hall with the sweetest and brightest kids of the community!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Toyota Makes it Better at Merrimack Hall

 You may have seen the articles in The Huntsville Times or even on the Internet. Perhaps you had the opportunity to attend Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Inc. for the ceremonial launch of the new four-cylinder engine this past September 29, 2011. Atsushi Niimi, the executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corp., traveled from Japan for this grand celebration that included a $50,000 check made out to Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center. An audience of over 800 people and Merrimack Hall's very own Project UP students performing, our community honored the newest fuel-efficient Toyota engine to be produced in the Tennessee Valley.

Johnny Stallings Arts Program - Project UP students with Governor Robert Bentley

The Senior Company of Merrimack Hall's Project UP stole the stage in their vibrant cerulean blue costumes as they danced to the song, "Rainbow Connection," made famous by Kermit the Frog himself. Meeting Governor Bentley was a highlight for many of our students. In particular, Emily, a teen with Down syndrome, walked up to the governor, wrapped her arms around him and said, "I love you Governor Bentley!" Her mother later told the Merrimack staff that she had no idea her daughter was such a fan.

Emily hugging her hero, Governor Bentley

Before the ceremony, our staff invited the students to come to Merrimack Hall for a chance to play beauty parlor and eat breakfast together. Each of the girls was seated at her own make-up and hair station while the staff curled hair and applied their pink lipstick. The boys buttoned up their brand new collared shirts and avoided the powder booths!

Katie is ready for her photo shoot
Susie and Rachel posing for a picture!


Klaudia and Kinsey playing in the make-up.

We are so thankful to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama for supporting our outreach program, and for putting their faith in our good stewardship of their funding. This recognition is an important honor for Merrimack Hall and the performance opportunity was a dream come true for our students.

As we continue to grow our roots deep into the Rocket City, cultivating the arts is gaining momentum. Merrimack Hall is deeping its impact in the lives of North Alabama while also bringing awareness to the needs of Merrimack Mill Village, the arts and culture community, and individuals with special needs and disabilities.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dancers and Artists, Take Your Place!

You know it's that fall season as the summer heat waves dwindle admist the brisk autumn nights. Here at Merrimack Hall, it's a much anticipated time because it marks the beginning of our Johnny Stallings Arts Program! With our dance classes tapping and twirling away in the dance studio and theatre, and the art students painting and creating in the house out back, the rustle of the leaves is merely white noise compared to the hustle and bustle here!

Our Johnny Stallings Arts Program provides a place for over 85 children, teenagers and adults with special needs to create, dream and perform to their loving hearts' content! Our outreach includes Dance Your Dreams for ages 3-12, Project UP for ages 13-up, Inspired HeARTS for all ages. We are thrilled to have our first adult art class this year from; these students are from a local group home and visit us once week.

This 2011 Performance Season, Merrimack Hall will clear the stage on December 1 for Believe, the dance students' Christmas performance. We've all seen our favorite Christmas movies, ballets and musicals, but make room for this unforgettable, tear-jerking, dancing and singing show! These kids practice for months, and their spirit is contagious to everyone around them.

Check out last year's performance and visit for tickets!

Friday, May 20, 2011

2011/12 Season Show Sponsorship

Have you or your corporation ever wanted to support Merrimack Hall in a big way? For our 2011-12 season, we are offering Presenting Sponsorships for every production in the season. What exactly does that mean? It means that your company, or even you personally, would be listed as "This show is presented in partnership with ...". Our sponsors enjoy a large variety of perks, each tailored to their own specific needs. Presenting Sponsorships begin at $2,500.

Perks for Presenting Sponsors include:
  • Title of Presenting Sponsor of one show in the 2011-12 Merrimack Hall Season.
  • Automatic membership in the Merrimack Hall membership program, which includes admission to our new Cotton Club, a members-only private lounge featuring complimentary adult beverages.
  • Logo/name inclusion on all marketing materials associated with your show of choice.
  • Logo/name inclusion on all e-blasts associated with your show of choice, which are sent out twice weekly to over 10,000 patrons locally.
  • Recognition on our donor wall.
  • Complimentary tickets to your show of choice.

Because Merrimack Hall is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations & sponsorships are 100% tax deductible. All donations go directly to our outreach programs, which provide performing arts education to children and teens with special needs.

Consider becoming a Merrimack Hall sponsor today. The possibilities are endless - we tailor each sponsorship to your company's needs.

For information, contact Ashley Dinges, marketing & development director, by phone at (256) 534-6455 or e-mail.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011-12 Membership Program

At Merrimack Hall, we appreciate the continued support of our loyal patrons and donors. To better serve you, we're launching an annual membership program beginning this summer!

Our membership program will serve as an upgrade to our previous season subscriber program. Instead of purchasing your entire season at once to receive 10% off, members will be entitled to their discount year-round, no matter the date or amount of tickets purchased.

All members at any level receive a special 10% off discount code. As membership levels increase, extra benefits are added, including invitations to special events with artists and Executive Director receptions, personal Box Office concierge, and access to the Cotton Club.

Visit our website to read all the perks of becoming a member! Or, feel free to call us at (256) 534-6455 for more information.

To join, simply make a tax-deductible donation to Merrimack Hall at the level of your choice. Donations may be made online, over the phone at (256) 534-6455 or in person during Box Office hours.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Panoply 2011: Dance Your Dreams & Project UP

For the third year in a row, Dance Your Dreams! will participate in Huntsville's Panoply Arts Festival! This year, we're excited to add Project UP to the performance roster. All four Dance Your Dreams! classes, plus Project UP, will perform selections from their upcoming Spring Recital.

Want to come watch them perform? Head over to the Valley Jubilee Stage (near the Embassy Suites), this Friday, April 29 at 7 p.m.!

(And watch the above video to see their performance last year at Panoply 2010!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Inspired HeARTs - Special Needs Art Class

You may know a little bit about The Johnny Stallings Arts Program here at Merrimack Hall. All classes within this program provide performing arts education for children and teens with special needs.

You've probably heard about Dance Your Dreams!, Project UP, and Camp Merrimack. What you may not have heard about yet is our newest class - Inspired HeARTs.

When Dance Your Dreams launched in 2008, the class was intended to provide dance education to children who cannot participate in mainstream classes due to their special needs (both physical and developmental).

Once the first year came to a close, we realized they had very few options for summer camps. We launched Camp Merrimack in 2009 as an option for families with special-needs children.

As the children began to age, we found that they also grow! Our volunteers, many of whom are teens themselves, could not necessarily lift the teens and assist them with movements. Debra Jenkins and Hayley Henderson then conceived and launched Project UP - a performing company for teens with developmental disabilities. We intended for the students in Dance Your Dreams! to graduate up to the Junior Company of Project UP, and eventually a Senior Company (which will also include adults).

You can see - we have created all of our programs out of needs, as we observe them through the families and students who participate in our classes. This past year, we decided to launch Inspired HeARTs, a visual art program for children and teens ages 10-17 with special needs.

Like Dance Your Dreams!, Inspired HeARTs pairs students one-on-one with volunteers who provide help, support and guidance.

Inspired HeARTs was developed in conjunction with two senior thesis students in the art program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. These student teachers develop projects each week for the students, and teach them art history as well. We are so grateful to them for the patience and love they show to our students every week!

For more information on any of our programs (including enrollment, volunteering or donations), visit our website at!

Merrimack Hall on Cookie Logic

Last week, the Cookie Logic television show came to Merrimack Hall and spent the whole day filming their 59th episode in our building!

You can watch the episode in its entirety above. Thanks to Cookie Logic for featuring us!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Melora Hardin comes to Huntsville

We're so excited to announce that TV, film, music & stage star Melora Hardin is coming to Merrimack Hall! You probably recognize Melora from her continuing appearances on NBC's hit sitcom "The Office" (she plays Michael Scott's ex-girlfriend Jan Levinson).

In addition to her acting chops, Melora boasts a long list of music credits. She'll be performing two concerts here in Huntsville.

So what's the backstory? How did we get in touch with Melora to bring her here to North Alabama? Well, you might remember that Billy Bob Thornton has twice appeared at Merrimack Hall with his band, The Boxmasters. Billy Bob's manager for his music career also represents Melora. They reached out to Debra & Alan Jenkins here at Merrimack Hall, inquiring about Melora performing here. We couldn't be more thrilled to present this exciting showcase to you.

Melora's weekend of events includes two concerts, a master class, and a special meet-and-greet with Melora at Amendment XXI. All proceeds from her meet-and-greet with benefit Merrimack Hall's Johnny Stallings Arts Program for children and teens with special needs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Behind the Scenes of RENT

Watch the video above to see the cast of RENT perform "Seasons of Love" at Merrimack Hall. The production will run March 11-19 and is presented by Independent Musical Productions.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit our website at, or call the Box Office at 256-534-6455.