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