After that first day in Huntsville, I think we were all exhausted. The day started early and ended late but what a great day it was! When I arrived in Huntsville, there were only a handful of tickets remaining for the two performances. By the time we wrapped up the morning media on Thursday, we were sold out and they were selling “standing room” tickets.
Merrimack Hall is a great space with historical significance. The two people behind this project are Debra and Alan Jenkins…and they’ve hired a great team of people to work with them. What I appreciate most is their commitment to impacting people’s lives through the arts – on and off the stage. One of their programs is called DANCE YOUR DREAMS designed for special needs to kids. You’ve got to check it out – it’s an inspiring project.
While the rest of the team went over to Merrimack hall to load in and begin setting up for the evening performance, I began my Friday morning with a second visit to St. Jude Children’s Hospital accompanied by Hayley and Ashley. As you walk through the door of the hospital, one of the first things you will see is the Wall of Heroes – photographs of children who have won their battle with cancer and are pursuing their dreams. The sign next to their photos reads:
WE HONOR THESE BRAVE CHILDREN WHO HAVE PERSEVERED WITH SMILES, LAUGHTER, AND OPTIMISM IN SPITE OF THEIR ILLNESSES. THESE YOUNG WARRIORS ARE AN INSPIRATION TO ALL OF US AND REMIND US THAT LIFE IS PRECIOUS.
I think it’s important for you to understand that I’m doing more than simply performing for these children when I go to the hospital. There are many clowns and magicians across the country who take their time to do this – and it’s a great cause. But what I do is teach the children some simple tricks so they can perform for their families and friends. Learning these tricks builds their confidence and gives them the ability to do something that most people can’t do. That “gift” helps their self-esteem and self-concept. Just look at Connor when he performed this trick for the group!
After wrapping up at the Children’s Hospital, I was on my way to Merrimack Hall to help the guys with the rest of set up. The day ran very smoothly thanks in large part to the experience of my guys and the professionalism of the technical team, Matt and Ernie. We placed all the illusions, focused lights, and set cues. Before we knew it, we were ready for that first show and dinner was on the table.
We opened the doors early to help move the audience into their seats quickly. The house was packed – Standing Room Only. And the crowd was energetic and enthusiastic! We had some great volunteers on the stage throughout the evening making for a lively show. And in the lobby afterwards, I had the chance to make a lot of new friends…and catch up with some from my past who came to the show. And I met a few of the area magicians as well whose support is always appreciated.
Saturday morning was a very special workshop for some of the DANCE YOUR DREAMS kids and several other special needs children from the community. The HOCUS FOCUS project is designed for kids with physical and mental challenges including Autism and ADHD. We had a wonderful group for the workshop and the next two hours went so quickly, it was hard to believe. They learned lots of tricks and many of them stood before the group and performed. We had several Stars on the stage that morning.
The workshop was held at Merrimack Hall’s dance studio so, when it was over, we didn’t have far to go to get to the stage. The rest of the team arrived right after lunch and we ordered some Thai food before we began getting ready for the second sold out show in Huntsville.
Another great audience for Saturday night wrapped up the perfect three days here. The folks at Merrimack Hall spoiled us! Their hospitality and genuine enthusiasm for their work made it a privilege to be a part of the vision they have for Huntsville. We are already talking about coming back in 2011/2012. Thanks to the entire team for all your hard work! And thank you Huntsville for supporting our show!