Sandra Mallah believes the arts can change lives. She would know. For 40 years, she was a special educator for troubled youth at the Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry where she rose to become school superintendent of the Greenburgh School District.
Children’s Village is a residential treatment center that also provides community-based services to adolescents average ages 15 to 21.
That’s where she first met FaTye, a homeless youth who was living alone in the South Bronx before coming to Children’s Village. This weekend, FaTye will appear in “Big River,” a musical version of Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” opening at the Westchester Broadway Theatre.
Although he had zero performance experience, says Mallah, “He had a flair.”
She noticed when he sang a James Brown song in the school’s annual spring concert, the audience went wild and Mallah was smitten.
“There are no rules for growing up,” says Mallah who began life as a kid from Queens. “Every adolescent is challenged, especially troubled youth.”
She reached out to the Broadway Training Center in Hastings for a summer theater scholarship for FaTye. Jason Brantman, the center’s Co-Artistic Director, cast him as Skye Masterson in “Guys and Dolls.”
One night after class, FaTye walked from Hastings to Ardsley because he had no transportation money. And so it continued, Mallah and her husband, Shel, helping with transportation, tuition, dance shoes and exposing him to Broadway plays. FaTye and Mallah developed such a special bond, that he created a unique name for her: “Mennie,” a combination of mentor and mommy, and a name by which Mallah is now more widely known.
FaTye went on to other theatre programs at NYU’s Tisch School, the American Music and Dramatic Academy and the Family Theatre Company in Thornwood, where he was first cast in “Big River.”
The show was so successful, that Mallah and her husband decided to revive it at the Westchester Broadway Theatre where it opens today and runs through February 26. To purchase tickets and for further info, click here.
Sometimes we quietly wonder to ourselves what one individual can do to change the world. Ask Sandra Mallah.