One of the joys of writing my blog is getting to know outstanding people like the extraordinary Melinda O’Brien, a caring, charismatic, and quiet part-time staff member and Yorktown native who for the past five years has been the program coordinator of the adult and arts programs at the .
Melinda said, “We have a core of about 200 people that regularly attend our programs, from theater to music to finance and crafts. Once people know what great programs we offer, they return to some and try others.”
News of Melinda’s programs has spread to other Westchester Libraries and with characteristic generosity, Melinda shares them. In the brief 16 hours she devotes to the library’s programs, Melinda has cheerfully taken on the additional responsibility of assisting in updating the Hart website www.yorktownlibrary.org and coordinating the library’s Constant Contact e-mailings.
There’s so much I want you to know about just one of Melinda’s library programs, that I’m forced to hold my tongue for a little while before putting you in the picture about her co-founding and partnering with husband, Mike Muldoon, her “Yorktown High School sweetheart,” their flourishing and marvelous M&M Productions Acting Company, Inc. Melinda said, “We began in 2000, committed to developing quality, live theater and bringing it into intimate settings throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond.”
Please be patient, I’ll get to that story, too, but first things first.
One of Melinda’s most recent accomplishments in the library’s adult programming is an indelible marker of her over-all initiative, thoughtfulness and talent. Melinda is the force behind the wildly popular and free workshop “The Family of Women: A Creative Writing Adventure into the Journey of Women’s Lives” run by the teaching-artist Mary Crescenzo. Melinda learned of the emerging field of “creative aging that focuses on the positive and powerful role of the arts in enhancing the quality of life for older Americans.”
Building on her previous success in receiving a grant for a writing program through Lifetime Arts, Inc. of Westchester County, that was “a hit,” she wrote and received the competitive grant Creative Aging in New York State Libraries: A Regional Model with National Applicability from the United State Institute of Museum and Library Services with support from the Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation. Approved by a panel of experts representing the arts, aging and libraries, the program is open to those 55 and over , held on Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. beginning on Sept. 7 and concluding on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. with a public reception and reading of select works.
Melinda pointed out “the grant covers all the costs of the program, except my hours and the use of the community room. The funds cover the cost, primarily, of the workshop leader. Participants bring bag lunches and are welcome to remain an additional hour to either write or socialize.”
Now I can tell you about Melinda’s other passion, M&M Productions. I found out that behind Melinda’s gentle smile, calm expression and quiet focus on the task at hand is a creative, compassionate, dedicated artist/entrepreneur who succeeds brilliantly at whatever she sets out to do. Here’s a whirlwind history:
With an MBA in hand, Melinda spent 20 years in the corporate world. She left her position as Director of Logistics for Mitsubishi Chemical America to reinvent herself in a whole other world.
Melinda explained, almost bashfully, “I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Parsons School of Design and have always been interested in art and theater. I decided to make theater my second career.” She worked for two years for the White Plains Performing Arts Center when it was just getting organized, until she felt she could succeed in a theater production company of her own. With quiet reserves of strength along with the support, interest, and encouragement from Mike, she incorporated M&M Productions and they hit the road running.
In the 2000 inaugural season this amazing husband and wife team presented a one-man performance of Mr. Dickens tells a Christmas Carol. In 2002, the performance of the play Art by Yasmina Reza was named “Best Short Production” at the 43rd Annual Theater Association of New York State Festival and went on to represent NY State at the Eastern States Theatre Association’s Festival in Maryland the following year.
Only three years old, the company was featured in The New York Times for its “sizzling staging of Dinner with Friends.” Success built on success, and the company was showered with accolades and awards. In 2009, M&M was selected as Westchester Magazine’s “Best of Westchester for Theater.” As of now, with a mixture of pride, humility, and delight, Melinda said, “We’ve had over 70 productions. We’ve traveled to more than 55 venues in the Hudson Valley. We really do continue to tickle, shock and inspire audiences. We produce classics and contemporary plays. We continue to develop new works. For Mike and me, for M&M Productions, all the world is truly a stage.”
Of course, I raced to my computer as soon as I could and clicked on the website www.mmpaci.com to find the 2012 schedule. The next performance is Love, Loss and What I Wore by Nora Ephron, on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1:30 p.m. at the Suffern Free Library, 210 Lafayette Avenue in Suffern, NY.
As if entrepreneurship isn’t enough, as if a demonstrative talent for successfully integrating writing, literature, and the performing arts with a genuine concern for people, isn’t enough, Melinda is on the board of YCP TheaterWorks, the local community theater group and the Amawalk Hill Cemetery Association. She volunteers weekly with the town of Yorktown and the SPCA in the Trap/Neuter/Spay Release Program for Feral Cats.
I feel so fortunate getting to know Melinda. I’m in awe of her accomplishments and I am grateful that she represents all that is wonderful about our library and our community. As a Yorktown resident, I’m thrilled to learn that I can turn to her in another capacity. I have a feral cat that hangs around my house. I have bird feeders out, so I guess that’s what attracts him. Anyway, whatever the reason, yesterday he was in my garage, resting on the top of my black car. As soon as I entered, he leapt onto the hood, then the floor and quickly disappeared. I’m confident that when I tell my story to Melinda, she’ll be able to tell me what to do that is humane, caring, and successful.
Everything she’s accomplished whether Hart library programs, M&M theater productions, board member and volunteer comes from her heart. Success follows.