Play puts piece of Youngstown history front and center on YSU stage

Harry's Friendly Service, a play portraying Youngstown's culture through the characters of a filling station, opens Friday at YSU's Ford Theater

Harry's Friendly Service takes place at a downtown Youngstown gas station in 1977.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown has been portrayed in books, movies, and songs but this weekend, you can see it displayed on the stage.

Monday evening was the first time the cast of Harry’s Friendly Service rehearsed on Ford Theater’s stage at Youngstown State — a rare collaboration between the university and Youngstown Playhouse.

Harry’s Friendly Service takes place at a downtown Youngstown gas station in 1977 during a strike at the Campbell Works.

The play was written by Boardman native Rob Zellers, who premiered it eight years ago in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a whole new cast, it’s a different director, a different set, a different set design. That’s part of what’s so wonderful about live theater,” he said.

Harry is being played by the chairman of YSU’s theater and dance department, Matthew Mazoraski.

“That tenacity and that gumption, that stick-to-itiveness — you just have to pick yourself up and go on — I see a lot of that reflected in what Harry does,” Mazoraski said.

Lynn Nelson Rafferty has been in 135 plays since 1962. After a hiatus, she’s back on the Playhouse stage as Tina the ticket taker at the Park Burlesque.

“This is great. First of all, it’s about Youngstown, so it’s just fabulous,” she said.

There’s also a plot involving Harry’s long-lost daughter, which gives the play a more serious overtone.

Still, the play portrays Youngstown’s culture through the characters of a filling station.

“I mean, it’s like Youngstown talks. So even though there’s not funny moments, there’s still humor involved in it because there’s good storytellers,” said John Cox, who plays Carmine Carducci. “It’s been very rewarding. I’m really excited to show everybody.”

Harry’s Friendly Service opens Friday at YSU’s Ford Theater in Bliss Hall and runs this weekend and next weekend:

  • March 3, 4, 10, 11 – 7:30 p.m.
  • March 5, 12 – 2:30 p.m.

For reservations, call the Playhouse’s Briarfield Box Office at 330-788-8739.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week, the Playhouse will host a series of events called “Forged in Steel.” On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the WKBN documentary “Gangsters” by former anchor Tom Holden will be shown.

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