Youngstown Playhouse gets $10K from Lariccia

By Guy D’Astolfo

The gift will fund the Playhouse’s summer productions in Boardman.

The Youngstown Playhouse, which has been struggling to get back on its feet, got a $10,000 shot in the arm Tuesday from local philanthropist Tony Lariccia.

The gift stemmed from an article in The Vindicator about the theater’s fundraising efforts, which are being spearheaded by Dr. John Cox, a local pediatrician.

Lariccia knew Dr. Cox’s father, the late John Cox, for most of his life. The elder Cox, who died in 2006, was a former Boardman Township trustee.

“When I saw the article in the newspaper Monday about what his son was doing for the Playhouse, I had to do something,” said Lariccia. “I called [Cox] up and said, ‘Are you John’s son? He always told me you were going to be a doctor.’ ’’

Lariccia fondly recalled the late John Cox from his days when Cox was a standout center for the Mooney High School football team in the early ’60s. “We remained friends for over 40 years,” said Lariccia.

He presented the check to Dr. Cox at his office at Merrill Lynch in Canfield, where he is a vice president of the stock brokerage.

Lariccia has donated millions of dollars to Mahoning Valley institutions in recent years. He noted that his own stocks took a beating in the last three months but are now starting to turn around.

Dr. Cox is a longtime actor at the Playhouse. He will be directing two productions for the theater company this summer, and is also playing a key role in its Night at the Races in Vegas fundraiser June 20.

Cox said the $10,000 gift will completely fund the two productions, which will be presented at Boardman Center Middle School: “Barefoot in the Park,” which opens July 10, and “Blues in the Night,” which opens July 31.

He said he hopes the donation will spur others to do the same.

The Playhouse, he said, has taken steps to ensure that it is run like a business and never falls into financial instability again.

“We have set the foundation to not let this happen again,” he said. “It didn’t happen overnight. It took about 15 years. But we are addressing the issues so that we don’t get here again.”

Tickets for this summer’s productions have been lowered to $10 from the regular price of $18. The decrease is designed to put the shows within reach of those feeling an economic pinch. Cox noted that movie tickets are about $9.

Faced with plumbing and roof problems, drastically reduced revenue from donations and grants, and a tax lien slapped on it by the IRS, the Youngstown Playhouse has been struggling to reopen ever since it went on a hiatus in October.

It is continuing to negotiate with Christian Revival and Discipleship Center on a deal that would bring the church into the building a couple of days each week on a rental basis.

Joe Scarvell, a Playhouse actor and director for 50 years, accompanied Dr. Cox to Lariccia’s office Tuesday. Scarvell said that the public should have confidence that the Playhouse will spend donations wisely. The institution’s financial progress has not been by accident, he said, giving credit to the board and its president, Rand Becker.

Lariccia was heartened by Scarvell’s remarks in The Vindicator article. Scarvell was quoted as saying he met the woman who would become his wife at the Playhouse and they’ve been married for 48 years.

“I like a long-term marriage,” said Lariccia.

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