Construction Project Forces Hopewell to Postpone Season-Opener ‘Steel Magnolias’

YOUNGSTOWN – With its public entrance undergoing reconstruction, The Hopewell Theatre has been forced to postpone the start of its season-opening play, “Steel Magnolias.”

The comic drama was scheduled to open Friday, Aug. 19, for a two-weekend run of five performances.

It will now open Oct. 28. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and 29, and Nov. 4 and 5; and 2 p.m. Nov. 6.

The theater at 702 Mahoning Ave., just west of downtown, is in a former church building that was built in 1899. It is receiving a handicapped-accessible ramp and an accompanying concrete staircase at its front entrance.

The building currently does not comply with accessibility requirements, and the improvement has been one of the theater’s goals for many years.

Construction of the project began this summer by Doran Concrete of New Castle, Pa. The project’s total price is well in excess of $50,000, said Regina Rees, director of the theater. The money was raised over the years from theatergoers, patrons and events, as well as a $25,000 Shuttered Venue Operators Grant received from the federal government during the pandemic, Rees said.

The Hopewell will next turn its attention to raising money for its next improvement project: improving the bathrooms.

The postponement is the second for “Steel Magnolias,” which was originally scheduled to open in early August but was moved back to Aug. 19 because of the construction.

For this weekend’s shows, the theater had intended to utilize a side door that leads to the basement, but had to scrap that plan.

Currently, a steep concrete staircase leads to the theater entrance doors. When the project is complete in October, a wheelchair ramp will angle across the front of the building in two legs, ending at the present front door. There will also be a new staircase.

 The Hopewell is also planning to add parking on the west side of the building, which is currently a grassy lawn with some trees, Rees said.

“Steel Magnolias,” written by playwright Robert Harling, is set in a beauty salon in a small Louisiana town in the 1980s. A group of women gather there to get their hair done and also talk and support each other through good and bad times.

It was made into a hit film starring Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton and Olympia Dukakis in 1989.

The Hopewell production features a veteran cast of Pat Foltz, Stephanie Cambro, Elise Vargo, Maria Petrella-Ackley, Jeanine Rees and Emilia Sherin, and is being directed by Matthew Mazurowski. The entire cast has been retained for the rescheduled dates, Rees said.

Tickets are $15 ($12 for seniors and students) and can be purchased in advance at hopewelltheatre.org or by calling 330 746 5455.

Pictured at top: The concrete staircase leading to the entrance of The Hopewell Theatre has been removed as work continues on the construction of a handicapped-accessible ramp.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.