Lynn Nelson Rafferty, a Giant of Local Theater, to Discuss Career

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Lynn Nelson Rafferty has devoted much of her life to portraying characters from plays.

On Saturday, the veteran local actor and Valley icon will take the stage in a different role. She’ll hold court at the Hopewell Theatre at 702 Mahoning Ave. to discuss her 50-year career in professional and community theater.

The unusual event, dubbed “Let’s Talk Theatre – Lynn Nelson Rafferty in Conversation,” is free but reservations are required; call 330 746 5455. It starts at 7:30 p.m.

Rafferty has appeared in more than 100 productions over the years from Youngstown to New Castle, Pa., and beyond. During her talk, she’ll share backstage stories and take questions from the audience.

“It will be an informal thing,” Rafferty said.

The impetus for the event came from Regina Rees, executive director of Hopewell Theatre, after a conversation she had with Rafferty.

During a chat the two had while attending a play reading a few years ago, Rafferty shared many theater stories from the past. “She was saying ‘Do you remember this?’ and ‘Do you remember that?’” Rees said. She told Rafferty that she should tell those stories to an audience, and talk about her career.

Rafferty’s initial reaction wasn’t positive. “I said, ‘Are you serious? Maybe four people will show up for that,’” she said.

Rees brought it up several more times in the years that followed, and eventually Rafferty agreed.

“Now, I’m excited to do it,” Rafferty said. 

The Boardman native has prepared a framework for her talk but wants audience members to feel free to join in with questions at any time so that the presentation can be more of a dialog.

She’ll discuss some of the tougher roles she’s tackled and will be ready to share her experience with student actors.

Rees has prepared photos of Rafferty in some of her most memorable roles and will show them on a screen during the presentation.

Rafferty’s Youngstown Playhouse credits include a 1972 production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”; “Night Watch” (1973); “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” (1974); “Murder Among Friends” (1974), which co-starred Ed O’Neill; “Ring Around the Moon” (1978); and “Come Blow Your Horn” (1963), with the late Oscar nominated actor, and Boardman native, Elizabeth “Biff” Hartman.

She was also the executive director of The Youngstown Playhouse for several years in the 1990s.

As she approaches her 78th birthday, Rafferty remains active in local theater. Her most recent appearance was in The Hopewell’s production of “20th Century Blues” in September.

Before that, she had a memorable role in “Harry’s Friendly Service,” the drama written by playwright Rob Zellers of Boardman that was performed at Youngstown State University in 2017. She played the operator of a burlesque theater in the play, which is set in downtown Youngstown in the 1970s.

After more than a year in which theaters were closed due to the pandemic, Rafferty said she’s proud of the way the local scene bounced back.

“What happened in Youngstown is people came to the aid of the theaters,” she said. “They donated money. They bought season tickets when there wasn’t a season.

“My heart was warmed,” she continued. “It’s a testament to the people of this area.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.