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Youngstown Playhouse mourns the loss of Joseph Scarvell

Since his Playhouse stage debut in 1958, Joseph Scarvell was involved as an actor, director, board member, patron and audience member for 62 years.
Joseph Scarvell
Joseph Scarvell (photo courtesy of The Youngstown Playhouse)

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Playhouse is mourning the loss of Joseph E. Scarvell, who died Tuesday (Jan. 5) at his home after an extended illness. He was 89.

Scarvell was the longest-serving member of the Playhouse community. Since his Playhouse stage debut in 1958, he was involved as an actor, director, board member, patron and audience member for 62 years.

“It is difficult to describe what Joe Scarvell has meant to the Playhouse family,” John Cox, board president, said in a news release. “He touched so many lives. As an actor, his work was brilliant. As a director, he pushed you, he taught you, he yelled at you and he loved you. He was a boundless energy and a beautifully unique human. Professionally, he is on the Mount Rushmore of the Youngstown Playhouse. Personally, he was my mentor and friend. My heart aches for his wife, Joanne, and their family during this time.”

Scarvell was involved in more than 75 productions at the Playhouse and many productions at other local theaters. He also worked professionally across the country at institutions such as the Peterborough Players in New Hampshire. 

At the Playhouse, Scarvell most recently directed “The Odd Couple” in 2016 and performed in “Fiddler on the Roof” in 2015. He made his Playhouse debut in “Visit to a Small Planet” in 1958, was at the final show at the former Playhouse location on Market Street and was at the first show — “Open House: A Review” in 1959 — at its current location. He met his wife, Joanne, at the theater. The two were married for nearly 60 years. 

After graduating from Farrell High School in 1949, Scarvell earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Youngstown State University in 1955 and a master’s degree in theater from

Kent State University in 1970. He began his teaching career at Farrell High School, where he taught for 13 years before creating the theater arts program at New Castle Area School District, where he taught for 20 years. Scarvell also taught at Kennedy Catholic High School and was an adjunct professor at Youngstown State University, Westminster College, Penn State-Shenango, Slippery Rock-Cranberry and Kent State-Trumbull. 

In 2018, he co-founded the Chrysalis Stage Advanced Performing Arts Conservatory in Sharon, Pa., where he directed a 2019 production of “West Side Story.”

His recent acting credits include Mr. Gibbs in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Judge Taylor in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Henry Drummond in “Inherit the Wind.” His recent directing credits include “You Can’t Take It With You,” “Death of a Salesman,” “That Championship Season,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “A Few Good Men,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Our Town.”

Plans for a public memorial are forthcoming.