Bringing the field to the stage

By Wes Yonts

Jeremy Jarmon is best known for his talents on the football field. Tonight, however, a new play opening at the Guignol Theater will put the sophomore defensive end’s name in lights, shifting his presence from the field to the stage.

“Weak/Side/Help,” a play centered on a fictional college football team, will open tonight at 7:30. The play will address many sensitive issues athletes face today, including steroid use and racism. Tickets cost $5 for students, $10 for UK faculty and staff and $15 for the general public.

Jarmon will be playing the role of Tyrone, a black back-up quarterback who, because of his race, gets blamed for selling steroids to his teammates.

“There’s a lot going on when you talk about issues of race in sports, the sort of ethical questions about steroids use,” said Richard St. Peter, the play’s director and adjunct theater professor. “There’s questions about journalistic ethics and what’s the role of the journalists. This play is really ripped from the headlines. It’s not set at any particular university or college … but it could be anywhere.”

Tonight’s performance of “Weak/Side/Help” is also the play’s world debut, St. Peter said. It was written by a new face on the theater scene: 23-year-old Andrew Shafer. The play was picked as the winner of the James Rodgers Playwriting Competition, an international contest UK holds every two years for playwrights under 30.

Shafer worked closely with everyone during the production of the play and even hand-picked Jarmon for the role after seeing him in an ad that aired during this year’s LSU game where Jarmon read some lines from “A Few Good Men,” a play that he acted in during high school.

Between spring training, rehearsals and classes, Jarmon said this semester has been a real balancing act for him. He is on track to graduate this fall, and said he was offered a summer internship with the FBI.

“So trying to balance that out, getting all the paperwork and the requirements and everything for that, with practice as well as with play rehearsals, it’s been a very difficult semester for me,” Jarmon said.

But that has not stopped Jarmon from immersing himself in the role.

“He’s committed himself to the show,” said Alex Koehl, a theater freshman who plays the role of the quarterback, Bill. “All of us kind of had our questions about it, like ‘aw, they’re going to bring a UK football player into it, he’s going to try out,’ but I couldn’t even think of anybody else to do the part.”

St. Peter was enthusiastic about Jarmon as well.

“He reminds me of a young James Earl Jones,” St. Peter said. “He’s got a really rich, strong baritone voice, he can fill a room vocally fairly easily, he has a very commanding presence because he’s 6’4, 280 pounds and if he wanted to be serious about it, he could be a good actor.”

Not only has Jarmon won the respect of his teammates on the stage, but his teammates on the field are excited to see him perform, as well.

“That’s really being versatile,” said back up defensive end Josh Minton. “Coming out here on the field and being tough, but then being able to kind of bring an emotional side out and act and perform — I really respect him for that.”

The play will be shown through Saturday, and again from April 17 through April 20 at 7:30 p.m.