His Life, Times and Teachings' stars Jeffrey Hall as Woody Hayes and is slated to run Feb. 16 at the Capitol Theatre.
The legend of iconic Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes lives on around campus, in places like Woody’s Tavern and Woody Hayes Drive, and his likeness now stands as a bronze statue, erected Wednesday, in front of the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility.
While students are reminded of the coach’s impact on OSU with items and locations around campus, former OSU faculty member Walter Adamkosky is bringing Hayes back to life in a different way.
“Woody: His Life, Times and Teachings” is a one-man show written and directed by Adamkosky, slated to take the stage on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre. The play will run just days after Hayes’ 100th birthday, which falls on Thursday.
The play gives a glimpse into the life of Hayes and talks about his focus on education, hard work and paying forward.
“Everything the man did and everything he was about (was reflected in) those three things,” Adamkosky said. “(The play) explains all of that and how he came to be that way.”
Adamkosky was inspired to write a play based on the legendary coach while teaching as an adjunct professor at OSU in the 1980s in the School of Journalism.
“I asked my students what they knew about Woody Hayes,” Adamkosky said. “All they could come up with after a long silence was, ‘Isn’t he the guy that punched that kid?’ and I thought, ‘Uh oh, we’re in trouble.'”
During the Gator Bowl in 1978 Hayes punched Clemson University’s Charlie Bauman after Bauman intercepted a pass against the Buckeyes. Hayes was fired the next day.
After doing extensive research on Hayes and dozens of interviews with past coaches, players and family members, Adamkosky finished writing the play in 2010. Before he started to cast for the role of Hayes, he wanted to get the approval of those closest to the coach.
“I sent the manuscript around to several people I had interviewed and said, ‘I’m going to stop right now if you tell me this doesn’t sound authentic,'” Adamkosky said. “They all called back and said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s him.'”
Adamkosky held auditions for the role of Hayes in 2011, and when Jeffrey Hall came through the door wearing Hayes’ iconic block “O” hat, glasses and whistle, he knew he found his man.
“He came storming into the room and he did the pages and stormed out when he was done, and the cameraman looked at me and said, ‘Need we go any farther?'” Adamkosky said. “Nobody ever came close to him.”
Besides just physically looking like the coach, Hall said playing an icon like Hayes is a big responsibility, and he strives to keep his legend alive.
“If it didn’t come from my heart, it wasn’t going to work. That was my goal, has been my goal and that’s what I strive to do is to bring Woody alive from my heart,” Hall said.
Since its premiere in September 2011, the play has been performed five times in various cities around Ohio.
Many former coaches, players and family members that were close to Hayes have seen the show and are touched by Hall’s performance, Adamkosky said.
“You get this really wonderful feeling when something like this has transcended entertainment, when people come up to you in tears and say they appreciate the show,” Adamkosky said. “It’s very moving when you see the impact that Woody had on people and then to be able to give them that again.”
Adamkosky hopes to broaden the show’s audience and thinks every student at OSU would benefit from seeing it.
“We would love to be a part of First Year Experience,” Adamkosky said. “We think it would be great if every new student learned how to be a success from one of the icons of the university.”
Thomas Shepherd, a third-year in psychology and communication, said Hayes was more than just a great football coach.
“He was obviously a fantastic football coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes, but he also turned the football program into a model for the way people should behave as well,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd thinks the play would give a look into Hayes that many people don’t have the fortune of knowing first-hand.
“I think it would be a very interesting perspective of a historical figure that not a lot of people know a ton about,” Shepherd said.
Hall hopes his performance helps to keep the Hayes’ legacy alive.
“I’m hoping that what I do in the show keeps alive the Woody Hayes legend,” Hall said. “To let people know that education is important, hard work is important and definitely paying it forward is something that everyone should be thinking about.”
Tickets range from $16 to $36 and are available through Ticketmaster.