Legendary Saskatchewan Roughriders running back George Reed was the focal point of many plays during his 13-year CFL career but never quite like this.
On Wednesday, Regina’s Globe Theatre is set to debut a new production honouring the life of the 83-year-old Canadian Football Hall of Famer. The original play titled #34 was commissioned by the theatre as its first performance of the season and will run through Grey Cup week at Darke Hall on the campus of the University of Regina, with production wrapping up on November 27.
Written by Regina-born playwright Munish Sharma, whose father became a massive Riders fan while watching Reed after immigrating from India in the early 1970s, the show is intended to highlight the running back’s life story as an athlete, advocate, and humanitarian. According to the play’s website, the performance will be interspersed with footage and highlights from Reed’s career, creating an immersive experience for the viewer.
Toronto-based actor Jeremiah Sparks has been cast in the lead role of Reed. His previous credits include playing Mufasa in the Toronto production of The Lion King, as well as voicing Music Man Stan on the popular PBS children’s cartoon Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Reed made his way to Saskatchewan in 1963 after an outstanding college career at Washington State. Despite early experiences of racism, he became a fixture in the Regina community and established himself as the best ball carrier in CFL history.
In 13 seasons with the Riders, Reed carried the ball 3,243 times for 16,116 yards and 134 touchdowns. He retired in 1975 as the CFL’s all-time leading rusher, a mark that was not passed until Mike Pringle achieved the feat in 2004.
A ten-time all-star, Reed was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 1965. A year later, he earned the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Player as the Riders took home their first championship. Reed was awarded the inaugural Tom Pate Memorial Award for community service in 1976 and would go on to serve two stints as CFLPA president. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1978 and inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame a year later.
A naturalized Canadian citizen, Reed has made Regina his home and continues to be actively involved in a variety of charitable activities.