July 2016

by DeeGee Lester/ Director of Education/ The Parthenon

Eddie George’s visit to Rose Park Magnet Middle School. Photograph by Mimosa Arts.

Eddie George’s visit to Rose Park Magnet Middle School. Photograph by Mimosa Arts.

Former Tennessee Titan-turned-actor Eddie George seems to be able to transform himself at will. Like one of Hasbro’s popular toy Transformers that can shift parts and convert from vehicle to robot to weapon, he appears to move effortlessly from Heisman Trophy winner/NFL star to entrepreneur, from community activist to sports analyst, from philanthropist to stage actor.

His latest transformation carries him from Broadway star in Chicago to Arts Education Advocate for the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. A TPAC board member and recipient of TPAC’s 2014 Applause Award, George will be a powerful voice in advocating for greater support and strengthening of arts programs to gate keepers including the Metro School Board, school principals and teachers, Metro government officials, state legislators, and with the broader community.

George recalls being introduced to the arts as a child by his mother. “She took my sister and me on Saturdays to the Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia (the city’s oldest African American Theatre and Performing Arts Training Center). She put us in an environment where we could experience all aspects of life.”

Eddie George performs with students at Robert Lilliard Elementary School. Photograph by Mimosa Arts.

Eddie George performs with students at Robert Lilliard Elementary School. Photograph by Mimosa Arts.

From that beginning, although so much of his focus was on an increasingly successful life in football, George appreciated the role of the arts in his formation as a person.

“The arts reflects life and is a sharing of life’s stories from generation to generation,” he says. “It is a great vehicle to channel emotion. It can also be healing and therapeutic for the actor onstage and for the audience, who can walk out of the theater transformed.”

Eddie George cameo appearance in Dr. Kaboom! Photograph by Timothy Hiehle.

Eddie George cameo appearance in Dr. Kaboom! Photograph by Timothy Hiehle.

The power in any art form lies in truth. “In theatre, my life truly translates to the state of that character, that husband, that father, dealing with his own spirituality and nobility,” he says. “That truthfulness will resonate with the audience.”

George points out that, unlike athletic performance (the use of muscle, protection, and survival in pursuit of an unforeseen outcome), the actor knows the outcome and uses a very different and refined skill set.

“You don’t push for results on stage,” he says. “You allow the story to unfold, letting go of emotions and words, and trusting the people on the stage.”

The ability to enter and see the world through the eyes of another—whether through imagination, play, or performance—expands a child’s world and their capacity for understanding and empathy. Advocating for the opportunity and the right of children to do that is Eddie George’s new challenge and may transform young lives and our community.

For more information, go to www.tpac.org.

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