Though he is best known for chasing down terrorists and drug dealers on the big screen, actor Danny Glover has long been an advocate for social justice, literacy and the arts.
More than just an action hero, he will focus his sights on human rights when he delivers a narration of composer Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" Sunday night at Emens Auditorium.
As the opening speaker for this year's UniverCity, Glover will appear on stage alongside the Muncie Symphony Orchestra, which, in addition to "Lincoln Portrait," will perform such pieces as "Adagio for Strings," by Samuel Barber, and "We Stand for Freedom," by Ball State professor David Stern.
"Lincoln Portrait," composed in 1942 shortly after the United States entered World War II, is a statement of America's ideals of freedom and social justice.
"It's a piece that includes a little biography of Lincoln, and is one of the great works on how people have no right to enslave others," said MSO musical director Leonard Atherton. "He (Glover) sincerely believes in those themes. It was one of two things he asked he could do with us."
"The whole theme of UniverCity is to champion unity and acceptance," said Judy Kirkwood, executive director of MSO. "Danny Glover's personal views and causes parallel with that very well."
Best known for the "Lethal Weapon" movies, Glover has been acting for more than 20 years. A graduate of San Francisco State College, he got his start working with the Black Actor's Workshop of the American Conservatory Theatre in the mid-1970s.
His early film roles included small parts in "Escape from Alcatraz" in 1979 and "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash" in 1981. He got his big break in 1984 when he starred alongside John Malkovich and Sally Field in "Places in the Heart." Other notable films he's appeared in include "The Color Purple," "Grand Canyon" and "The Royal Tenenbaums."
In recent years Glover has devoted a great deal of time to social issues, and has received honors for his work fighting apartheid in South Africa, and his involvement with international education and arts programs. In 1998 he was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, through which he has raised awareness of the AIDS crisis in Africa.
UniverCity organizers made the decision to bring him to campus last spring. One of the event's themes is community and organizer Beth Turcotte believes that people too often forget that Ball State is part of the larger Muncie community.
"If you live in Muncie or are a student in Muncie, you're a community member," she said. "The river shouldn't divide that."
She hopes Glover's stardom will draw a wide a variety of people to Emens.
"I felt that if we brought in a remarkable talent like Danny Glover, who could reach out beyond what was traditionally thought of as symphony talent, that we would be able to engage a new audience in support of MSO," she said. "So we went through several names looking for someone who would crossover to other areas and he was on top of the list."
"I think a lot of people will be coming out to this performance who have never been to a symphony performance of any kind," Kirkwood said. "The initial attraction, I don't think you can deny, is that the guy who starred in "Lethal Weapon" with Mel Gibson, is in Muncie. But I think that once he begins speaking and once they hear the symphony and partnership with him, the "Lethal Weapon" identification will go by the wayside very quickly. And they will learn that he's a man of talent that goes way beyond those particular films."