Actor, fighter pilot, career officer of the Atomic Energy Commission - these are some of the roles Charles T. Edwards has played at various stages of his life.
The most recent part he stepped into is that of president of the Fairfax County Council of the Arts, an organization that seeks to foster the visual and performing arts in Fairfax County. Established in 1964, FCCA is now one of the largest arts organizations in Northern Virginia.
Edwards, who is 58, turned full-time actor and arts administrator after his recent retirement. Shortly after getting his bachelor's degree in metallurgy from Pennsylvania's Lehigh University in 1941 - "the year of Pearl Harbor," he remembers - Edwards volunteered for flight training and went into naval aviation. He was a fighter pilot in the Pacific for three and a half years and after the war was over.
He went to work for the Atomic Energy Commission in 1949, "when it was a really exciting thing, like space exploration became later on," he says. He traces his interest in the performing arts back to an early 1950s appearance in an original musical production staged by the AEC staff.
"We put on a musical called "Nuclear Ship Pinafore" and I played and sang the part of AEC Chairman John McCone. My big number was a tune called 'McCone the Knife,'" he recalls. "That gave me the acting bug for good."
Edwards has been singing, performing and acting in community theater groups ever since, and most recently played the lead in the Reston Player's production of the Paddy Chayefsky drama, "Middle of the NFight." He also did a bicentennial movie last year and people enjoyed the role of President John Adams.
After 24 years as an AEC executive, the Falls Church resident left in 1973 to begin what he called a lively retirement in the arts. Because FCCA is a non-profit community volunteer group only partly funded by Fairfax County, it works with one paid professional staff person to coordinate activities involving more than 165,000 people in the arts in Virginia last year, according to executive director Peggy Amsterdam.
One of the major efforts of the FCCA is their annual International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap, to be held this year on the Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3, 4 and 5.
"I sure hope it doesn't rain on our parade," Edwards said. "It's our biggest source of revenue." The three-day parade is actually more like a three-ring pageant, with more than a hundred performing arts groups and thousands of young performers and artists taking part in acting, singing, dancing, craft-making and production.
It's the end-of-summer occasion that provides children with a shining moment onstage in the professional spotlight. Talented individuals and groups from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia attend auditions held each year for the event, cosponsored by the FCCA, Wolf Trap Foundation and the National park Service.
About eight performing areas at Wolf Trap are used, including a little theatre in the woods, a concert shell and the huge Filene Stage. The Festival is considered a chance for many youngsters appear before broader, more critical audiences. About 15 embassies from Washington are taking part in this year's "If I Had a Wish" theme, making their contribution to maintaining an international flavor.
"Over 25,000 persons attended the International Children's Festival last year," Edwards reports.
FCCA regularly sponsors other events, including an annual Dance Showcase for area dance groups, a concerts in the schools series, and special exhibitions and classes in their new home in Green Spring Farm Park.
Other officers elected recently to serve for the 1977-78 season are C. Clinton Stretch, Falls Church, executive vice president; Leslie V. Dix, Fairfax, vice president and general counsel; Nan Netherton, Falls Church, secretary; F. Robert Weisr, Vienna, treasurer; Irvin Brobeck, Jr., Fairfax, vice president for programs; Barbara Methvin, McLean, vice president for membership, and Etta Mae Sherman, Annandale, vice president for volunteers.