Canadian marks milestone of the popular One-Man Star Wars Trilogy
Published Friday October 14th, 2011
By MIKE DEVLIN
Charles Ross is feeling the pressure as he nears a major milestone in his career.
Ross is known for his inspired masterwork, One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, which the Victoria resident first performed during the 2002 Toronto Fringe Festival. Thousands of performances later, Ross ranks among the most popular solo performers in the world.
Next year marks the 10th anniversary of OMSWT, an hour-long show in which Ross alone plays the characters from the franchise’s first three films. There isn’t much the 37-year-old Prince George native hasn’t done during his decade-long hit streak, so he’s considering some drastic measures for next year’s anniversary – such as putting the bit to bed.
“What else could I possibly do?” Ross said prior to a recent performance in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “If I could do this show for George Lucas, there would be no point in doing the show anymore. Doing the show for the guy who made the films, it wouldn’t need to go any further than that. It would be a poetic ending to it.”
Barring some face time with the brains behind the Star Wars franchise, Ross probably won’t mess with his formula from the past decade – playing to sold-out audiences from Dubai to Australia, and racking up rave reviews along the way.
It’s a nice living, indeed. But Ross often wonders how long he’ll be able to keep pace with a pop-culture entity which has the potential to continue ad infinitum.
“I’m happy that I don’t have to have another job, and that I’m able to do this. It feels like a prison sentence sometimes, but in a good way.”
Ross is no one-trick tauntaun. In 2004, after the sudden success of OMSWT, he premiered yet another film-based performance, titled One-Man Lord of the Rings. It also proved successful, far surpassing Ross’s dreams and expectations.
He is performing both projects this week at the four-performance Charles Ross-a-Thon, an Intrepid Theatre fundraiser today and tomorrow in Victoria.
Very little about his OMSWT has changed since the original script, which he wrote with help from longtime friend and former UVic classmate T.J. Dawe. Ross says barely a word was changed until the 1,000th show, even though he still considered it to be a work in progress.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better at pacing myself physically with the show. But the original essence is there. New jokes have come up, but Star Wars itself hasn’t changed, so it’s kind of set in stone.”
The biggest development came when he introduced a wireless headset into the mix. Though he abhorred the idea at first (“In theatre, we never trained with microphones, we always used our voices,” he says) it eventually became too practical to ignore.
Ross had started doing twice-daily performances at this point, and he was wearing down. The microphone saved him, to a degree. He has missed only three shows to date; two because he lost his voice and one because he was sick.
He hasn’t become bored with the original films, despite having watched Star Wars hundreds of times. That’s because OMSWT isn’t based on the films themselves, Ross says, but his interpretation of them.
“The films still remind me of being a kid. But weirdly enough, this show reminds me of being an adult.”
Ross pays a per-show licensing fee for both projects, which gives him artistic licence to perform the shows whenever and wherever he wants. He has made full use of his opportunities; Ross has spent seven months on the road this year, including two tours of England. It is an exhausting schedule to maintain, Ross says, but the demand is there.
Occasionally, stars make their way to his shows, Vin Diesel and Ian McKellen – the actor who played Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy – among the most notable to date. Meeting them afterward made him nervous but the experience was ultimately a rewarding one, Ross admits.
“I think your head can drift in the clouds when you meet these types of people, but when you do end up chatting with them for a bit, their heads are firmly on their shoulders. It reminds you that you are not lost to this experience. You can stay grounded, you can stay yourself.”