Charles Ross is the ultimate Star Wars fan.
No, he may not have the largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia or the lightsaber skills of a Jedi master. He can, however, perform a solo stage adaptation of the original Star Wars films.
Ross is the mastermind behind “One-Man Star Wars Trilogy,” a 75-minute re-enactment of the three original Star Wars films, running at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts Nov. 16 and 17. Speaking as both the writer and performer of the production, the Canadian actor says his show portrays Star Wars “as it was never intended to be seen.”
“One man, no costume, no set, no props and no talent,” Ross said via email. “I will propel you through the original Star Wars Trilogy in one hour. I play all the characters, fight the battles, sing and hum the music, and I’ll remind you of the wickedly bad hairdos.”
The idea for the show emerged around 1994, when Ross wrote a three-person Star Wars stage script, combining his loves for theater and the Lucasfilm franchise. When his friend and fellow performer TJ Dawe heard about the script, he encouraged Ross to take it to the next level.
“I remember talking with TJ and (remember) him saying I should do a solo version of it, a five minute thing,” Ross said. “But when I tried to write the script, I discovered it would have to be a lot longer than five minutes.”
As Ross refined his script, he continued to receive help from Dawe, who eventually became the show’s director.
“TJ was so very supportive,” Ross said. “I really lacked the belief in the show’s concept. I never thought people could keep up with the pace. (It) turns out I was wrong in the best way possible. I guess that sometimes you need to have someone who believes in you, who sees something in you that you may not (and) who inspires you to be better than you believe you can be.”
The show first opened in 2001 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, as a 30-minute rendition of “A New Hope.” Despite Ross’ worries, the audience loved it.
“They even laughed; I couldn’t believe it,” Ross said. “Even today I have a hard time believing that audiences still keep up with and laugh at the full-length version.”
As the show became popular, Ross began traveling around the world to perform “One-Man Star Wars Trilogy,” visiting cities like New York City, Sydney, Edinburgh and Hong Kong. Eventually, in 2004, Lucasfilm heard about the production and contacted Ross.
“I thought they were going to feed me to the Rancor monster,” Ross said. “Instead, they were curious. They’d heard good things (about me) and wanted me to come and (perform) my show at a sci-fi convention.”
Ross is now licensed by Lucasfilm, though he never thought the show would get popular enough for that to be an option. He even performed at the company’s official movie release convention for “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” Although some Star Wars fans are upset at Disney’s recent purchase of Lucasfilm, Ross is optimistic about the future for the franchise.
“Disney has been entertaining us for decades with extremely high quality family entertainment,” Ross said. “They’re also really good about out-sourcing their productions and bringing in new ideas and new talent. I think that the Star Wars universe will continue to have a chance to expand in a positive direction. I have a hard time imagining better stewards for all things Star Wars.”
Even though the show has been touring for more than 10 years, Ross enjoys performing as much as ever.
“The best parts (of the show) are all the parts, seriously,” Ross said. “There are some characters that I do a lousy impression of, like my Yoda, who sounds like a dying goat. I love to perform the Emperor. He’s such an evil rotten b——.”
He especially appreciates the enthusiasm of his Midwest audiences, calling them “the best Star Wars fans I’ve ever encountered.”
“Is it something in the water, or the beer?” Ross said. “The Midwest sense of humor seems to really dig this show.”
From super-fans like Ross to people who have never seen the films, the force will be strong with all who attend “One-Man Star Wars Trilogy.”