Local Arts

‘One Man Star Wars’ boils original trilogy down to its funny bones in one-man show

Charlie Ross of “One Man Star Wars.”
Charlie Ross of “One Man Star Wars.” Courtesy of Blumenthal Performing Arts

Hollywood is full of Canadian actors who crossed the U.S. border to find success in film and TV: Nathan Fillion, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling are a beginning. But success north of the border is a bit trickier for a fledgling thespian.

“There’s not a lot of work for an actor. You have to stretch yourself pretty far,” says Charles Ross. “I tried different ways after university and pretty quickly realized unless you had some of your own steam, it would be a pretty hard slog.”

Ross’ steam came from an unlikely source – his childhood love of “Star Wars.” In 2001 Ross performed a 20-minute set recreating “A New Hope” as a one-man show. The audience ate it up and “One Man Star Wars” was born, expanding from that first film to include all three movies in George Lucas’ original trilogy.

Ross brings “One Man Star Wars Trilogy” to McGlohon Theater for four shows this weekend.

“The main idea was if you have no money to buy costumes or sets, but know ‘Star Wars’ – and a lot of people do – you go up onstage and do your poor man’s version of it. I went into telling the story of the original movie just to see if people could follow it, trying to tell the story as quickly as I could, using just lines from the films and doing my best impressions of the characters,” says Ross. “When I first tried it, it went really well, because it was like watching an 8-year-old kid out in the yard being a ridiculous human being.”

Ross knew the films were a pop culture phenomenon for his generation, but he didn’t anticipate how far his little one-man show could go.

“I underestimated the stretch and influence it had had on people and how much people remembered,” he says. “It’s a pretty common film to have viewed more than one time. You have a frame of reference for almost everybody.”

Part of the “Star Wars” charm is that it was released at a time before streaming, internet, and smart phones.

“Our memories were tasked to remember. We didn’t have instant gratification. We had to remember names and phone numbers,” says Ross. “After I watched (a movie) in the theater as a kid, it was living in my imagination.”

He compares the nostalgia factor for “Star Wars” to the love of a childhood pet or song.

“I happily go back to it,” says Ross, noting that the film formed a sort of bond between generations.

“I met a guy just last week in Milwaukee and he talked about how he and his dad shared a love of ‘Star Wars.’ Before ‘Star Wars’ came out his dad would watch Westerns, swashbucklers, or gangster films. There was never a movie they could both agree on.”

Ross is often asked if he’ll incorporate the rest of the canon into his show, he says, but he doesn’t think it has the same appeal.

“People don’t watch movies the way we used to. There was a time when a film could have a long-lasting effect,” he says. “I have a hard time thinking of anything in the last decade that has that much resonance.”

‘One Man Star Wars’

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Where: McGlohon Theater, 345 N. College St.

Tickets: $19.50-$44.50.

Details: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.