May The Fringe Be With You
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Okay, actually just over a decade ago in Kamloops, British Columbia. But for Canadian actor Charles Ross, originator of the Off-Broadway hit One Man Star Wars Trilogy life certainly can feel like you’re in another galaxy sometimes.
It all started back in 1971 when a young, ambitious filmmaker named George Lucas started forming an idea for a western set in outer space. Cut to May 25, 1977 when that film, now named Star Wars, became the biggest film of all time and made Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vader household names. The film and following sequels came to become stitched into the fabric of many a childhood and spawned off a franchise that is still blasting through box office records with staggering “Force.” The recently released Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens skyrocketed to the top of the highest grossing list faster than the Death Star blew up Alderaan.
The original film cost $11 million to make, was filmed in Tunisia, the US and at Mayan Temples in Guatemala, with a cast of dozens and revolutionary special effects. If you’re Charles Ross, however, you don’t need all that. You just need, well, Charles Ross and a little bit of imagination.
Ross, who had seen the original trilogy over 400 times by the age of 10, single-handedly performs the original three films. That includes all of the characters, battles, sounds and even songs done by just one guy with Jedi like talent in about 75 minutes. He premiered the show in Toronto back in 2001 after a trail at the Pavilion Theatre in Kamloops and since then Ross has certainly utilized that encyclopedic knowledge of the trilogy. He’s performed the show over 4000 times!
“There are shows I have absolutely no memory of, others I do,” says Ross. “The first shows are still the most memorable, because like the first memories of a child they were all so new.”
The show debuted Off-Broadway in 2005 to critical acclaim and praise from critics and fans alike. Conan O’Brien called it “immediately accessible” and Spin said the show was even “funnier than you could possibly imagine.”It has played more than 500 cities and the entire ship, complete with lightsabers, Sith Lords, Wookies, Ewoks and all will land in Ottawa for a benefit performance for the Ottawa Fringe Festival.
“We've wanted to bring One Man Star Wars to Ottawa for some time now,” says festival Communications Manager Greggory Clark. “Charlie's show is an exceptional piece of Fringe theatre which has gone on to have super international success.”
Funds raised from the event will go to the coming 20th Ottawa Fringe (June 15-26). Fringe performers keep 100% of their ticket sales, so the fest needs funds to offset the venues and staff costs.
“We could not put on the Fringe Festival if it weren't for fundraisers, plus volunteers, grants and donations,” says Clark.
Clark, a fan of the films himself, looks forward to the show and was impressed by the fact that Ross has the entire original trilogy of films converted to memory.
“Charlie is an exceptionally talented actor and couldn't pull this off if he were not. The man stuns audiences by playing every character with perfect impressions. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything but glowing reviews.”
Ross has performed the show so many times it’s hard for him to miss a beat and be thrown off his focus. This includes even when “Forces” of nature try to intervene.
“An earthquake happened during the middle of the show in San Francisco. I didn't even notice it! Talk about clueless dedication,” he says.
For Ross, the release of the often-maligned prequel trilogy and the slew of new films on the way since Lucas sold the franchise to Disney have only given him new beginnings and attracts new fans.
“I don't know where the story is going- and that's a gift. Star Wars has its own way of giving. Of course, the tickets aren't free, or the toys, but I can live with that.”
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