One-man star brings his specialty back to UVic

PREVIEW

What: Charles Ross in One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, One-Man Lord of the Rings and One-Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody
When: Oct. 11 to 16
Where: Phoenix Theatre, University of Victoria
Tickets: $26 (250-721-8000)

 

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In the rarefied world of the one-man pop-culture spoof, Charles Ross is a shining star.

Endorsed by Lucasfilm, the Victoria stage actor’s One-Man Star Wars Trilogy has been seen by thousands in London’s West End, Off-Broadway, at the Sydney Opera House … even in Dubai.

Next week, Ross will be one of three solo performers showcased at the University of Victoria’s 50th Anniversary Alumni Festival. The others are monologuist T.J. Dawe and clown Shannan Calcutt.

It’s an honour for these UVic theatre graduates to be included in the festival. The small irony: When he first applied, Ross almost didn’t get into the theatre school at all.

The 42-year-old spoke this week from Manchester, part of a U.K. tour that included a five-show stint at the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Over the phone, Ross recalled applying to UVic’s theatre program 20 years ago. Because he had already been accepted into the university, he moved to Victoria from his home in Nelson.

However, Ross — who had applied late — soon learned the theatre program, which takes relatively few students, was already full.

“I was devastated, man,” he said.

Ross told his girlfriend he would visit the theatre department to plead his case.

“She said: ‘Don’t go crying up to UVic, you’re just going to make an ass of yourself.’ I said: ‘Yes, I’m going to make an ass of myself. But I’m going to do it anyway.’ ”

“I told them: ‘Oh God please, if something comes up, can you give me a bit more consideration? I’m an idiot. I’ve already moved down here.’ ”

Ross spent a “completely bummed out” summer wondering if he’d get into the theatre school. Two weeks before classes, his application was green-lighted. Apparently, someone dropped out.

At UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, Ross will do all three of his solo shows. They are One-Man Lord of the Rings (Oct. 11, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m.), One-Man Star Wars Trilogy (Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and One-Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody (Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Oct. 17 at 8 p.m.).

It will be the first time he has done all of them in a single week. Ross said the opportunity won’t come again. That’s because corporations owning the rights to the brands won’t allow it. Doing them side-by-side diminishes their “marquee value.”

“Let’s say you had Batman against Star Wars, and Star Wars sold out and Batman didn’t. That doesn’t do anything for their brand, right?” he said.

Ross’s stage parodies started 16 years ago. That’s when he created One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, a homage to the first three Star Wars movies. It was followed by One-Man Lord of the Rings, a spoof of the three Lord of the Rings films.

With his latest, One-Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody, Ross spoofs the Dark Knight Trilogy, director Christopher Nolan’s franchise about Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman. All Ross’s shows are tours de force, notable for his ping-ponging impressions, highly physical acting style and sufficient inside references to thrill any devotee.

Ross said he never intended to become a solo performer. But when One-Man Star Wars Trilogy started to get popular, it was impossible to turn down the work.

“I always figured I’d go back to working with other people. But it’s been difficult to segue out of a job that pays, into something that potentially may not,” said the actor, who’s married with a family.

Each of Ross’s shows at the Phoenix will be followed by a talk-back session. As well, he’ll speak with theatre students in classes.

Essentially, his advice to would-be actors is to follow your dream. Show-biz can be a “cutthroat, horrible thing,” Ross said. “You have to really want to do it.

“But if that’s the thing you’re naturally drawn to, then you’ll never ever really be pulled away from it … I think the advice is that you have to listen to your own internal counsel.”

As for Victoria audiences, the best advice might be to buy your tickets now. When Ross did his Star Wars show at the Phoenix in 2007, it was held over for an extra four nights — the longest hold-over in the theatre’s history. Theatre seating had to be expanded by 26 nightly to shoehorn in as many people as possible.

Those attending Friday performances at the Alumni Festival get an added bonus. Actor Jim Leard will do his mini-show, One-Man Phoenix 50th, which takes a humorous look at the theatre department’s early days. (Leard was the first person to graduate from UVic with a bachelor’s degree in theatre.)

Dawe, who has created 14 autobiographical solo shows, will perform The Slipknot Oct. 18 to 22. Calcutt, a Las Vegas-based director/coach for Cirque du Soleil, will perform Burnt Tongue Oct. 25 to 29.

UVic’s theatre grads comprise a who’s who of this city’s theatre scene. They include: Theatre Inconnu founder Clayton Jevne, Story Theatre founder Jim Leard, Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival founder Randy Smith, playwright and former Victoria Fringe Festival artistic producer Janet Munsil, Giggling Iguana founder Ian Case, Theatre SKAM founders Matthew Payne and Ami Gladstone, Atomic Vaudeville co-founder Britt Small and SNAFU Dance Theatre co-founder Ingrid Hansen.

Next year, Ross plans to take his One-Man Star Wars Trilogy to Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, he said he’s honoured to return to his alma mater.

And the fact he almost wasn’t admitted to the program makes it all the sweeter.

“If I hadn’t gotten in, I wouldn’t be talking to you now, that’s for sure … . I feel like a made man,” Ross said with a chuckle.

achamberlain@timescolonist.com

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