A lot of people can quote lines from Star Wars, even the entire film, verbatim. Few have turned it into a career. But Charles Ross has, with some refinements.
He was pursuing a more traditional theater career as a producer and actor when he realized that the people who were making money were the ones presenting one-person shows, "because there's no real overhead, so if you could get some butts in seats, you're good."
He and his friend T.J. Dawe noticed that the most successful shows had some sort of a hook.
"A guy we both thought was awesome was this guy ... who did a one-man show about Captain Kirk," Ross says, referring to the iconic Star Trek character created by frequent Lexington visitor William Shatner. "We started yakking on about different things we could do for movies, and Star Wars entered into the conversation."
He took a stab at doing a treatment of the original 1977 Star Wars, thinking it would be five minutes. It turned out to be 25 minutes and went rather well.
"My sense of humor is quite physical, and I knew the Star Wars movies quite well," Ross says. "So I had to get in touch with my inner 8-year-old and just kind of pretend I was all the different characters and retell the Star Wars story chronologically."
Eight was about the age Ross started to engage with the movies while growing up in Canada. At 3, he was a bit young for the first film but remembers getting into it when The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980 and Return of the Jedi debuted in 1983.
"I was young enough to really be obsessed with it but in that way that you really don't think about what obsession is — You love something because you unabashedly love it," Ross says. "I always thought that's what being a geek is all about. When you're a geek, you love something and you can't explain it.
"It seemed like everyone was into Star Wars at the time."
Now, Ross has become part of the phenomenon.
His One Man Star Wars Trilogy has played off-Broadway, on London's West End and even at events held by Lucasfilm, the franchise's production company.
Ross says he was contacted by Lucasfilm when he was presenting the show in Chicago and sent them a video and script. He was invited to Comic-Con to present the show and host the fan film awards. It was there that they got the legalities worked out so he could present and make money from a Star Wars-based show without fear of cease-and-desist notices.
"I couldn't have been happier," Ross says.
In addition to the original trilogy of Star Wars, Empire and Jedi, Ross has developed the One Man Lord of the Rings Trilogy. While he says he has contemplated creating show from the prequel trilogy — The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) — Ross says he doesn't know that there's a market for the prequels or that he has the same feel for them.
"I fell in love with Star Wars, the original Star Wars, naturally; I didn't have to force it," Ross says. "Unfortunately, I now see films with a more critical eye. I can't just sit down and enjoy a film for what it is, which is really quite frustrating, because I've done this with Star Wars, done this with Lord of the Rings."
That said, don't count him among the naysayers doubting the new Star Wars films announced by Disney, the first one being directed by J.J. Abrams and set for release in 2015.
"If I can think of anyone who is going to take over from someone like George Lucas with any hope of it continuing on, you know Disney's going to continue on and put out good stuff so they can keep that fan base alive," Ross says.
And he will do his part too.
Surprisingly, One Man Star Wars Trilogy frequently plays to people who have never seen Star Wars.
"If you're going to have an introduction to Star Wars, it's a fun one," Ross says, "and it certainly takes less time than sitting down and watching the trilogy."
IF YOU GO
'One Man Star Wars Trilogy'
What: Charles Ross's 75-minute presentation of the three films in the original Star Wars trilogy
When: 8 p.m. March 8
Where: Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts Weisiger Theatre, 600 W. Walnut St., Danville
Tickets: $30; available at the box office, by calling 1-877-448-7469 or at Nortoncenter.com.
Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com.