Before the phone interview even starts with actor, writer and one-man stage performer Charles Ross, the niche has has carved out for himself becomes immediately apparent, albeit quite accidentally.
“Which one are we doing? Are we doing Batman? 'Star Wars?' 'Stranger Things?' I don’t know. Which one are we doing right now?” Ross said in regards to the topic of our interview. “It kind of gets a bit of a mish-mash in my head.”
The show for discussion on this particular day happened to be “One Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody,” where Ross affectionately, comically and single-handedly brings Christopher Nolan’s entire “Dark Knight” trilogy to life in the span of an hour in front of a live audience. His show comes to the Bluegrass when he performs at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts in Danville Friday.
Ross , 43, who currently resides in on the west coast of Canada in Victoria on Vancouver Island, spent the early part of childhood growing up in the city before moving to secluded farm country. With a lot of imagination and no television, he spent a lot of time reading fantasy literature but practically wore out a version of the original “Star Wars” he recorded off of television. After moving to Nelson, British Columbia, an artsy community Ross said was home to a mix of “draft-dodger hippies" and “weird redneck people," he was able to unleash his quirkiness and his desire to perform in front of a crowd.
“I guess I was able to embrace the arts and the fact I was isolated and sort of a creative kid, there was this town that allowed me to do these sort of wacky things,” he said.
After graduating from the University of Victoria with a degree in theatre, Ross bounced around the country taking acting roles anywhere he could. At the same time, he was performing one-man shows at different Fringe Festivals in the early 2000s and was working on writing an hour-long, one-man show covering the entire history of film.
As he was writing about his beloved “Star Wars,” he realized he had close to 25 minutes of material on that film alone. After getting laughs performing this material at an open mic night in Toronto — which included recreating the scenes, memorable sound effects and iconic voices of well-known characters without any costumes or props — Ross knew he had something.
“I think people recognize in me that when somebody gets excited about something, they want to tell the whole story all at once to whoever will listen,” he said. “It’s kind of cathartic to be able to do that.”
The success and demand for Ross’ “One Man Star Wars” led to him doing a “One Man Lord of The Rings” based on “The Lord of the Rings” cinematic trilogy. While he went on to create and tour on even more one-man shows based on works of literature and pop culture, he decided to finish his plan of writing a “trilogy of trilogies” by tackling Batman and, more specifically, Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy of films.
While the films starring Christian Bale as the caped crusader were decidedly dark in tone, Ross valiantly attempts (to admittedly varying degrees of success) to embody everyone from the gravelly-voiced Batman to Heath Ledger’s Joker to almost a dozen other male and female supporting characters from Nolan’s three films. Ross’s approach, which re-enacts and occasionally pokes fun at some of the film’s more head-scratching moments, provides plenty of levity while always paying homage.
“A kid doesn’t get stuck on what they don’t do well. They just bash through it with their energy and their exuberance sort of carries their play through,” he said. “When it’s something that’s close to your own heart and you’re sharing your love of it, (the audience) can’t help but feel fully invested.”
As much as “One Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody” and other one-man shows Ross performs are a unique treat for audiences, it allows him to scratch his own fanboy itch while allowing him plenty of creative fulfillment as a writer and performer.
“It’s provided me with an opportunity to have a bit more control over what I do and sort of be able to share the things I love with other people that equally love what I’m on stage actually sort of portraying,” he said. “It’s afforded me a little bit of an independence as an actor because I’m not doing other people’s work, I’m creating my own stuff, which is exciting.”
If You Go
'One Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody'
When: 8 p.m. Ross May 11
Where: Norton Center for the Arts, 600 West Walnut St., Danville
Tickets: $28 to $38