Charlie Ross trades in airfare, cab rides and hotel beds for a 15-minute commute by foot to bring his trilogy of trilogies for a one-week gig at the University of Victoria.
“I can’t think of the last gig I was able to walk to,” said the UVic alum, who kicks off the theatre department’s 50th anniversary Alumni Festival. “I won’t have to do any Skype dates with my family while I’m doing my job, my trilogy of trilogies.”
Over the one-week engagement, the Gordon Head resident performs his One-Man Lord of the Rings, One-Man Star Wars Trilogy and One-Man Dark Knight: A Batman Parody between Oct. 11 and Oct. 17 – billed as the One-Man Marathon.
Ross lands Oct. 10 after wrapping a gig in London; the night after closing at Phoenix Theatres, he opens a two-week showing at Pumphouse theatre in Calgary.
“I’ve lived down the street but I work everywhere else. I very rarely get the chance to work in Victoria, which is crazy.”
In 2000, he and fellow UVic alum TJ Dawe (another in the celebratory one-man marathon) were working with a third friend in Toronto on radio plays for a live audience.
“Star Wars is what I knew best. I thought it would work better as a three-person thing. I gave them the script and they tried to read it and didn’t get what I was going for,” Ross said. They suggested he do it himself. “I thought that’s stupid … it actually did make a lot of sense.”
It harkened back to something he’d learned during work between his second and third years at UVic with a Fringe group in 1994. “The people that were doing solo shows, they were still able to get by. They only had to float their own boat. So it made sense to try this solo with no costumes, no props, no overhead,” he said.
Star Wars took 18 months to gather momentum and hasn’t slowed since.
“This is the analog viral experience. It took a long time but when it picked up …,” he said. “It just seemed like an idea that would run its course very quickly, but Star Wars is beyond what people in any form of industry can anticipate. It continually turns out billions of dollars for all the people involved.
“Lucasfilm got on board and I got licensed by Lucasfilm and that gave this a weird air of legitimacy even though it was still just (me) being ridiculous on stage.”
The One-Man Star Wars “captures the child’s exuberance that we sometimes lose,” Ross said.
His one-man shows are sort of like children and now he has a teen, a tween and a toddler: Star Wars, 16, Lord of the Rings, 11, and the baby, two-year-old Batman. He plays no favourites among them. “They’re all so different. That’s the cool thing about when you start to put together shows, they take a different part of your heart. They really become your children in a weird way and you tend to love your children no matter what.”
Batman took him a bit longer, interrupted by the the 2012 mass shooting inside a Colorado movie theatre during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Twelve people were killed and 70 injured.
“It haunted me. I had a hard time getting past that,” Ross said. “Making this type of show, it’s accessing the little geek inside of you and that just shook me out of my reverie. I had a hard time not thinking about that (shooting). I thought that can’t be the lasting legacy. It’s meant to be fantasy and escape. I’m part of the positive stuff that’s out there.”
Batman, however, is not the one that drains him onstage.
Perhaps predictably, the 12 hours of Lord of the Rings film reduced to the adaptation is significantly longer and more character-riddled than the others. “Lord of the Rings is the one that kicks the crap out of me,” he said.
Despite the challenges, he looks forward to presenting all three within a week at his alma mater. “It’s a lot of different voices, a lot of different heads. … To do all three will be very interesting because they are all slightly different,” Ross said.
Ross’ shows mark the first of three performers in the Anniversary Alumni Festival Oct. 11 to 29 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre. TJ Dawe performs The Slipknot Oct. 18 to 22 and Shannan Calcutt performs Burnt Tongue Oct. 25 to 29.
“It’s weird to think I’ve lived down the street from UVic all these years but I’ve been busy and working. I feel like I’m bringing back more value in myself,” Ross said. “In so many ways Victoria gave me all the opportunities I ever had, not just to act and study acting. I wrote (these shows) here, I rehearsed them here. This is where they begin. So it’s a thrill to be involved.
“I’ve tried to keep my career in such a way that I can make a living but also in a sense honour what came out of UVic at that time.”
Visit www.finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/phoenix for more details and ticket information.