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Charles Ross, the creator of One Man Lord of the Rings and One Man Star Wars, is back on tour after the former show was stalled by, well, The Man. Ross was served a cease and desist letter and had to wait five years while the the Tolkien family’s lawyers decided whether Ross could toy with the Middle Earth epic. For the next month, you can catch Ross’ inimitable 65-minute solo re-enactment of what Peter Jackson took nine—-or in the case of the extended editions, 12—-year to bring to life.
“I’ve always realized: never underestimate the power of trying to convince…people of something that seems doubtful by just giving it to them,” says Ross. In person he’s calm and cool, more stage actor than fantasy nerd, even if in reality he’s both.
“You have to give them the example,” he says. “Explaining it, and they’ll be sort of like, ‘I don’t see how that’s going to work,’ but when you do it, that’s when people go, ‘Oh my God, what a great idea!’ or ‘It’s not that great of an idea. It’s hard to pitch this kind of idea.’ If I had went to Lucasfilm and said, ‘Hey man, I want to do a One Man Star Wars show,’ they’d be like, ‘Well, you can do it in your basement, but don’t ever try it on stage.'” Luckily, Lucasfilms never tried to interfere with his “Star Wars” production. “In the food chain, I’m one of the worms,” Ross says.
His “One Man” series has athletic origins. “We were playing Frisbee, and we were realizing that we were really nerdy, because we would throw the Frisbee and say a line from Star Wars, and before the person could catch it, he’d have to say the line that immediately comes afterward”, explains Ross. “We realized we were total nerds. And originally the idea, I thought, was to do, maybe like a 5-minute Star Wars, a 1-minute Star Wars.”
Ross might be atypical of Star Wars geekery: He doesn’t do memorabilia, for starters. But he’s seen Star Wars: A New Hope hundreds of times.
“The reason why is, I was living on a farm when I was a kid, we didn’t have a—-we had a television set, VCR, but we got no reception,” he says. So, we had three movies, and one was actually just a blank tape of stuff from television, so we would watch that over and over again. And we had ‘Star Wars’ recorded, and, uh, the ‘Blue Lagoon.'”
He continues: “Anyway, I ended up watching “Star Wars” an idiotic number of times. I mean, I would just watch it and drool. I’d turn it on and be doing something else—-like, playing or whatever. It was like the background noise of the television. So, whenever we had the television on, for me, nine times out of 10, it would be “Star Wars.” I guess I absorbed a lot of it by osmosis.”
Hardcore fans always come up to Ross with just as hardcore, if not slightly misguided, criticisms. One man wrote an e-mail saying that the fact Ross was “doing this for a living was evidence of the coming apocalypse. “
Ross, however, seems to have a rather healthy philosophy on his critics. “On occasion, you have somebody come up that tells you that you didn’t get the wording right, and I’m like, that’s why it’s a script, where you sometimes have to adapt things. And it’s a one-man ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, and if you want to make your own, then you can, too. Good luck getting it through Lucasfilms.”
One Man Lord of the Rings runs until August 1 at the Woolly Mammoth.