While the original Star Wars trilogy required millions of dollars in special effects, countless cast and crew members, and years of filming, one man has managed to bring all three of these science-fiction classics to the stage.
But Charles Ross isn't backed by a production company, a cast, a crew or a special-effects team. He uses nothing but black clothing, knee and elbow pads, a spotlight and his vivid imagination.
From Luke Skywalker to Chewbacca and from Darth Vader to R2-D2, Ross, 33, has made a living impersonating every Star Wars character's mannerisms and voices and acting as both narrator and background orchestra in his One Man Star Wars Show, which will come to D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre on Tuesday.
In his humorous, high-energy, hourlong spectacle, Ross relies on a lot of off-putting, spastic movements and self-produced sound effects that would make you wonder whether he indulged in one-too-many espressos backstage before the show.
"It's a weird cross between a dance and a run," he says. "You have to push yourself at times and hold back on others."
He has been performing his comedic, tongue-in-cheek homage for more than five years with great success.
He has received rave reviews from celebrity fans Sir Ian McKellen and Vin Diesel and was even invited to perform at Lucasfilm Ltd.'s official movie release convention for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Although Ross had to practice and tweak his routine before taking it to stage, his one-man performance flourished naturally.
"It wasn't really about honing a particular craft," says Ross, who also performs a one-man Lord of the Rings show. "It's about intuition and knowing that you have something right when you first start doing it."
The Canadian actor had decent training for such a career early in life. He spent his childhood the same way as many self-described "nerds." To escape the slow pace of rural living in Nelson, British Columbia, Ross watched each film in the original Star Wars trilogy hundreds of times, memorizing every one of the film's minor details.
Ross saw Star Wars: A New Hope during a trip to Hawaii with his parents when he was 5 years old and was hooked from the start. "I knew that Star Wars was already huge. It was like being a part of a club that the world already had membership to," he says. "I continued watching the movies because there was something comforting about getting away from a farm and being able to go to space."
While some question whether performing the same show would get repetitive, Ross says every show is different because of the diverse audiences throughout the world. His favorite part is discovering how differently each audience perceives humor.
The mood and energy of each audience also force him to adjust his pacing of every performance. He will often stand behind the curtain a few minutes before showtime to gauge their level of interest and anticipation.
"If the audience is lively and laughing, it's gonna be a good show," says Ross. "Either way, I can tell in the first three minutes if the audience is going to be into it or not, and that will set the pace for the rest of the show."
Ross is writing another one-man show loosely based on his life experiences.
The new show is a coming-of-age story that will follow a teen working as a 7-Eleven employee who has a medieval alter ego who fights demons and unruly customers.
"It's very Beowulf," he says.
"The One Man Star Wars Show" will run Tuesday-Dec. 30 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. N.W., Washington. There will be no performances Dec. 25-26. Showtimes vary. Tickets are $28-$32. Call 202-393-3939 or go to woollymammoth.net.