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How the One Man Star Wars Trilogy Works


Long Ago, in a Frisbee Game Far, Far Away

Charles Ross is certainly a "Star Wars" fan. He grew to love the films, particularly "A New Hope, as a child. "If you grew up in a smaller town, which I did -- it was only 90,000 people -- Star Wars played in the movie theater for a year. And it was sold out for at least half a year, every night it was sold out...We tried to go see it numerous times and couldn't get in. My dad was working on condominiums in Waikiki, and every once in a while he'd take us there, so it was in Waikiki that I first saw 'Star Wars.'" When the film aired on television, Ross recorded it. "We only owned three films. We had 'Blue Lagoon,' 'Shogun' and 'Star Wars'...I watched 'Blue Lagoon' a lot of times, too, but I don't think anybody would come out to see a one-man 'Blue Lagoon.'"

In addition to being a lover of 'Star Wars,' Ross is an actor. When he was 17, he quit his job at a 7-11 store to work as a performer. "I was making less money than I'd been making at 7-11, but I was doing Summerstock theater...It was the sweetest check I ever, ever received, and I thought, 'If I can do this and make a living at it, then there's nothing else in the world for me.' Nothing compares."

Ross's desire to make a living in the world of theater led him to study performance at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. Although he didn't write the "One Man 'Star Wars' Trilogy" until much later, the idea for the show began to form while he was still in college. Conversations and games with fellow student T.J. Dawe eventually grew into the inspiration for the show. While talking about condensing plays down to three minutes, a common task in theater school auditions, the two talked about abridging Star Wars. "Condensing 'Star Wars' down...do you condense it down to a minute? That was the gist of our conversation? Can you imagine trying to make 'Star Wars' into a minute? What would you leave in there? What would you take out?"

The idea for a one-man show also grew, in part, from a Frisbee game. According to Ross:

I think we were trying to add different elements to the game...what we decided we were going to do is...say a line from "Star Wars" and throw the Frisbee. And the next person had to be saying the next line that follows in the film catching the Frisbee. And we played and did this for a long time. Enough so that we realized that, man, we really know this film well.

The conversations and games that eventually grew into the one-man show started in 1994, about seven years before its first performance. Ross wrote the show, and Dawe became its director. We'll look at how the two men pared "Star Wars" down to 58 minutes next.