The One Man Show, Charles Ross: Origins
by Ed Sum
Actor, performer, Charles Ross is more than just a one-man virtuoso. He’s a master storyteller, a bard and a vocal talent that audiences frequently found enjoyable when they go to see his one-man plays. The Charles Ross-A-Thon, where he does a one man show of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, returns this year at the Metro Studio theatre, October 14 and 15th. To keep the subject fresh, his passion is not just born in the understanding of the material.
“I find that they're the big two films that resonate with me,” said Charles Ross.
He goes on further to identify with the bards from another world. They have to memorize huge reams of myth, poetry and song. They’re paid to be history keepers and storytellers. “For as long as they’ve been around, they've become the basis for the one-man show,” revealed Ross, “What the story comes down to fundamentally is a disenfranchised person who's least able to affect much change in his station in life. Like Frodo, a guy that lives in the Shire, or Lucas, a kid from a farm—adventure comes to their front door. It whisks them away.”
Almost like his own life, Ross took a chance when moving to the East Coast, where his wife was finishing off her Arts degree. The adventure for him was to test his meddle, and gain the experience he needs on stage before he could pen the one-man shows. And even then, it wasn’t with some trepidation.
He wrote the script on the basis of what parts are most fondly remembered. In Lord of the Rings, it’d be in nailing the voice of Gollum down so audiences can identify with the movie. In Star Wars, there’s the new trilogy making its rounds and ever since Clone Wars, some fans started to complain about overkill.
“The weird thing about television or film is that if things go just a little bit well, you’ll get the publicity machine behind it. They can hype it up so much that people will get sick of it pretty quickly—myself included,” noted Ross.
But with ten years already passed, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. And the energy that he puts in each of his shows is phenomenal. Like the bards of yesteryear, he knows how to keep it fresh.
“It's not like watching a video,” said Ross, “If you watch a copy of it on video, you won't find it as fresh. I would hate to have people be sick of me or I promise something that can't be delivered. And when you hear me interjecting, that's improvising.”
To get something new, interacting with the audience is important. Often they would ask what’s in store for the future?
“I've been doing this play for ten years and it's hard to look beyond the present. I usually know where I'm going to be in six months to a year in advance,” said Ross.
He doesn’t always have time to develop new material because he’s nearly toured all over the world. The idea of a one-man Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean may not happen, but it hasn’t stopped him from doing the fringe theatre circuit where he performed Sev: The Rise of the Wizard of Bong at the 2009 Piccolo Spoletto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. This year, he was part of the cast in Tara Firm: The Lunar War Chronicles, which played at the Victoria Fringe Festival.
What Ross will do next depends on the opportunities. He’s done some voice over work for Shield Star Knights, an online interactive project for children, but unless the project is something unique for Ross, the reward will not be as satisfying.