New Phoenix season offers comedy & drama

Great theatre always transcends a story’s political, social and economic context to speak to the human condition — and this season, the Phoenix is exploring ageless plays that continue to speak to today’s world. From lighthearted comedy to searing drama, the Department of Theatre‘s 2019/20 mainstage season has something for everyone.

Weaksauce

Sam Mullins

It all kicks off in the fall with the annual Spotlight on Alumni, this year featuring Sam Mullins (BFA ’08) and his solo monologue Weaksauce and Other Stories (October 9-19). Written and performed by this two-time Canadian Comedy Award-winner, Mullins has been described as a “master storyteller” (Winnipeg Free Press) and the”Stuart McLean of the millennial generation” (Toronto Star).

Weaksauce is the story of the summer Mullins turned 16 and left home to work as a camp counselor . . . only to be blindsided by the first great romance of his life. This achingly angsty and tender coming-of-age story is a comedy of first times, second chances and third wheels. Now, half a lifetime (and an incalculable number of romances) later, Sam will also premiere a new story about the bleary-eyed joys of fatherhood. Like his other award-winning shows Tinfoil Dinosaur, Grandma’s Dead and The Untitled Sam Mullins Project, Sam brings unflinching honesty, vulnerability and big laughs to his latest work. (Some coarse language: suitable for ages 16-plus.)

Othello

Following that is Shakespeare’s classic Othello (November 7-23). Directed by Theatre professor Brian Richmond, although Othello was written over 400 years ago, its disturbing portrait of a world infused with racial politics, misogynist social structures and treacherous friendships makes it feel like it’s been ripped from today’s headlines.

“Although undoubtedly one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, Othello is fascinating to approach in an era where our theatre culture has become so intensely interested in the question of diversity,” says Richmond. “As controversial as it is brilliant, my hope is that we will build a production that tackles the question of ‘Is Othello a racist play?’ with openness and integrity.”

Othello and Desdemona are lovers from very different worlds: Othello a mighty General from a foreign land; Desdemona a beautiful Senator’s daughter. They marry, undeterred by the prejudices that surround them. But no sooner are their vows sealed than their love is put to the test, as bigotry, envy and jealousy begin to pull them apart. Playing on Othello’s insecurities as an outsider in a predominantly white society, the charming but envious Iago—an Ensign and a trusted advisor—stokes the flames of his commanding officer’s jealous nature. In doing so, Iago brings both the lovers, and the world they live in, to the point of utter collapse. In its raw emotions and ruthless politics, Othello remains an ageless and poignant tragedy. (Scenes of violence and domestic abuse: suitable for ages 15-plus.)

Comic Potential

After the winter break, Phoenix is back with Comic Potential by Alan Ayckbourn (February 13-22), directed by Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz. Considered one of the funniest and most inventive plays by Britain’s grandmaster of comedy (perhaps best known for A Chorus of Disapproval, but also the author of a remarkable 79 full plays), this romantic sci-fi satire is set in the foreseeable future, when actors are replaced with convincingly lifelike robots known as “actoids.”

“Like all of Ayckbourn’s work, this is a finely crafted and very funny comedy,” says Alexandrowicz. “To imagine a world where human actors have been replaced by robots is both a hilarious send-up of the way actors are perceived, but also an intriguing proposition: if what actors do is to reproduce behaviour, why not invent human-like equivalents to do it with programmable precision and predictability? The proposition is complicated by the fact that they work both better and worse than humans: they have all these hilarious glitches, but it’s the malfunction of one of them that makes her both more interesting as an actor who can offer something original to performance.”

Adam, an aspiring young writer, visits a TV studio to meet his idol, Chandler, the director of a never-ending hospital soap opera who was once a great movie director. On set, Adam discovers the charming android Jacie Tripplethree (serial number JCF 31333) and realizes that the programming glitch that makes her laugh hysterically also makes her more human. Adam and Chandler start developing a new TV show for Jacie to star in, but the studio executives aren’t convinced. Will Adam lose his heart to a robot? Will his show get the green light? Will love prevail? Tune in to find out! In the age of today’s virtual online assistants, this wickedly funny satire from 1998 reads like a cautionary tale of the rise of artificial intelligence. (Some coarse language: suitable for ages 14-plus.)

The Children’s Hour

The final show of the season is Lillian Hellman’s classic drama, The Children’s Hour (March 12-21). Directed by Theatre professor Peter McGuire, The Children’s Hour is set at a prestigious all-girls boarding school in a small New England town in the months preceding WWII. When a vengeful pupil whispers a rumour that the school’s headmistresses—lifelong friends Karen and Martha—are having an affair, it triggers a devastating chain of consequences, entangling their entire school in this toxic story of deceit.

At the peril of destroying their careers, their relationships, and their lives, Karen and Martha courageously risk public shame and fight for the truth to be heard. Written in 1934, Hellman’s potent exploration of the power of lies—and the culture of fear which allows them to thrive—remains startlingly relevant in our era of “fake news” and online deception. (Suitable for ages 13-plus.)

You can subscribe to all four shows for just $56 or 3 plays for $42. Tickets are available both online and via the box office at 250-721-8000.

Congratulations, Class of 2019!

June 14 is convocation day and the Faculty of Fine Arts is very excited to welcome 224 new graduates to our alumni family! Here is a quick glimpse into our diverse group of graduates:

Together with the new class of grads, you are part of an expansive network of over 8250 alumni. Given that you’re graduating on the cusp of Fine Arts celebrating our 50th anniversary as a faculty, there are many reasons to stay connected.
We are always interested in hearing about alumni accomplishments—please do keep in touch as your career develops, and let us know if you have any events or honours to celebrate.

We had another creatively inspiring year in Fine Arts. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Alumni success

Nathan Medd (photo: Andrew Alexander)

A cultural non-profit leader whose work is devoted to developing the performing arts in Canada, Nathan Medd (BFA ’01) is currently Managing Director of Performing Arts for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the nation’s largest arts training institution and incubator of new works. This year, he was honoured with the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award. Read more

Celebrated novelist and Writing grad Esi Edugyan (BFA ’99) soared to new literary heights this year by becoming only the second author in Canadian history to win two Giller Prizes — first for 2011’s Half Blood Blues and now for 2018’s Washington Black, which is also currently in development as a limited run TV series. Read more

Student success

Laura Gildner in her studio

Graduating Visual Arts student Laura Gildner was shortlisted for the Lind Photography Prize, mounted a solo photography exhibit at Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery and staged work at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. She also won the Victoria Medal for the highest undergraduate GPA in the faculty. Read more

Members of the School of Music’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble were thrilled to have the opportunity to sing the music of iconic rock band Queen when the Victoria Symphony presented their Best of Queen concert this spring. Read more

Using her paintings as inspiration, graduating Visual Arts MFA Claire Scherzinger teamed up with School of Music students to create the new science-fiction podcast project Arca-45672. Scherzinger used her paintings as inspiration for the nine-episode sci-fi audio drama, which cracked the top-100 arts podcasts on iTunes Canada its first week. “The reason I do what I do is I’m interested in the future and thinking about the future,” Scherzinger told CBC Arts in this interview. “How can we use metaphors to think about how we exist today as colonizers, as destroyers of the environment? That’s really important to me.”

Faculty success

Kirk McNally (School of Music) oversaw the installation of the new CREATE Lab and recording studio for music technology students, dedicated to the art and science of listening. Read more

Carey Newman (Visual Arts) made history twice this year by seeing his Residential School memorial sculpture The Witness Blanket entered into the permanent collection of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and in seeing the piece designated as a living entity that honours the stories of the survivors. Read more

Bill Gaston (Writing) won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for his story collection, A Mariner’s Guide to Self-Sabotage — one final honour before he retires at the end of this academic year. Read more

Cast of The Drowsy Chaperone

Jacques Lemay (Theatre) led the student team behind The Drowsy Chaperone to create a smash hit show that resulted in a sold-out, held-over run — and one of the most popular Phoenix shows in recent memory! Read more

Carolyn Butler-Palmer (Art History & Visual Studies) consulted on the new $10 bill featuring Canadian civil rights leader Viola Davis, which means you can see the influence of our faculty whenever you get one of the new bills. Read more

Donor impact

Our generous donors gave over $1.8 million in 2018/19, with 45% of that coming from Fine Arts alumni. Overall, we distributed $709,621 to students last year via donor-funded scholarships and bursaries.

Theatre student Emma Leck became the inaugural recipient of the Spirit of the Phoenix Award, named for the late Phoenix student Frances Theron.

With the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Fine Arts coming up in 2019/20, we would love to hear your thoughts on how we can continue to engage with our alumni in significant ways. Convocation is a day for making meaningful memories—we hope that the culmination of your student years marks the start of our new relationship as alumni and colleagues.

Diving deep: meet the alumni driving Hakai Magazine’s sea change

Whether it’s jellyfish in space, sloths in the water, hidden Hawaiian birds’ nests, shell money in Papua New Guinea, or a catch-and-release community aquarium on Vancouver Island, the world of water conjured up by Hakai Magazine is rich, complex and highly readable.

The online magazine is dedicated to exploring science, the environment and society from a uniquely coastal perspective—and it’s powered by an energetic team of UVic alumni, including a computer engineer, a marine biologist, an anthropologist, a historian, a composer and a writer.

Hakai Magazine was started up by two UVic grads and launched in April 2015. “Nobody else was doing this, focusing on an ecosystem that ties half the world’s population together,” says editor-in-chief Jude Isabella (MA ’13).

Hakai: rhymes with “sockeye”

Hakai’s alumni editorial team: Garrison (far left), Isabella (2nd from right)

Part of the Tula Foundation—which also finances the Hakai Institute, a scientific research centre based out of a former fishing lodge on Calvert Island (about 400 kilometers north of Vancouver)—Hakai Magazine remains editorially independent. Both the magazine and the institute are named for the Hakai Pass, located within the Hakai Lúxvbálís Conservancy, one of the largest protected marine areas on Canada’s west coast, and made possible by BC tech entrepreneur, multimillionaire and Tula founder Eric Peterson and his wife. Dr. Christina Munck—who received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from UVic in 2017.

The ad-free online magazine mixes long-form, science-based journalism aimed at a general readership with news and video features into one glorious digital package that is updated weekly, filling a gap for readers—and writers—left in the cold.

But it’s not like Isabella simply stepped into her job as Hakai’s editor-in-chief. She was managing editor of the popular Canadian children’s science magazine YES Mag before it was unexpectedly shut down in 2012. Indeed, prior to a prescient conversation between Isabella and Tula’s Peterson, Hakai Magazine didn’t even exist.

“I was working on my book [and UVic thesis] Salmon: A Scientific Memoir during the first few years of the Hakai Institute, and I kept crossing paths with Eric and Christina,” recalls Isabella. “We had zeroed in on the same scientists who were doing really great work on the coastal margin, and they liked what I’d been writing for The Tyee. But it was getting hard to get your story told when there are fewer outlets to tell it.”

In 2014, Isabella was visiting the Hakai Institute while writing a story for the UK’s New Scientist magazine and was talking to Peterson about the number of media outlets that were shutting down. “Most of my own freelancing was for American and British publications at the time,” she says. And although the Tula Foundation had supported other writing initiatives in the past (“they believe in journalism as a cornerstone of democracy”), it was still a surprise to Isabella when Peterson proposed a new venture. “He said, ‘Let’s start our own mag’—or something like that—so I said, ‘Sure, if you’re serious, I’ll get a proposal to you’.”

Who ya gonna call?

Her first call was to long-time colleague Dave Garrison, publisher of YES and KNOW for over 16 years. “Who else was I going to go to?” she chuckles. “He’s a great organizer and a great publisher; you really need someone who’s good at the process side of things to get a magazine off the ground.” They quickly put together a pitch “and pretty much the day after they read it, [Peterson and Munck] said, ‘Let’s do it!’”

Garrison—who started his publishing career as a Martlet co-editor in 1994—was working for the Victoria-based activity-listing site, Chatterblock, at the time, but didn’t hesitate at the idea of starting up another magazine. “It’s rare to have the opportunity to start something from nothing,” he says.

With Garrison and Isabella filling out the slots of publisher and editor-in-chief, they quickly recruited Shanna Baker (BA ’06) as senior editor, Adrienne Mason (BSc ’88) as managing editor, Tobin Stokes (BMus ’89) as manager of social media and marketing, plus Shannon Hunt (BA ’90, MA ’93) as proof-reader—meaning half of the current Hakai editorial team are UVic alumni.

Garrison and Hunt had already enjoyed success starting up the children’s science publications YES and KNOW together—and received UVic Distinguished Alumni Awards in 2006 to recognize their achievements. Mason had been managing editor of KNOW (aimed at younger children), so along with Isabella, much of the new team already had years of experience in producing science news together.

History inside and out

Hakai’s “Death of a Modern Wolf”, written by former UVic student JB MacKinnon, won a National Magazine Award

Based out of an open-concept office on the ground floor of Victoria’s historic Customs House overlooking the Inner Harbour, the Hakai team exemplify both the ethos and concept of the magazine itself: passionate, coastal people who are working together to tell important stories that could potentially change the world.

“Christina and Eric believe in journalism, so we were given a job to do and we’ve done it well,” says Isabella. “We aim high . . . if you don’t have to worry about constantly fundraising, you can put all your efforts into making excellent product.”

Excellent is right: over the past four years, Hakai Magazine has won over 25 Canadian and international awards not only for what they publish (including two prestigious National Magazine Awards) but also for their chosen medium (17 online and digital publishing awards).

Now on his third magazine start-up, Garrison clearly feels Hakai offers something special. “Hakai is more of a calling, almost a creative pursuit,” he says. “Anything can be called a business, in the sense of pulling people together and getting things done, but we’re not trying to make money; we’re just trying to put our stories in front of as many readers as possible.”

And it seems to be working. Freed from the limitations—and expenses—of a traditional print product, Hakai Magazine is attracting a global readership: 2018 saw a monthly average of 95,000 visitors, up from 39,000 per month when they launched in 2015. Seventy percent of their readers hail from Canada and the US, with the UK and Australia the next biggest audience, followed by India, Germany, France, Philippines, New Zealand and the Netherlands. “In fact, Google Analytics reports at least one visitor from 237 different countries in 2018,” says Garrison, “so arguably we had a visit from every single country in the world.”

The magazine has also earned fame for their puns, with headlines like “Hey, Beacher, Leave Those Fish Alone,” about reckless beachgoers in California who disturb little fish called grunion—because who says getting informed can’t be fun? Readers can also expect professional-quality videos and comics on subjects like a “Cuttlefish Brawl.”

As sea levels and temperatures continue to rise, the idea of creating an accessible, sustainable, paper-free magazine dedicated to coastal peoples and science worldwide seems less of a risky idea and more like a necessity. No surprise, then, that Hakai Magazine was the brainchild of two UVic graduates—and that the magazine regularly features UVic research.

“All you can do is put the stories out there,” says Garrison. “Raising awareness makes a difference.”

Alumni filmmakers Jeremy Lutter & Ben Rollo embrace the dark

UVic’s Writing department does a brisk trade in filmmakers, thanks to an award-winning range of alumni directors, producers and screenwriters. But while most focus on creating dramas, thrillers and rom-coms, long-time collaborators Jeremy Lutter (BA ’05) and Ben Rollo (BA ‘10) are drawn to the darker side of life.

Broken Mirror Films duo Jeremy Lutter (left) and Ben Rollo

Consider The Hollow Child, a 90-minute horror movie directed by Lutter and written by Rollo about children who go missing and then come back . . . changed. It’s captivating, it looks great and, most importantly, it’s downright creepy.

“Genre filmmaking is kind of a dirty word in Canada but The Hollow Child was easy to pitch because people understood it,” says Lutter (which rhymes with “butter”). “Horror has a certain kind of language that’s easier to explain.”

Rollo suggests their film appeals on the same level as a dark fairy or folk tale. “Jeremy and I have always been attracted to the fantastic, and we liked the idea of marrying that to horror,” says Rollo. “The story had its genesis in a conversation about how spooky it would be if someone you knew well disappeared and then returned different.”

Citing early influences like The X-Files, Edward Scissorhands and filmmakers David Lynch and David Fincher, Lutter says it was a short hop from “the idea of imposters and foster kids and people who were self-destructive” to an “under- utilized monster” like a changeling. “You need to know enough about the genre to know what people are expecting and then not deliver that,” explains Lutter.

Conceived over the course of three years and shot on the Lower Mainland in four weeks back in 2015, The Hollow Child was funded through Telefilm Canada’s competitive “Talent to Watch” program for first-time feature directors and made for “somewhere south of a quarter-million,” says Lutter.

Hannah Cheramy as the girl who disappears in the woods and returns changed in “The Hollow Child”

The film was produced by UVic Gustavson School of Business alumna Jocelyn Russell (BC0m ’12), a friend of the director and writer since they all attended Cedar Hill Middle School, then Mount Douglas Secondary together. Lutter says while there’s camaraderie, there’s little glamour in the life of an indie filmmaker. “It means being a constant entrepreneur; I thought at some point it would get easier, but it always stays exactly the same level of hardness.”

After having its world premiere at the 2017 Victoria Film Festival, The Hollow Child went on to earn five nominations and one win in BC’s annual Leo Awards, as well as picking up an award at its European premiere in Portugal, before earning the grand prize at Mexico’s Feratum Film Festival, both in 2018. And it’s still on the festival circuit, playing across the US and (aptly) appeared at the Vancouver Badass Film Festival in March 2019. “It amazes me that it’s still screening two years later,” laughs Lutter.

Tellingly, Lutter’s production company is called Broken Mirror Films. “Art is never a perfect reflection of life, it’s always a distortion,” he says. “There’s something about broken characters that interest me. I don’t think I’ve ever told a story that wasn’t about someone who is broken; we’re all broken in some ways—that’s what makes us interesting.”

Lutter’s own near-death experience in a horrific 2008 car accident skewed his perspective toward the unseen world. “It was a completely transforming experience,” he says. “Once you go through something like that, it’s hard to forget that some random happenstance can end your life at any moment. I was making films before, but I got way more serious about it afterwards.”

As for why UVic’s Writing program keeps turning out successful filmmakers, he says it comes down to the script. “Story structure and storytelling are universal skills that last longer than current technology,” says Lutter.

For Rollo, filmmaking adds an essential collaborative element that’s missing from traditional prose writing: “You start with a germ of an idea, but then everyone else on the project brings their own vision to it, which adds to it in unexpected and wonderful ways,” he says. “I love being on set; it’s a frustrating, exciting, tumultuous experience that’s really like nothing else.”

Three Fine Arts alumni receive Pro Art awards

Anyone looking for the continued impact of Fine Arts alumni on Victoria’s vibrant arts scene needs look no further than the winners of the 2019 ProArt Regional Arts Awards—all three of whom are Fine Arts alumni.

Matthew Payne (left) with Colton Hash

On May 9, members of the Greater Victoria arts community and the Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria (ProArt) gathered at Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre to acknowledge and honour three artists working in the region.

Department of Theatre alum Matthew Payne recieved the PARC Retirement Living Mid-Career Artist Award, while Visual Arts MFA alum Lindsay Delaronde received the inaugural ProArt Early-Career Artist Award, and recent Visual Arts alum Colton Hash was honoured with the new Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility Through Art, presented by Audain Professor Carey Newman.

Matthew Payne is the Artistic and Managing Producer at Theatre SKAM, possibly the most successful alumni company to ever emerge from the Theatre department. Since graduating in 1993, Payne has regularly worked professionally in Canadian theatre, taking on a variety of roles and spending time in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto as a writer, performer, carpenter, director, production manager, stage manager and administrator. Locally he has worked with a myriad of companies, including the Belfry Theatre, Pacific Opera Victoria, The Other Guys, Theatre Inconnu, Story Theatre, Kaleidoscope Theatre, Giggling Iguana Productions and, of course,  Theatre SKAM (for whom he is the “M”); nationally, he has worked with Nightswimming, Crow’s Theatre, and Production Canada in Toronto, and a dozen peer companies based in Vancouver. He has also served on the executive of IATSE Local 168.

Carey Newman (left) with Colton Hash

Nominated by the Theatre SKAM Board of Directors for the ProArt Award, Payne was the jury’s strong choice demonstrating a comprehensive practice that represents excellence in the Mid-Career category. The jury was unanimous in its support of Payne’s commitment to his performing arts practice and the significant contribution that he makes to local theatre and the regional arts community.

“Matthew dedicates his professional career to dreaming up inspirational and innovative projects that tour the world, to the development of new work—primarily by Victoria writers—and to building community,” noted his nomination letter.

Audain Professor in the Visual Arts department Carey Newman initiated a new award this year: the Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility, which he presented to artist Colton Hash. Hash, the inaugural artist-in-residence with Ocean Networks Canada for 2018/19, was presented with this award to recognize the significant impact that artists can have on issues relevant to the Capital Region.

“Colton Hash is doing ground-breaking work combining digital and physical artforms to create installations that bring the forward the reality of data in a visceral manner,” said Newman. “His efforts to draw focus to environmental and climate issues through his practice are not only worthy of recognition, they are an excellent example of what it means to use art for social purpose and responsibility.”

And while she was unavailable to attend the awards ceremony, Lindsay Delaronde was announced as the winner of the ProArt Early-Career Artist Award. Created to recognize an artist who is showing dedication and promise in the early stages of their career, Delaronde’s recent role as the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist-in-Residence was highlighted by Newman in his remarks.

Lindsay Delaronde supported by dancers during the ACHoRd performance during her time as Indigenous Artist in Residence (Photo: Peruzzo)

“I selected Lindsay for this award to recognise the incredible work she has done as Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence,” he said. “Her way of raising awareness around critical social issues and engaging community through her art and curation is something to celebrate. The power of her performances and work are a reflection of her strength and resilience and a testament to her potential.”

Each of these recipients does contributes excellent creative work to the regional arts community, and all are representative of the dynamic arts and cultural community Fine Arts has long supported and encouraged in Victoria.

The Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria was formed to advance the important role the arts play in the life of our community, and to advocate for public sector support. ProArt believes that, by working in partnership with our legislators and government agencies, we can sustain and build our region’s vibrant cultural sector for the benefit of all of our residents and visitors.

Celebrate Star Wars Day with Charles Ross

When Theatre alum Charles Ross (BFA ’98) debuted his One-Man Star Wars Trilogy back in 2002, the cultural landscape was quite different: audiences were already becoming jaded by the new prequels, spin-offs like Rogue One, The Clone Wars and Solo were as yet unimaginable, and Disney ownership of the series seemed an Imperial ploy at best.

Charles Ross

But where Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones fell flat with most viewers, Ross’s high-speed paean to the original trilogy found a ready audience, thanks to his remarkable mimicry, boundless on-stage enthusiasm and sincere love for the series. Now, 17 years and literally thousands of performances later, the 44-year-old Ross is still up to his Jedi mind tricks and happily reports that none of it feels forced.

“I’m certainly not sick of it,” he admits. “I still love it as much as I did when I was a kid, because love doesn’t diminish. Every time I do the show, there’s something about that feeling I’m trying to share — a simple early love for the story — and that’s what people recognize in themselves.“

Star Wars Day event

Ross will be back at UVic with a special presentation of his One-Man Star Wars Trilogy on May 4—that’s Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you”)—at The Farquhar in UVic’s University Centre. Tickets range from $15.75 to $32.75 at the UVic Box Office.

Christopher (left) & Hodge (right)

Starting at 7:30pm, the evening will open with a short discussion panel featuring Writing professor and filmmaker Maureen Bradley, Art History & Visual Studies PhD candidate and recent Star Wars elective instructor David Christopher, Sociology instructor Edwin Hodge (who recently taught a Star Trek elective at UVic) and current UVic student Monica Ogden, hosted by Fine Arts communications jedi John Threlfall.

Read more about the courses offered by Christopher and Hodge in this 2018 article in UVic’s Ring newspaper.

The force is strong with this one . . .

What started out as a niche play for sci-fi nerds has since grown alongside the franchise itself: now 10 films in and, with the “Skywalker Saga” coming to a finale in 2019’s Episode IX, Ross has seen his own solo show go global as well. “There isn’t a part of the planet Star Wars hasn’t touched,” he says. “It’s become much more homogenous, more a part of popular culture: you can just be a normal person and get the references—it doesn’t qualify you as a nerd anymore, just as a human being who’s seen the movies.” (Indeed, UVic even offers a Star Wars elective now.)

Officially endorsed by Lucasfilm, Ross’s 75-minute show has been performed for over a million people worldwide, including extended runs off-Broadway, in London’s West End and at the Sydney Opera House, as well as appearances on the likes of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and the popular How Stuff Works podcast.

The latest parody by Ross

And it shows no sign of slowing down: regular North American dates aside, since 2006 Ross has toured to Australia eight times, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival nine times, the UK 12 times, and has performed to audiences in Malaysia, Singapore and China. In 2017 alone, he spent 175 days on the road with it.

Star Wars has a huge reach,” he says. “My name doesn’t mean much to many people, but the concept certainly does. There are housewives in the American Midwest who still know my work from seeing me on The Today Show a decade ago.”

The once and future one-man

And while Ross has developed a series of other solo shows over the years — including the One-Man Lord of the Rings Trilogy, One-Man Dark Knight Trilogy, One-Man Pride & Prejudice and, most recently, One-Man Stranger Things (many of which were directed by and co-created with fellow Theatre grad TJ Dawe) — time has proven that love for the original Star Wars trilogy endures.

“You never know where things are going to go, but it exciting to imagine where things could go,” he says. “If you can look back and say you made one little bit of difference — a blip in the history of Star Wars, or a footnote in the history of solo shows — that would be the most amazing thing in the world.”