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`Star Wars' hurtles through space in 30 minutes
( 2001-08-09 16:09 ) (7 )

The world record for completing the "Star Wars" trilogy currently stands at 29 minutes and 12 seconds -- but the guys are working on it.

With the blessing of moviemaker George Lucas, Californian film students from his old university hurtle through space every night at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival recreating the great science fiction saga.

Tacky and tongue-in-cheek, the production relies on trash cans, milk cartons and upturned chairs as props for the tale of a galaxy far, far away.

The crowd, huddled on chairs in a tiny community center, holler and cheer as Luke Skywalker, armed with a plastic light saber and his very own dodgy sound effects, conquers the sinister and heavily wheezing Darth Vader.

For the University of Southern California School of Theater, which has been coming to Edinburgh for 21 years, this is the big hit which helps to finance all their other productions.

And the actors revel in the challenge of rattling through the first three "Star Wars" films at breakneck speed.

"It is like being a kid again," said Ariel Joseph Towne, who certainly is kept busy playing Threepio, Artoo and Ackbar.

The show was devised with affection.

"It is not a parody. We are not making fun of it," he told Reuters after the latest midnight performance to a delighted audience who braved a wet and windy Edinburgh night to be transported to another time, another galaxy.

The show, created by Patrick T. Gorman, has played to packed houses in Paris, Los Angeles and Edinburgh. In the Scottish capital, weekend matinees are crammed with wildly cheering children.

Ariel Joseph Towne, a USC graduate who has since been directing in New York, saluted the fervent enthusiasm of the young actors playing in the show: "The kids have seen the films 20 to 30 times."

He certainly is no closet fan, having queued for a week to be among the first to see "Phantom Menace," the fourth "Star Wars" movie.

Howard D.W. Yates, who plays Lando Calrissian with great panache, adores doing the show: "It really is for kids of all ages. These are films you can watch over and over."

And producer John Blankenchip will always be grateful to George Lucas for giving them the go-ahead: "Half of our income comes from this show. It puts us in the black."



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