Cast Spotlight: Alex Clay

Alex Clay plays newspaper man McCue in our upcoming production of His Girl Friday.

Bio: Alex studied at the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto, collecting degrees with all his might until he realized that the safest and most stable route for him was definitely acting. Alex debuted as Jason in Guelph Little Theatre’s Rabbit Hole. He then played Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a park somewhere. Next, he discovered the world of acting in short plays with Special Delivery at Theatre InspiraTO festival, Remembrance at Social Capital, and Lifeboat at Small But Mighty Productions. Alex then got his creep on. First, as a dimwitted camera operator turned enigmatic demon in Interview with a Demon, then as a teenage prodigy turned psychopathic murderer in The Dialogues of Leopold and Loeb. This summer Alex made his Toronto Fringe Festival debut in Inch of Your Life: Episode 1…stay tuned folks! Most recently, he trekked to Windsor to play Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Alex is thrilled to be making his Bygone Theatre debut with this amazing group of artists.

1. How did you hear about Bygone Theatre and this production of His Girl Friday?
I do my best to keep up with as many theatre companies in Toronto as I can, so at some point I stumbled upon Bygone Theatre and I really liked their mandate and play selection, so I began following them on social media. I have a few friends who have worked with them in the past as well. When I saw the casting call for His Girl Friday I was excited to see that their newly adapted script was made available. I read the script, loved it, auditioned, and here we are!

2. What made you want to be involved?/ what do you love about the story?
There is a strong female lead; Hildy Johnson is badass. It’s a classic screwball comedy. Many of the characters are so self involved that in the context of the play it’s funny, but it’s also a statement that still resonates today about how people can become desensitized by the tedium of their jobs. Media coverage is a hot issue these days and this play provides an insider look at the coverage of a high profile case.

3. What’s your favourite old movie?
This is a really tough one. I’m a huge fan of Hitchcock, including Rope and Dial M for Murder, both of which Bygone Theatre has produced. But if I had to go with one it would probably be Fritz Lang’s mystery thriller M…or Jean Renoir’s pacifist war film La Grand Illusion…or Vittorio De Sica’s heart wrenching Bicycle Thieves. I told you this was a tough one. These three films could probably not be any more different from one another, but they all have really interesting things to say about the human condition. La Grand Illusion is a film about the First World War that subtly reveals the looming danger of Hitler (released in 1937), and Fritz Lang ably shows the dangers of a mob mentality when a child murderer is on the loose, and De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves is partly responsible for breathing life into a new way of filmmaking. This is ground breaking, revolutionary, must-watch material. #selfidentifiedfilmnerd

4. Have you been in a show like this before? What else might people have seen you in recently?
Around this time last year I was in a new play by Brad Walton called The Dialogues of Leopold and Loeb which is only similar in so far as it was set only about a decade prior to His Girl Friday. This script demands a fairly fast paced delivery of the lines, which is something I became accustomed to in working on Massimo Pagliaroli’s Inch of Your Life: Episode 1 at last year’s Toronto Fringe Festival. I look forward to working with Massimo and his great cast and crew on the upcoming instalments in that series.

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Former Bygone member Tom Beattie and actor Alex Clay in The Dialogues of Leopold and Loeb.

5. Why should people come and see the show?
People should see this show because there is nothing else quite like it, certainly not on the stage in Toronto anyway. It’s got humour, mystery, intrigue, and phenomenal period appropriate costume and set design. The tickets are quite affordable and we are performing at a relatively new and up and coming venue, the home of Native Earth Performing Arts, Aki Studio at Daniels Spectrum. Check out Métis Mutt before it closes on February 5th!

6. Anything else you want us to know?
Go to the theatre, if not this show, then some other one (but definitely still consider this one). The performance of a play only lasts 60, 90, 120 minutes, whatever its runtime may be, and then it ends and will never be seen again. You can do a one-month run and no two shows will be the same. It’s alive, it’s breathing and it’s brought to you by talented (often local) artists. I could not be more proud of what I do, and I do it for you. Support the arts!

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Leopold and Loeb – The Real-Life Case Behind “Rope”

The original “Thrill Killers” Leopold and Loeb were part of the “Crime of the Century” killing of Bobby Franks; the real-life inspiration for half a dozen books, movies, and plays, including Bygone’s next show, Rope. Here’s a quick rundown of the crime and notorious killers.

The Crime of the Century
Nathan Leopold und Richard Loeb

The murder was labeled the “crime of the century” by the press because it was so unusual, so unprecedented for its time; two young men, from well-to-do families planned and orchestrated the murder of an innocent young teen, purely for the thrill of it. These were not gang members, were not foreigners or minorities; they were wealthy, good looking and brilliant, and the public just could not reconcile the concept of these two young men being ruthless murderers.

It was Chicago 1924 when Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb decided to kill; there was no clear motive, although theories range from that of a sex-for-murder agreement to seeing the entire incident as a game. They had planned the majority of the crime for over six months, but it wasn’t until the day of the murder that the two selected the victim; 14 year old Bobby Franks. While he was chosen at random, Bobby was familiar to the boys whose family’s new each other; still, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The murder was fast and brutal; after luring Bobby into their car, one of the men attacked him from behind, delivering a fatal blow to the head. In an attempt to mislead police, they stripped the body naked and covered it in acid, hoping to disfigure the corpse that they left abandoned in a wooded area not far away. Despite months of careful planning, a relatively simple mistake lead to their capture; Leopold dropped his glasses at the crime scene, and as they were made with a particularly unusual style of hinge they were quickly traced back to the young man. In the brief time before their arrest, Leopold and Loeb had attempted to demand a ransom from Franks’ parents, but this too was done messily. For two young men certain of their brilliance and ability to commit the “perfect crime”, they made quite a few amateur mistakes.

Nathan Leopold

Nathan Leopold

Nathan Leopold – Born November 19, 1904

 

With a reported IQ of 210 , Nathan Leopold was an undisputed genius. Interested in ornithology, he was already making his name known in the field and had a bright future ahead of him. Unfortunately a combination of his love for Loeb and his dark interest in things like Friedrich Nietzsche‘s concept of supermen or the Übermenschen lead him down a twisted path to murder. He believed that “legal obligations did not apply to those who approached ‘the superman‘” and to him both he and his lover, Richard Loeb, fell into that category.

“Loeb’s friendship was necessary to me– terribly necessary”

When quested about his motive for the crime, the youth replied; “to the extent that I had one, was to please Dick”. In the case of Nathan Leopold, nothing was too horrid a task if it would please his beloved Richard.

Richard Loeb

Richard Loeb

Richard Loeb – Born June 11, 1905

 

While still exceptionally bright, Richard Loeb was not as intelligent as Nathan Leopold. Despite being the University of Michigan’s youngest graduate at the age of 17, he was often described with unflattering terms; “lazy”, unmotivated”, and “obsessed with crime”. All points suggest that he was the mastermind in the crime, and that he took advantage of Leopold’s love for him, manipulating the young man to act in a way he would never have done on his own. Loeb had committed numerous crimes in his youth, but none that involved injuring another human being; until the day he murder the innocent Bobby Franks.

Quotes from the psychiatrists (the called alienists) at the trial paint a picture of the man;

“It was Richard Loeb who was the ‘mastermind’. Nathan Leopold, the intellectual prodigy, was his virtual slave”

“Leopold is a victim of autoism, a type which centers and defies the ego. Loeb is a case of non-emotional psychosis.”

“They are a supreme case of ‘folie a deux’, or insanity of two. Leopold might have escaped all trouble had it not been for Loeb. Loeb would certainly have reached nearly the same end at which he is now”.

Clarence Darrow

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The case quickly became less about the trial itself, and more about the defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, and his fight against the death penalty. For more information of the trial’s specifics, check out the Darrow Collection.

 

 

 

 

Inspired Works

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A play inspired by the crime, Thrill Me

Various works have been inspired by the shocking true story of the Leopold and Loeb murder; Patrick Hamilton wrote Rope which was in turn adapted for a Hitchcock film of the same name, and which we are basing our production off of. There is also Thrill Me, a a musical more directly related to the case.

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, based off the play by Patrick Hamilton

While the case was tragic and horrific, it goes to show that mankind has a fascination with the darkest parts of a human’s mind. To see our take on this concept, check out Rope at the Gibson House Museum this November.

Want to help produce the show? Check out our FWYC campaign to make a donation.

-E.