In his last two roles, Alex Cline, a senior at South Lakes High School, has been a king and a dictator. Some might think he’s been type-cast already, but they’d be wrong.
With long, thick sideburns, Alex learned to curl his upper lip and wiggle his hips in his role as the king — of rock and roll. Just a few weeks ago, he dressed up in an all-white jumpsuit and starred as Elvis on the senior float, which had a 1950s theme.
"I was actually the 1960s-1970s Elvis, but I’m keeping that a secret," joked Alex, who seems to relish in what he calls "data performance art."
Alex was a little more excited about landing his role as a fascist dictator last spring. It was a one-man show that the whole school got to see.
The character he played, described as "Dr. Doom, a vitriolic dictator," was difficult to develop. The role ended up being a bit oxymoronic, a likable villain, which could stretch the skills of even the most seasoned actor.
To make things even more challenging, the stage for the performance was a little unconventional: Alex was running for president of the school.
"I ran completely in character," said Alex, who created political posters that resembled the popular Che Guevara T-shirts with his face transposed over Guevara’s. In his speech to students in the theater, Alex outlined his platform. "A school without a military is like a monkey without a hat; completely useless for everyday use," he said in his speech. He called for a student army and said, with his leadership, the school would become a military powerhouse.
"I wasn’t running to win, I was running to have a blast," said Alex, who lost the race. But Alex said this year a steady stream of underclassmen have approached him to say he got their vote. It’s not a Cappies award, but that may come later.
DURING HIS FIRST THREE YEARS in high school, Alex has been active in theater. "Everyone thinks I’m a drama person because I’m in all the plays," said Alex, who has had small roles in the "Odd Couple," "Singing in the Rain," "Meet the Creeps" and the "Little Shop of Horrors."
Alex landed his first big role last year in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." In "Cat," Alex played Gooper, the least-favorite son of the great patriarch, Big Daddy. "I got the role because I could do the Southern accent," said Alex. The play was double cast for the musical and the non-musical; Alex was part of the non-musical cast.
"I’m just trying to have fun," said Alex, who has never taken theater at school. "It’s just fun to use [acting] as a medium to be goofy or really serious." Alex particularly enjoys taking the lessons he’s learned from acting and applying them to other "off-stage" activities, like running for president as a dictator. But more seriously, he said he’s often applied his acting skills during his time on the debate team.
In December, Alex plans on auditioning for "Aida," a play about a love triangle. "I think I’ll go out for an antagonist, maybe," said Alex. "It’s fun being a villain."
FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW ALEX, it’s easy to tell that he doesn’t pass up an opportunity to play a role, villain or otherwise.
"He’s comfortable with himself," said Liz Knapp, a long-time receptionist at South Lakes who seems to know every student. She said Alex interacts well with other students. "He takes a non-traditional approach to things," she said.
While Alex considers acting "incredibly fun," his academic passion has been art. One of his latest kicks has been drawing stencils. Some of his stencil work has made it onto some of his homemade T-shirts. He’s really fond of one T-shirt that has a drawing of Gary Busey, an eccentric, big-toothed actor. "I just think Busey is hilarious," said Alex, who often uses art to express himself and his ideas.
"He kind of rockets around," said Matt Ravenstahl, an art teacher at South Lakes, describing Alex’s varied interests. For the past two years, Ravenstahl has taught Alex art and design.
"He’s brilliant, I think. His brain never stops," said Ravenstahl. "He’s not afraid to take risks, which is always important for an artist." Ravenstahl said Alex’s wit and intelligence often show up in his artwork.
Alex has taken many of his creations to the Web, the focus of yet another hobby. "I’m a huge computer nerd," said Alex, who is also a technology aide at South Lakes.
Yet all of these activities have not affected his academics. Last month, Alex was one of nine students at South Lakes to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.
DURING THE MORNING ANNOUNCEMENTS last Friday, South Lakes students heard something a little different courtesy of Alex. As the day’s guest announcer, Alex decided to play a tune on the banjo, an instrument he took up about a month ago. He plucked da, da, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding — faster and faster.
It was the song "Dueling Banjos" from the movie "Deliverance," about an ill-fated canoe trip in the Deep South. Then Alex came on the speakers in a Southern accent, almost like a reprisal of his role as Gooper.
"I was just being a redneck, Alex Cletis Cline," he said, adding that he just wanted to give students a morning laugh.
Alex, who said he plans to attend a small liberal arts college next year, doesn’t plan to take any theater courses. "I’ll probably be involved in it extra-curricularly," said Alex. "It’s just a blast and three-quarters."