Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Degree: Theatre Arts Performance
Year of graduation: 1986
Timothy Alex muses on a life on stage and the hard work it takes to get there
In an old fire hall on McNab Street in Hamilton, amidst the bright pageantry of the musicals on stage and the quieter, well-trodden spaces behind the scenes, Timothy Alex spent his childhood immersed in theatrical experiences that would shape his future.
Alex’s mother, Marilyn, was a fixture of Hamilton’s local theatre scene, helping to found the musical theatre company Hamilton Theatre Inc. Marilyn worked as a civilian secretary for the Hamilton police by day and performed at night.
“I grew up in and around the theatre,” says Alex, a veteran actor. “When my mother would perform, my brother and I went along with her, and were babysat by whoever was free backstage. It was such a loving environment, with an openness and wonderful trust and respect.”
At the age of 10, Alex hit the stage in his first role as a newsboy in Gypsy (with his mother doing a turn as Mama Rose). He realized early on that amidst the bright lights and greasepaint, there was a lot of hard work required to achieve success. This creed has travelled with the charismatic actor from a small theatre in Hamilton to the Great White Way in New York. Alex has taken on a range of roles, from Frederick Fleet in Titanic to the ebullient Freddy Benson in the musical version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Non-theatre goers may have heard Alex in Visa commercials during the 2016 Olympics. He was featured in Unilever’s “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” ad spot, and voiced Bernie Crane/Florian Cravic in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
“The work ethic stays the same, it’s the commodity that differs,” he says. “I absolutely love the voice work, and being able to go into a studio with baseball hat and T-shirt on and becoming a gorgon one-eyed beast. It’s important to keep challenging yourself to get new skills — every lesson and each bit of training feeds into everything else in your life.”
Some of Alex’s hardest-won lessons came learning from Christina James, Sheridan’s head of vocals. “She was a tough lady and came from the school of tough love,” he remembers. “As hard as that was as a student, she worked you because she knew it was in you and she knew how to get it out of you.”
This commitment to his craft has led Alex to be one of Sheridan’s most prolific performance studies graduates — a feat that was recognized when Alex received the Gypsy Robe in 2012: an award given to the ensemble member in a show with the most production contracts at that time (the robe is passed along from performer to performer as a symbol of tradition and continuity in the theatre community).
To this day, true to the unsparing look at show business that formed the plot of his first musical, Gypsy, Alex is pragmatic about his field, while still being passionate about the work that he loves, accumulating solid roles and work without chasing the spotlight.
“You have to keep plugging away — if things are meant to happen, they will, but don’t expect them to,” he says. “Be humble in being your best, and accept the lessons in that. Learn from your failures and your successes.”
Listen to Timothy Alex perform Who I Am, by Jonathan Monro, here.