Arts & Culture

Augsburg Theater Takes “The Clockwork Professor” to new Queer Heights

Percy Bartelt, opinions editor

Photo of the cast of “The Clockwork Professor” receiving notes from Director Beliza Torres Narváez during rehearsal on Nov. 8, taken by Abi Hilden

On Thursday, Nov. 2, the Augsburg Theater Department held the opening performance of “The Clockwork Professor” written and adapted by the playwright Maggie Lee. The original story tells of  Professor Seamus Pemberton, a reclusive inventor living in a politically corrupt steampunk-style city. For Augsburg’s production, per Director Beliza Torres Narváez’s request, Maggie Lee graciously adapted this story to make it into a queer rendition, highlighting a queer female relationship at the forefront of the story! In this adaptation, we get a female reclusive inventor Professor Shae Pemberton, played by Savanna Gorbunow, slowly falling in love with her bright, unabashedly confident colleague, Matilda James, played by Skye Seiler.

I genuinely think the queer rendition of this play is better than its original heteronormative storyline — I may be a bit biased, preferring queer stories no matter what, but still! It made for interesting dynamics, giving these characters perhaps even more authentic arcs and feel to them. Like the character of Jin Rubik, played by Nox GebbenGreen. In the original story, Jin is explicitly male, using he/him pronouns; GebbenGreen’s Jin uses they/them pronouns. And this is just one of many great examples of this rendition’s amazing queer representation. 

Asking Max Jacobson, who played Lawrence Howell AKA the best comedic relief character out there by far, about what differences does he feel would have occurred should the story not have been changed to include queer characters, he stated, “The gender roles of each character were challenged from the very beginning and it really felt like each could maintain an agender appearance until an individual with their own story and identity could take the reins and make it their own.”

As for the performance itself – I cannot even begin to explain to you how incredible the set design was! Something as simple as hanging up bike wheels to give it the feel for an industrial, metal-heavy, steampunk-y type world made all the difference. Not to mention the small props strewn about that the characters often interacted with – especially Professor Pemberton with all of her inventions. I also can’t NOT mention how incredible the costume design was. Each character had their own unique vibe for this industrial, dystopian time period. My all time favorite costume was undoubtedly that of Mr. Balthazar Higgins, played by Meera Safford, who was the flamboyant and cunning antagonist for the whole story. Each character, I felt, had their opportunity to shine throughout the whole play— especially the raw emotions of Matilda standing up for herself to anyone that stepped over her moral boundaries. 

Overall, I highly recommend attending shows by the Augsburg Theater Department! They make their performances fun, engaging and gut-wrenching with their intense dramas and storylines. Huge congratulations to all the actors and crew for their incredible performance of the best rendition of “The Clockwork Professor!”