Author Reclaimed His Vision With ‘Clockwork’ Stage Production

Jobsite Theater is returning to the Shimberg Playhouse after nearly two years and Producing Artistic Director David Jenkins sounds like a man finally heading home.

“The last performance Jobsite did in the Shimberg was March 12, 2020, our preview for ‘Doubt,’” Jenkins remembers. “We were supposed to open the next night. And we got notified the next morning that the building was shutting down.”

Jobsite has staged shows in the larger Jaeb Theater in the interim. The Jaeb was the first Straz Center theater to have its HVAC upgraded, and the extra room made social distancing easier.

“Now, we’re back up to full capacity,” Jenkins said, “and we’re moving back home.”

Donovan Whitney makes his Jobsite debut in the role of Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

Jobsite makes its return this week to the Shimberg with A Clockwork Orange: A Play With Music. Movies being retooled for the stage is old hat, but this work is a very different thing indeed. The play runs through March 27.

A Clockwork Orange began as a 1962 novel by British author Anthony Burgess, but the 1971 film version, directed by Stanley Kubrick, quickly outpaced the novel in terms of popularity and notoriety. Burgess, however, disliked the movie, so much so that he adapted his novel for a theatrical production with songs to tell the story he felt had been ignored by Kubrick.

Burgess “had a real discomfort carrying that around for so long, that every image, every sensation, every feeling, every association people had with the novel was with the movie,” Jenkins says. “There are parts of the narrative of the book that deal in redemption, that deal with rehabilitation, that Kubrick ignored because they didn’t interest him. Burgess went back and wanted to make sure that those elements were put back in.”

The cast of Jobsite Theater’s A Clockwork Orange. L-R: Jada Canty, Daniel Lennox, Jr., Kiara Flowers, Omen Thomas Sade, Brianna McVaugh (kneeling), Donovan Whitney, William Alejandro Barbra, Jared Sellick, Amanda Heisey, and Haley Janeda.

The play is “not the film in any way, shape or form,” Jenkins said. “It’s not a Stanley Kubrick production – Stanley Kubrick is a whole damn genre unto himself.”

For all Burgess’ determination to tell his story his way, his script gives companies plenty of leeway in casting and presentation.

Dan Granke, who is directing Jobsite’s Clockwork, is “having the whole story told through the eyes of young people. And that context I think really matters because at this point the audience is watching this thinking, ‘This is how a group of young people feel,’ coming from the mouthpiece of a group of young people.”

Another striking difference will be that lead character Alex’s teenage gang is made up of males and females.

In both the novel and film “the violence is really gendered, and what Dan has chosen to do is just blow that up,” Jenkins said. “He’s flipping some of these gender politics and age politics in the show to just make them about youth, about disillusionment and those things.”

Photo: Ned Averill-Snell

Burgess further established his play as separate from the film with the addition of songs he wrote for the production. Jenkins describes the songs as having “sort of beer hall feel … kind of drunken reveling kind of stuff.” Burgess also wrote variations on themes from the works of Beethoven, which feature in the production.

Jenkins hopes that the stage production will spark conversations about free will, individualism vs. social conditioning and the nature of violence among other subjects.

“This story is a dystopia, and that’s something that we need to keep in mind,” Jenkins said. “When people will say things like. ‘A Clockwork Orange glorifies violence,’ I really take issue with that. There are consequences that occur, and the consequences aren’t just for the perpetrator or the victim, the consequences are for the society, and we are part of the society, and we need to consider these things as a society.

“As a producer, my hope is that people walk away having these kinds of conversations, that the play becomes a jumping off point to discuss ideas of manipulation, censorship or mind control or whatever lens angle that people want to approach it,” Jenkins said. “That’s what I want.”

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