Boston Children’s Theatre Tackles Bullying, Gay Rights

Ian Shain as Aaron Fricke and Felix Teich as Paul Guilbert in “Reflections of a Rock Lobster,” opening at Boston Center for the Arts next month. (Photo by Saglio Photography, Inc.)

In 1980, Aaron Fricke sued his Cumberland, Rhode Island, high school for the right to take his boyfriend to the prom — and won. The 18-year-old then wrote a memoir about the prejudice and intolerance he had experienced: “Reflections of a Rock Lobster.”

Burgess Clark, executive artistic director of the Boston Children’s Theatre, read the book when it was released and kept it in his trunk, planning to one day adapt it for the stage.

“I was enormously inspired by it,” he says. “I thought it was an extraordinary story of courage.”

Fast forward, and the Boston Children’s Theatre — under Clark’s direction — will present the world premiere of “Reflections of a Rock Lobster” next month at the Boston Center for the Arts.

“We started this project three years, but ironically, bullying has now leapt to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness,” Clark says. “And, sadly, I think Aaron’s story is just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.”

(You may recall Constance McMillen, the high school senior who didn’t get to attend prom after her Mississippi high school canceled it rather than allow her to wear a tux and bring her girlfriend in 2010.)

Fricke has been working closely with the company on the production, and Clark says the story has resonated with the teenage actors.

“They also all have their own experiences of feeling marginalized or bullied for whatever their differences,” Clark says. “This is a common theme; although this story is about gay youth, it’s not just about gay youth. It’s about anyone who’s ever been targeted or bullied for being different.”

The show even has snaps from Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon, who turned down the roll of Aaron’s mother but send a quote of support:

“The largest challenge one can face is to lead an authentic life when to do so is to be isolated from our ‘tribe,’ your peers, especially at a time when that ‘tribe’ seems to be everything. To stand up takes great courage and it is important to celebrate such courage.”

March 3-11. The Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston. 617-933-8600,