When "Reflections of a Rock Lobster" opens this weekend at the Boston Children's Theatre, the audience will be reminded of the story of a gay high school student who sued for the right to bring his boyfriend to the prom in 1980 in Cumberland, R.I.

When "Reflections of a Rock Lobster" opens this weekend at the Boston Children's Theatre, the audience will be reminded of the story of a gay high school student who sued for the right to bring his boyfriend to the prom in 1980 in Cumberland, R.I.

Less obvious will be the influence of the playwright and his experiences growing up gay in Worthington.

That influence will be there, said Burgess Clark, a 1979 Worthington High School graduate who is now executive artistic director of the Boston theater, which is one of the oldest children's theaters in the country.

Clark has had a successful career as a playwright, winning many prestigious awards and teaching and directing throughout the country.

He said he is particularly excited about this play, which he adapted from the book he read shortly after graduating from high school.

In it, Aaron Fricke tells of being bullied, ridiculed, misunderstood and gay. When he decided to stand up for his rights and sued to be able to bring another boy to his high school prom, the attention of the country was focused on the Rhode Island town.

Fricke won the suit, and he and his boyfriend danced at the prom, though under the protection of guards. The suit is still cited as precedent in similar lawsuits and helped pave the way for gay and lesbian teenagers.

Clark said he related to the story because he also grew up being bullied and beat up because he was gay at Worthingway Middle School and Worthington High School.

A scene in the play is based on his high school math teacher, Glenn Gardner, who intervened when Clark was being picked on, he said.

"I remember it as a turning point," Clark said. "I realized I didn't have to tolerate what was going on."

He said he is also grateful to Worthington drama teacher Bronwyn Hopton for helping to save him by giving him a place to be himself and develop as a playwright.

Clark remembers reading "Reflections of a Rock Lobster" and being moved by the story. He put it away in his trunk of potential projects, only to gladly bring it out when the Boston theater decided to do a series of plays focused on justice and teenagers.

"We are the first children's theater in the country to do a play on bullying and the gay teen experience," he said.

Fricke has been involved with the production and is thrilled his story is being told again.

"This is a story where nobody died," Clark said. "He was suing for the right to dance."

The play is drawing wide media attention, he added.

While local people are probably most familiar with Clark's work as playwright of "The Scioto Company," which was written and performed in Worthington for its bicentennial celebration in 2003, his experience has been broad.

After leaving Worthington, he received his bachelor's degree from Ohio University and a master's degree from the University of Hawaii.

As a teacher, director and playwright, he has worked in Hawaii, Colorado, New York and Massachusetts. From 1988 to 1994, he was the national instructor for the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts/Office of Very Special Arts.

He wrote the Emmy-nominated documentary series, "Pets: Part of the Family," for PBS; received the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild's 2000 Julie Harris Award for his play, "The Ivory Alphabet" and was honored at a William Inge Theatre Festival as the "New Voice in American Theatre."

Public performances of "Reflections of a Rock Lobster" will be March 3-11 in Boston.