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‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ play is Friday, Saturday night

The cast members of the comedy “Parents Just Don’t Understand” rehearse Tuesday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Ten different scenes folded into one contemporary full-length play — “Parents Just Don’t Understand” by Bryan Starchman — are guaranteed to illustrate, in a comic manner, many of the clashes that occur in families, particularly between parents and teenagers.

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“Each scene is its own mini-play, and together they share snippets of family life that a lot of people can relate to,” explained Anna Korver, co-director of the Worthington High School (WHS) fall dramatic production that takes place at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.

Picture the following and you’ll get the idea: a family road trip with its ensuing arguments … a parent enduring a 16-year-old’s early attempts at driving … shopping for school clothes with a teenage son … parents unwittingly embarrassing their adolescent children.

“It’s basic things that most people have been through at one time or another in their lives, and it’s brought out in a comedic form,” said Korver, a WHS math teacher who is sharing the fall play directing duties with WHS ESL teacher Kelli Straley for a second consecutive year.

Fourteen students are involved, either in tech or set crew roles or as actors.

“They’ve really enjoyed the play,” said Korver. “We split up the cast into two families that alternate through the different scenes.

“The actors look at the show from a student’s perspective,” she added. “It’s lighthearted enough that it’s fun, but there are some sweet, serious moments, too.”

For instance, Korver mentions the scene revolving around a daughter’s “Sweet Sixteen” birthday party and the parents’ well-intentioned but ultimately astoundingly embarrassing efforts on her behalf.

“The kids have looked at it from both sides: Are mom and dad trying to embarrass her?” queried Korver. “No, they love her, but she just wants to wilt in her chair and get out of there.”

Play auditions were in early September, and rehearsals have taken place on weekdays after school since then.

Elyzabeth Coriolan, Braden DeSmith, Jerrit Vander Plaats, Karina Cuate, Bianca Alvarez, Alex Tang, D.J. Berger, Ivan Parga, Crissy Jimenez and Jaimi Seesongkram are the primary actors, with set and stage assistance from Lizbeth Longoria, Arely Rodriguez and Sammy Vallego.

Vallego also serves as student director for the production, while Jorge Fuentes handles the light and sound boards.

“They’re a very lively, but very good, bunch of kids,” said Korver. “They give you energy when you show up for practice, and they’ve been respectful and willing to try anything we’ve thrown at them.”

This is the fourth theatrical production in which Vallego has been involved, and he smiles readily when talking about “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

“I love the comedy in it, and even though I’ve seen the show so many times now in practices, the actors are always improving and making it funnier every single time,” said Vallego.

Said Tang, a senior, “I like the fact I’m a father in this play because it gives me a different perspective to work with — last year, I was a child in the fall play.

“I really enjoy theater — it’s a big interest of mine, and I’m pretty sure I’ll look for more opportunities to be involved with it after high school.”

Korver might recommend that.

“Alex is very funny in this; he’s such a delightfully awkward father,” she said.

Berger, a WHS junior, agrees, saying the scene titled “The Talk” in which Tang, playing Berger’s father, shares with him everything he knows about the opposite sex, is among the best.

“My favorite line is in it,” noted Berger. “I ask him, ‘Are you taking a new medication or something?’”

For her part, co-director Straley chortles over the scene in which a father tries to teach his daughter to drive.

“That’s the one I enjoy the most, and the kids do a great job with it,” attested Straley. “We can all relate to learning how to drive with our parents, or with being a parent teaching a kid to drive and the stressful moments that result — and later on, it’s very funny.

“I’ve liked watching the students who were in last year’s fall play take on different roles and personas from what they had last year,” Straley continued. “We can really see the growth in their acting skills.”

While the students involved in “Parents Just Don’t Understand” portray family units on stage, they have become something like a family in their backstage interactions as well, according to some of the cast.

“Personally, I’ve liked getting to know the cast better,” said Coriolan, a WHS junior. “I think the play is hilarious, though it’s probably a little more dramatic and over-the-top than what would happen in a real family.”

Korver and Straley say they are more relaxed in the week leading up to the performances than they were last year, given that they knew what to expect this time around.

“It’s good to have a year under our belts because not everything is brand new,” said Korver.

Contributed Straley, “We’re a great team, we work well together, and this year everything seemed to go a lot smoother.

“It’s been a lot of fun.”

Freshman Longoria, meanwhile, is grateful for the leadership provided by Straley and Korver.

“The directors are very helpful,” Longoria endorsed.

Added Rodriguez, also a freshman, “This has been a new experience, but I might try out again next year because I’m really shy and this has helped me be more confident.”

Despite whatever petulant roles the students may portray under the bright lights, a positive attitude is the rule among their ranks.

Student director Vallego recommended, “No matter what part of it (theater) you’re in, it’s always fun somehow.”

The Worthington High School production of “Parents Just Don’t Understand” takes place at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at Memorial Auditorium, 714 13th St. Worthington. General admission tickets are available at the door; District 518 activity passes are also honored.