HomeCommunity NewsThe Fathers’ Follies Formula: Tradition and Innovation

The Fathers’ Follies Formula: Tradition and Innovation

Co-producer and Verdugo Woodlands dad Rafael Amador plays Bowser in the upcoming Fathers’ Follies.

Well into its 70s but as energetic as ever, Fathers’ Follies is back to dazzle the Verdugo Woodlands community on Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18, at 6 p.m.
The show, a community staple put on by the Verdugo Woodlands Dads’ Club, will take its audience through an immersive experience into Super Mario World.
The culmination of more than 100 hours of work for co-producers James Demerjian and Rafael Amador, this year’s Follies is reaching new heights — literally — as trained Hollywood stuntman and Verdugo Woodlands Elementary dad Duffy McManus will perform the first professional stunt in Follies history.
Demerjian, who is president of the Dads’ Club, said he is proud to be a part of such a historic event for the community.
“If you’re able to keep anything going for 77 years, that is powerful and it means a lot to the community,” he said. “This particular event brings in hundreds of people every year. It’s family friendly, appropriate for kids, it’s funny and it gives people an opportunity to have a night out as a family for some good, clean fun.”
The show is a combination of elements from 2023’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” as well as the Super Mario video game franchise, and Amador said he and Demerjian have aimed to keep it fresh by focusing more on moments and skits rather than the traditional structure of a story.
Bringing out all the fan-favorite characters like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, Bowser and more, this year’s theme is nostalgic for parents who grew up playing Mario Brothers on the Nintendo console and relevant for the kids who are big fans of the recent Super Mario film, Demerjian said.
A lot goes into pulling this production off, but the joy it brings the community and especially the kids makes it worthwhile.
“The energy we get from the crowd, the excitement we see on the kids’ faces when they walk in, when they’re watching either their dads or dads they recognize and teachers get on stage — it’s an amazing thing,” said Demerjian, who will play Yoshi.
In addition to playing Bowser, Amador spearheaded writing the script with Demerjian’s help and has been directing the show.
“James and I have to wear many hats,” he said, adding that he had no idea just how much work and how many elements go into putting on the Fathers’ Follies. Responsibilities for the two co-producers include overseeing ticket sales, marketing the event, organizing volunteers, assigning roles, managing scheduling and orchestrating set design and building, to name a few.
Since roles were assigned in March, volunteer performers have dedicated two to three hours per week to rehearsals and, starting Monday, the team will embark on “hell week,” as Demerjian calls it, when they will rehearse every day from 6-10 p.m. leading up to the first performance on Friday.
Fathers’ Follies has a long history, stemming from a group of dads’ desire to give back to their wives in the late 1940s.
“It was dads basically paying their respects to their wives around Mother’s Day, where they put on a show and played all the roles, both male and female, and that’s kind of what makes Fathers’ Follies so funny,” Demerjian said.
While the Dads’ Club was originally dads only, Demerjian said anyone is welcome to volunteer and be a part of the nonprofit, including moms and teachers.
In line with the show’s history, the actors still play a range of roles regardless of gender with Princess Peach being played by teacher Mark Ouweleen.
“It’s called the Dads’ Club, but our membership does not define who can and who can’t participate,” he said. “It’s inclusive.”
Amador is grateful for the opportunity to play such a hands-on role in the Dads’ Club and be a part of something so meaningful for his kids, noting that when he was growing up, it was rare to see dads so involved in their kids’ schools.
“Now that society’s gender roles are more blurred in a positive way, it’s acceptable, and now expected, for dads to volunteer and participate a lot more, which is great,” Amador said.
While history holds great significance to the show, Demerjian and Amador also value the opportunity to modernize the tradition — an example being the addition of the “Instagram room.” When folks walk into the Dads’ Club for the shows, they will enter into a decked-out entrance space, perfect for social media photo ops.
“We want the entire room to be this immersive walk-through experience where you feel like you’re in Mario World, with blue wallpaper all over the walls with the mountains and the clouds and the bricks and the coins,” Demerjian said.
Seeing the work of the Dads’ Club was a deciding factor for the Amador family in selecting which school to enroll their children in, Amador said, adding that a positive elementary experience sets the groundwork for how kids view education.
Fathers’ Follies, in addition to the many other events the Dads’ Club and other school community groups host, helps achieve this.
“If we set the foundation for our kids loving to be at school and enjoying being there, it sets this positive trajectory for our kids so that they see education is not a chore, but it’s something that’s fun,” Amador said.
To learn more about the Verdugo Woodlands Dads’ Club, visit vwdadsclub.com.

First published in the May 11 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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