Note from the blogger: For those of you who have been working in the Twin Cities theater community for some time, you may know about the abuse scandal at Children’s Theatre Company that occurred in the 1980s. For those of you like me, you may have only learned about it shortly before or after the Laura Stearns Adams, a former child actor and coworker of mine at the Guthrie, sued the theater and the matter went to court. The theater was found negligent but not liable and overall the matter seems to have been concealed once more. Thankfully, that is not the case. While public media is by and large not discussing this, many of us in the theater community have discussed it over and over, especially with the recent death of John Clark Donahue. Now, Laura Stearns Adams has spoken out again on her Facebook page about her experiences. As someone who has recently started attending CTC, an advocate for survivors, and an abuse survivor myself, I knew this was not something I could stay silent about. I asked Laura’s permission to share her post, the entirety of which is below. Please read and share. I myself am joining the boycott and will no longer be attending CTC. Rather, I will speak out and advocate for Laura and other survivors. And for those of you looking for more information about the case and for resources about abuse, please visit this post written by Chris Peterson at OnStage Blog. #boycottCTC
A CALL FOR BOYCOTTING CTC:
I am a patient person. Some might say too patient. I am also a person who wants to see the best in people. I am not a pessimist. I want to believe that people are intrinsically good and I give the benefit of the doubt. That is, until proven otherwise. I now have all the proof I need to call for an all out boycott of The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.
Here are some facts to help you understand why;
-In December of 2015, I filed a civil suit against CTC and Jason McLean for the sexual assault that happened to me in 1983 while I was a student there. I filed it because of the MN Child Victims Act which allowed for my case to be brought fourth in the civil court, not the criminal court.
-Seventeen people filed civil suits because of abuse they endured at CTC. Hundreds could have.
-In order for the truth to be revealed about what happened to the students at CTC back then, we needed to have the legal platform of a the civil court, otherwise we could be sued for slander.
-If I could have done this in a criminal court, I would have.
-Because years we’re going by with no resolution to any of the cases filed against the theater, I was required to go through all of the difficult hoops again. Some of those hoops include probing depositions and psychiatric evaluations. Trust me, they are not fun.
-We were not allowed to present evidence at trial that showed that McLean’s criminal activities extended beyond me. Victims of his that were abused after May of 1983 were not allowed to testify at my trial because the defense objected to it saying that McLean’s activities after my abuse was irrelevant and the judge ruled in their favor.
-I have been sexually assaulted four times in my life by four different men. My lawyers argued for me to not have to give testimony of the rapes that happened after McLean. The judge did not agree and I was required to describe every one of my sexual assaults at my trial.
-Kim Motes, the current Managing Director of CTC, was allowed to testify at my trial, giving testimony to how great they are today and how they only have an operating budget around $8m. My lawyers objected on the grounds that her testimony is irrelevant to what happened back in the 1980’s and would prejudice the jury. The judge overruled and allowed Motes to testify.
-Because the law requires that juries NOT be instructed about who has to foot the bill of what ever they deem fair as a judgment, they only need to worry about the number, they were not told that the Insurance companies who covered the theater at the time of the abuse are the ones who would be required to pay. Unless they already knew that, which most people don’t, there would be no way for them to know that this is an insurance liability issue.
-In January of this year, after a 13 day trial, CTC was found negligent for their part in my abuse as a student at CTC back in the early 1980’s
-I was awarded a judgment of $3.68m but because the jury did not find CTC liable, only negligent, the payment of that judgment would fall to Jason McLean, the man who raped me.
-I will likely never see a penny of that judgment because McLean was allowed to sell his properties, the Varsity Theater and The Loring Pasta Bar, to his business associates, and flea the country. He currently resides in Cabo San Lucas and can not be extradited because this is civil court not criminal court. His assets are safely out of the country.
-My lawyers have filed for a mis-trial, citing several reason in a court hearing on Friday, not the least of which is the fact that the judge allowed Motes to testify and that never should have been allowed, especially in light of the fact that he would not allow the two Jane Does that were assaulted after me to testify.
-On Friday, I sat in a courtroom and listened to CTC’s lawyers argue that I should have to pay $283,792.25 of CTC’s trial fees. This is called “taxation of cost” and is only allowed to be an option to the prevailing party in a trial. CTC was found guilty of negligence. I’m not sure how this is even allowable.
CTC’s administration and board would have to sign off on this request for taxation of cost. They know they got off the hook by the jury not finding them liable, and now they are going after me. So, in a nutshell:
CTC was found negligent in the case against them, that proved that the institution placed children in harms way, and now they are going after me, the childhood sexual assault survivor who was harmed because of that negligence, to pay cash dollars out of my own pocket, for proving their own negligence.
It is the last straw for me. I know that these kinds of cases are very much in the hands of the lawyers. This is their arena. So I have sat patiently waiting to see how CTC’s current administration would chose to respond to all of this. What the survivors of CTC want is for them to own their part. To apologize. Not say how sorry they are for what happened to us and wish us well, but to publicly own the fact that their very existence as an institution today is because the well being and safety of the students was sacrificed for the INSTITUTION ITSELF! They would not EXIST if the kids hadn’t been silenced. If the right thing was done back in the 1980’s, when all of the shit hit the fan, the theater would have gone under. Instead, the board of directors and administration saved the theater and vilified the children who came forward at the time, saving the theater and their reputation, which never deserved to be saved. The BCA investigator who testified at my trial referred to the place as “a cesspool”. My lawyer says that in the 35+ years he has been doing this work, he has NEVER seen anything like what they have found through their investigation. They should have gone down. They didn’t. They survived. Those of us who were assaulted there still have nightmares. CTC needs to help those that were harmed, take a real stand, not deny their culpability and put “policies” in place, but take some damn initiative to make things better for children all over! Stop hiding from the past! They want to own their legacy of 50+ years, OWN ALL OF IT!!!
I have taken the high road through all of this, trying to give CTC a chance to do the right thing, not wanting to make things ugly because I believe healing happens in the light and we don’t need more discourse. But this personal attack on me is enough evidence for me to take a different kind of stand. I ask that you not buy tickets, send your kids to their classes, audition for their shows, accept jobs or support them in any way until they do the right thing by the survivors. If you work there, ask yourself if you want to work for an organization that would do this to the survivor of sexual assault who brought the truth to light. Other theatre companies, make a point of reaching out to employees of CTC and offer them work so they have other options around town. To the other theater owners, artistic directors and administrators, board of director members around town, call on CTC to do the right thing. Many of you are my friends. Do you think this is right? If you are okay with it, ask yourself if you would be okay with it if I were your daughter.
(above post by Laura Stearns Adams)
9 thoughts on “A Call for Boycotting CTC”
Sorry, are you doing the boycott or not? I couldn’t tell from the wording.
Sent from my iPhone
Yes, I am doing the boycott.
Maybe Ms. Stern’s grievance should be more with the jury that applied the law as they were instructed? Or the rule in the legal system that allows CTC to seek repayment of court costs, if they are the “prevailing party”, under Minn. Stat. 549.04… (Note that the award of costs is not a slam dunk. An analysis must be done by the judge to determine if CTC in fact “prevailed” – when they were found negligent, but not liable (note there are multiple elements of negligence liability) – and whether the costs sought are “reasonable”. The judge has not ruled on that yet.)
I worked briefly at CTC in the 70s and Donahue was an egotistical, tyrant who intimidated staff, parents and board alike. CTC has made a lot of changes since Donahue was arrested in May of 1984, and there is nothing to suggest that the institution is now corrupt. Stern’s attorney has said: “If I have any reason to think it’s not wholesome and safe today, I will call it out,” Anderson said. “Right now, I have reason to see it as wholesome and safe. And so I am supportive of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Nor is it our intention to take them down.”
That being said, I am disappointed that McLean and Adamczyk are effectively escaping responsibility, and that CTC chooses to utilize a strict application of the rules of court to further burden the victim.
I agree that this situation certainly exposes the issues of the jury and our legal system. However, the implications of CTC wanting Stearns to be responsible for their trial fees as well as their continual lack of responsibility and transparency about what occurred in the 1980s is too much. This is a deeply systemic issue and it certainly isn’t just CTC. However, we have to start somewhere and I stand by starting with boycotting them.
I respect your views, but wonder if they take into account all the facts. The “systemic issue” you rely on occurred in the distant past. CTC has, by all reports undergone substantial changes over the 35 years since ousting Donahue and his ilk. Is there not room to celebrate that and its positive effects within the theatre community – children’s theatre in particular?
The Guthrie has had some more recent issues with legal culpability for gender biases in their workshops. Should we boycott Guthrie too? https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/05/11/guthrie-announces-steps-after-harassment-probe
1) I am very aware of all the facts.
2) I would hardly call the 1980s the distant past. It certainly isn’t distant to the assault survivors.
3) Substantial change is not enough. Ignoring reparation and being unwilling to support and listen to survivors is evident that CTC has not change enough to recognize what has happened at their institution.
4) I work at the Guthrie and I am very aware of their sexual harassment investigation. I however am not here to speak about that right now. Whether people continue to attend a theater is their own choice.
I did not write this post in order to argue whether CTC should be held responsible. I believe they should. Know if you continue to provoke argument and be defensive I will not continue to engage. If you have questions about why boycotting is an effective strategy, I would be happy to oblige. As an assault survivor myself, I am under no obligation to explain why the past matters.
No need to argue. We’re both entitled to agree or disagree, in whole or in part.
I’ll agree that what happened to those victimized at CTC in the past was horrendous and should be recognized as such.
I don’t know you. I hope to meet you. Thank you thank you thank you for using your platform to give more space for Laura’s words which she speaks for so many others.
Thank you. It is the least I could do. I hope to meet you as well.