A Call for Boycotting CTC

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)

Matilda

matilda
Photo Credit: Children’s Theatre Company

About the Show

Based off of Roald Dahl’s classic book, Matilda Wormwood is child genius trapped in a family that cares more about the television than her. While she dreams up wondrous tales and reads more book than anyone else, she finds herself at odds with the adults in her life – her foolish parents and brutal headmistress. However, her teacher Miss Honey, shows her not all adults are cruel or selfish and a sudden discovery of magical powers give Matilda hope to fuel her stories and to revolt back against her oppressors.

Why I Chose to See It

Matilda was one of my favorite books as a child (ever the bookworm, I related to her greatly and spent hours bored in my classes trying to move objects with my eyes). I was also excited about the casting – I’m a fan of China Brickey (who plays Miss Honey) and I was delighted to see the role of Miss Trunchbull (the cruel headmistress) actually cast to a woman (on Broadway it has been staged with a man in drag). I’m also a fan of Emily Gunyou Halaas so the chance to see her play the wicked Trunchbull wasn’t something I could pass down.

My Response

I think I have a new favorite musical. This show expertly combines the whimsy and darkness of Dahl’s writing along with the poignant and humorous nature of British artist Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics. Celebrating the intelligence and power of children, this musical is a delight from start to finish. Often with new musicals, I worry about the plot being diluted by large musical numbers or simplistic songs that do little to advance the piece. This musical is not like that at all – the full story is there in all its twists and turns and samplings of childhood antics. And the music is glorious – from humorous romps (starring the wonderful Dean Holt and Autumn Ness as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood) – to nostalgic pieces like “When I Grow Up” that make me miss the simplicity of being a kid, to Miss Trunchbull’s frightening solos that feel somehow like a soliloquy by Iago or Richard the III. Perhaps most striking of all are what I consider the three female leads – Matilda, Miss Honey, and Miss Trunchbull. It’s wonderful to see such diverse examples of women portrayed on stage, from sweet and conscience (Miss Honey) to clever and bold (Matilda) to wicked and brutal (Miss Trunchbull) and so much more in between for all three. Seeing Emily Gunyou-Halaas play Trunchbull alone makes the entire show – I can’t recall seeing a performance that made me so afraid and yet also gleeful as someone who loves seeing more diverse rolls for women onstage.

Overall

Go see this show. It’s beautiful and wonderful and a giant fist pump for bibliophiles. It will make you appreciate what it takes to be a growing child (and adult) in this world. And it’s a whole lot of fun to boot.

General Information

Matilda the Musical runs through June 23. The book is by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and direction by Peter C. Brosius. For show and ticket information, please visit Children Theatre’s website.

The Hobbit

hobbit_Ctc
Photo Credit: Children’s Theatre Company

About the Show

Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved tale The Hobbit, this play focuses on the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, a peaceful food-loving hobbit turned reluctant burglar to aid a troupe of dwarfs in regaining their mountain overtaken by the terrifying dragon Smaug.

Why I Chose to See It

I am a Lord of the Rings fanatic and actually a hobbit (second breakfast, anyone?). I hadn’t yet seen a show at Children’s Theatre Company (I know, how is that possible?) and, as this was one of my favorite books as a kid, I deeply wanted to see how a children’s theater adapted it. Also the casting was phenomenal and there was no way I was going to miss the chance to see this ensemble perform.

My Response

This is a fantastic and faithful adaption down to Bilbo’s dress and spiffy feet – yes, while there’s no hairy feet onstage (likely due safety and the price/ quick wear and tear of prosthetics) but the brown dress shoes still get to the heart of a hobbit’s character and physicality. I expected the adaption to trim away unnecessary bits and skirt away from the grim end, none of which it did. It certainly trims the book down but doesn’t leave anything out, merely represents it more leanly, also making it easier for its younger audience members to understand (and likewise shows how foolish it was for the film to stretch the story out into three films). It also doesn’t change the end at all –  in fact, the show deals with hardship grief in a really lovely and sensitive way. The costumes are fantastic, creating whole new characters out of a certain core piece (goggles, helmet, headband, etc) and blending a feel of found items with a highly designed set. The cast is especially delightful and powerful. I don’t want to pick a favorite in this ensemble because they’re all so good – Joy Dolo’s Lady Gandalf and skin-crawling Gollum, H. Adam Harris’s cheerful Kili and menacing Smaug, Becca Hart’s endearing Balin and courageous Bard (I always thought Bard ought to be a woman so I’m happy to see this come true in this production), Reed Sigmund’s brave, powerful, and greedy Thorin, and Dean Holt’s picture perfect Bilbo. I couldn’t believe that an ensemble of only five members could portray all the characters in this book (especially as there’s thirteen dwarfs!) but they do it without making it feel barebones. It’s simple but as lush, robust, and alive as any large-casted show. The music is especially fun with a score throughout and a several key songs.

Overall

I’m sad I waited to so long to see a show at CTC but I’m also overwhelmingly happy this is my first. I don’t often find myself in rooms filled with children and I absolutely loved experiencing this show with young, creative minds willing to go along with whatever was thrown their way and use their imaginations to fill in the blanks with costumes and sets. I also enjoyed their unrestrained reactions and I jumped right along with them in some of the scary parts. I highly recommend this show equally to children and adults. I found myself hoping that this show returns one day so I can bring my friend’s child to this and experience introducing a new generation into one my favorite books.

General Information

The Hobbit adapted and directed by Greg Banks. It is playing now through April 14th at Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis. For show and ticket information, please visit Children’s Theatre Company’s site.