Trial starts for Children's Theater Company accused of ignoring child actor abuse

The Children's Theater Company in Minneapolis is heading to court for a lawsuit accusing them of ignoring the abuse of child actors.

The lawsuit was filed by former child actors claiming the Children’s Theater Company, an institution for 40 years, did not do enough to protect kids from former director John Clark Donahue and former teacher Jason McLean. 

Both men are accused of sexually assaulting multiple children in the '60s, '70s and '80s. 

In 1984, Donahue pled guilty to sexual misconduct against three boys, ranging in age from 12 to 14 years old. He served just 10 months in the county workhouse.

McLean is accused of assaulting five teenage girls in the '80s, but was never charged.

"That one event, it was clear to me it was wrong,” said Laura Adams, a former child actor. “I knew I had been raped, but the fear and shame keeps you silent."

After civil lawsuits were filed against McLean back in 2017, he sold the Varsity Theater and Loring Pasta Bar for millions of dollars. He then failed to show up for a deposition, leading to a $2.5 million judgment against him.

McLean is now believed to be living in Mexico.

This lawsuit claims the Children’s Theater Company knew about the abuse, but did nothing to stop it.

Jury selection continues Wednesday morning with opening statements possible Wednesday afternoon.

Statement from Children's Theater Company 

“After three years, including almost a year of mediation, we’re disappointed that we’ve been unable to reach an agreement with Laura Stearns on her claims against the Theatre from 1983. Through her lawsuit, we have learned in great detail about what Jason McLean did to Laura 35 years ago. We believe her story, and we believe Mr. McLean should be judged and held accountable for his actions.

“Laura’s decision to use the legal process to further her claims and tell her story – which is wholly and appropriately her right – places multiple responsibilities on CTC and its leadership. We are committed to supporting the victims of abuse from the 1970s and early 80s and to safeguarding the mission of CTC and our ability to educate, challenge, and inspire young people and their communities today and into the future.

“We have tried to strike this balance, to stand with Laura and the other victims who have credible accusations of abuse from the 1970s and early ‘80s, while at the same time advocating for ourselves. We have tried to be as respectful as we possibly can in our conversations with Laura and other victims, with their attorneys, in communicating with our staff, in our public comments, and every other forum possible. To our core, we believe that any abuse of a child is a terrible act and we, too, want justice done and the truth to be known in these matters.

“We are sincere and enduring in these efforts and we will continue to try to strike this balance when we stand before the Court. There, we will acknowledge the authenticity of Laura’s story – that she was sexually abused by Jason McLean, that this abuse happened at McLean’s house in 1983 and that this abuse went unreported for a very long time – and we will offer our belief that the Theatre did not know of McLean’s actions, was not responsible for his actions, and was not negligent in its conduct. We are confident the jury will be able to separate those issues and reach a just and fair verdict.

“Child safety is our highest priority and our rigorous policies and day-to-day practices reflect this priority. We have a comprehensive set of practices designed to keep children safe. Those practices have worked and they continue to be a centerpiece of our culture. This is an area in which we will never say ‘Enough’ but will instead strive to be better today than we were yesterday, and even better tomorrow.”