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Sex abuse lawsuit accuses Mpls restaurant owner, Children's Theatre founder

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Two people are suing the Children's Theatre Company, its founder and the owner of the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, claiming they were sexually abused during the 1970s and '80s when they were students at the theatre.

The suit was filed Monday by attorney Twin Cities attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who discussed the allegations in detail at a Tuesday news conference.

John Clark Donahue, who co-founded the CTC in the 1960s and was its artistic director for two decades, is accused of sexually abusing a plaintiff identified as John Doe on multiple occasions in 1977, when Doe was 15 years old, the Star Tribune reports.

The other plaintiff, Laura Adams, said at the news conference she was abused by Jason McLean, an entrepreneur who currently owns the Loring Pasta Bar and the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.

McLean, 61, was an actor and teaching artist at Children’s Theatre, according to the Star Tribune.

Adams claims McLean sexually abused her in 1983, when she was 15 years old. FOX 9 reports the abuse occurred shortly after the two were in a play together, cast as love interests, Adams said.

Now 48, Adams is an actor and wigmaster at the Guthrie Theater, the Star Tribune reports.

Accused's 'surprise' at lawsuit

The suit accuses McLean of sexually abusing two other female underage students in the 1980s, although they are not part of the lawsuit.

In a statement given to FOX 9, McLean said he's "surprised" that 35-year-old allegations are being brought up again.

"These same allegations were made in 1982 and were investigated by the BCA and by the Children’s Theater at that time. After the allegations were investigated in 1982, [McLean] resumed his work as an actor at the Children’s Theater. No complaint of any kind has ever been brought against Mr. McLean. Mr. McLean had no involvement in or knowledge of the activities for which John Donahue was convicted in 1984."

Donahue was at the center of a sex abuse scandal at CTC in the mid-’80s. He was charged in April 1984 with sexually abusing three male students ages 12-14.

It was a very public scandal at the time, FOX 9 reported earlier this summer, with rumors that there were other victims and accusations that CTC board members had tried to keep the investigation out of the public eye.

Donahue eventually pleaded guilty and served a 10-month jail sentence, the Star Tribune reports. But the lawsuit claims Donahue sexually abused more than a dozen other minors while he was at the theater. He has not yet commented on the suit. 

Children's Theatre also being sued

The Children’s Theatre is also named in the suit for negligence, and for keeping Donahue and McLean on staff after concerns about their interactions with minors were raised, according to the Star Tribune.

The theater responded in a statement, saying it "stands with the victims of abuse in their desire to see justice done and to have the truth be known."

“At the same time, however, we have a responsibility to defend the Theatre from allegations that we think are misdirected. Such is the case here. Based on what we know today, we do not believe that the Theatre was negligent in its conduct."

Anderson made clear he has no concerns with current CTC management.

Anderson is well known for his representation of sexual abuse survivors who have sued the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America.

The lawsuit was filed under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which opened a temporary window for sexual abuse survivors to file claims for incidents that happened decades ago. The deadline for taking action under that law is May 25, 2016.

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