Another former student at Children’s Theatre has filed a lawsuit against the Minneapolis company alleging sexual abuse more than three decades ago.
Jeanette Simmonds, 46, who is now an academic adviser at the University of Minnesota, sued the theater on Tuesday, charging institutional negligence for the hiring and retention of the late Stephen Adamczak, who was a sound technician at CTC.
Simmonds alleges that Adamczak sexually assaulted her in 1983, when she was 14 and a crew member working on “Cinderella.” Adamczak, who was in his early 30s, ran sound for the show, according to the suit.
Adamczak was one of six CTC staffers or administrators charged in 1984-85 with criminal sexual conduct or failure to report it. Acquitted at trial, he died in 2007.
Simmonds alleges that Adamczak gave her and a friend alcohol and drugs at his apartment, then assaulted her.
Children’s Theatre issued a statement Tuesday: “While this individual was found not guilty of similar charges in 1984, we welcome any information that may come forward through this process. This is consistent with our unwavering support for those who seek to have the truth known and to see justice done.”
In an interview Tuesday, Simmonds said that at the time of the alleged assault, she regarded it as consensual, even though she was under the age of consent. Nonetheless, she testified about the sexual encounter to a grand jury — then changed her testimony at the trial, saying she could not remember if they had sex.
She explained her turnabout in a separate statement released Tuesday: “When several incidences of sexual abuse became front-page news in the spring of 1984, Children’s Theatre students felt our family and home were under attack. We were in a double bind: Tell the truth of our experiences … and thus betray our Children’s Theatre family, or lie about our experiences to protect this family.”
Originally from Decorah, Iowa, where her father taught philosophy at Luther College, Simmonds and her mother moved to the Twin Cities so she could attend the theater’s prestigious conservatory training school.
“I came here wanting so fervently to become a ballet dancer,” she said. “They stole my dreams.”
Simmonds is the fifth former student since Dec. 1 to sue Children’s Theatre and former employees under the auspices of the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations on past abuse. That law expires in May.
Theater co-founder John Clark Donahue, who pleaded guilty to sex crimes with three boys in 1984 and served 10 months in the Hennepin County Workhouse, is being sued by an unnamed “John Doe.” Former actor/teacher Jason McLean is the target of three suits.