Another former student at Children’s Theatre Company has sued the theater and Twin Cities restaurateur Jason McLean, alleging sexual abuse and institutional negligence.
Filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court by an unidentified “Jane Doe,” the suit alleges that McLean, who was an actor and teacher at CTC in the 1980s, sexually abused the girl for four years beginning in 1981, when she was a ninth-grader and he was twice her age.
The plaintiff subsequently issued a statement identifying herself: Melissa Beneke, who served as McLean’s dresser during productions.
“I have been silent about the truth, as painful as it is, for too long,” said Beneke, 48, who is a yoga instructor in Anchorage, Alaska.
The suit alleges that McLean “coerced” her to deny the abuse to a grand jury convened to investigate the company in 1984. “When he was at risk of being exposed and criminally prosecuted for his abuse of me, in order to protect himself, he coerced and manipulated me to lie,” Beneke said in her statement.
Neither McLean, 61, owner of the Loring Pasta Bar and the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, nor his attorney, Jon Hopeman, responded Wednesday to requests for comment. In a statement after the first suit was filed, Hopeman noted that state investigators pursued allegations against McLean in 1984 but brought no charges.
The suit is the fourth filed against CTC — and the third to name McLean as a defendant — since Dec. 1, when former students decided to revisit a sex-abuse scandal that engulfed the theater three decades ago.
Children’s Theatre had no response to the latest suit, but previously expressed empathy for victims of sexual abuse, saying, “we welcome any information that may come forward as a result of this process.”
The lawsuits are being filed under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations in seeking redress for past crimes. The law expires in May.
Attorney Jeff Anderson said that the latest suit began as a Jane Doe case, but that he “gave Melissa the choice to come out when and how she wanted to. And she was ready today. The point is that survivors need to know that they can take action and remain anonymous, and, if they choose to, they can come forward.”