You might look at the terrible events described in The Last Closet and thank your lucky stars that nothing like that has ever happened around you. And you might be wrong:
Dozens of predators, 100s of kids: Decades of trained stars and scorched lives at Children’s Theatre.
Shortly after Children’s Theatre Company was founded in 1965, critics were calling it the greatest children’s troupe in the world. The extraordinary feats of its cast and crew, bright kids from across America, afforded the Twin Cities a reputation for artistic excellence.
The Minneapolis company was an insular institution with mysterious methods, helmed by the brilliant and volatile John Clark Donahue. He was also a predatory abuser of children. It was common knowledge that the boys in starring roles tended to be those who serviced Donahue sexually.
When Donahue was finally caught in 1984, Judge Charles Porter skewered the Twin Cities arts community for its complicity.
“‘Genius has to be given their idiosyncrasies, or genius has its funny side, and you have to forgive those sort of things. The theater would have collapsed if anything happened to John Clark Donahue, and the Twin Cities could not afford to have that happen.’ I have heard that so much,” Porter said at sentencing.
“Large family and company money, Dayton’s, Pillsbury, etc., supports the theater, and that they would not allow this to happen. The allegations would be squelched to protect their reputations.”
The judge understood that Donahue was just the spearhead of a larger deceit.
Underneath him were dozens of other staffers who sifted freely through the company’s turnstile of children. Some predators were friends Donahue hired to teach. Others were former students who’d been raped when they were very young, in an earlier decade, and raised in a boundaryless reality to become perpetrators in another.
But because many within the company worked to deflect probing questions from the outside world, the institutional nature of the abuse was hidden for decades. The company survived. It scoured its history.
My parents were patrons of the Children’s Theatre and we attended every show there for years, including at the height of this period of rapacious abuse. Neither they nor I had any idea about any of this, of course; I knew nothing of it until Spacebunny brought my attention to it this weekend.
And it is an object lesson in understanding that the murky depths of evil may lurk considerably closer to you than you would ever assume.