Jeff Church, the Coterie Theatre’s creative director for almost 30 years, was discovered dead on Saturday after quitting amid sexual assault claims that began spreading on social media. On Saturday afternoon, investigators from the Kansas City Police Department found Church dead at his residence. According to a statement issued by the KCPD on Monday, emergency medical personnel rushed to the site and verified Church’s death.
The medical examiner’s office has not yet announced the cause of death. Church died only days after detailed social media posts claimed the creative director of a children’s theatre was involved in sexually abusing young males. Mark Manning of KKFI 90.1 alleged in a Facebook post on Thursday, Dec. 22, that Church beat him 31 years ago when he was 27 and that he knew many others who had also been victimized.
Manning told The Star that he opted to share his story to encourage others who had spoken out, specifically Dashawn Young, who was among the first to speak out against Church.
He posted a Facebook post
“It’s been going on for over 30 years, “Manning said. “Most of these people were young theater artists trying to find their way through their theatrical career and a person in a very great authority position of directing them and deciding who gets paid and who gets the job was interfering in people’s lives. “
Manning stated that following his Facebook post on Thursday, three people contacted him to express that they had witnessed similar conduct from Church. The Pitch initially reported the charges on Friday, with the magazine reporting that more than a dozen people had come forward with allegations regarding Church’s inappropriate behaviour.
“He has groomed, abused, and assaulted, numerous young men over the course of 30+ years. Myself included,” actor KC Comeaux said in a statement on Facebook about Church on Friday.
“If you, or someone you love has fallen victim to Jeff Church, I want you to know you are not alone. I, and countless others are here to support you and help healing in any way we can.”
The Star was unable to verify every sexual assault complaint independently.
Following the claims against Church, The Coterie Theatre said on Saturday afternoon on its Facebook page that it had accepted Church’s resignation and was dedicated to examining the allegations. The biographical page for Church has been removed from the theatre’s website.
“We want you to know that we are taking these claims very seriously and will launch an inquiry right now, despite the upcoming holidays,” the message says.
Coterie remain quiet
The Coterie Theatre did not respond to requests for comment on Church’s death or their continuing inquiry into the claims against him. Manning believes it is time for Kansas City’s theatrical community to confront sexual assault charges. “It’s a disaster for our town,” added Manning. “I don’t want to see an entire theatrical company ruined because of one individual and the horrific things they did to a number of different people, both men and women over a long period of time,” Manning said.
Joette Pelster, the veteran director of the Coterie Theatre, also died lately of natural causes. In November, the 71-year-old died in her sleep. “Her accomplishments were numerous, and her effect on the performing arts in Kansas City was enormous,” said David Golston, a theatre spokesperson, in an email to The Star last month. It is unknown whether anyone in the theatre was aware of the abuse claims against Church.
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