Junior Theater 2007 Peter Pan.
Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 were best friends — and both were active in San Diego Junior Theatre, and had had sex with Eric von Metzke, a junior theatre teacher, when they were underage and he was in his mid-30s. Indeed, he first had sex with Jane Doe 2 when she was only 16.
Eric von Metzke has been sentenced to three years in prison for having sex with an underage girl. As a result, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 are are no longer best friends. Jane Doe 1 told the San Diego Police about her relationships with von Metzke. Jane Doe 2 refused to do so, because she believed she was in love with von Metzke, who was sent to the slammer only for his relationships with Jane Doe 1.
So Jane Doe 1 recently got a message from her former best friend: "Fk you [for] sending the love of my life to prison."
More interviews with people involved in the von Metzke case reveal very disturbing facts about the San Diego Junior Theatre. For example, a person who suspects that an underage girl or boy is being sexually exploited by an adult, is supposed to take the complaint to Child Protective Services or to the local police. One person who worked at the theatre for more than two decades swears that he was never aware of one lesson given to faculty members in when and how to report possible child abuse. Apparently, a current board member, who is a lawyer, suggested that such classes be set up, but they never were. Nor were teachers told that as people in position of trust or authority with young people, they had a special duty to report sexual abuse of the underaged.
Von Metzke had a peculiar affinity for girls half his age. He texted provocative messages to young girls. One young female texted to another, "Eric has been hitting on me and other girls." A mother says, "He was telling them they are pretty, making advances, texting them. He is charismatic, charming," and it was no surprise that Jane Doe 2 considered him "the hottest thing on the planet."
He took young people aged 14 and younger to an entertainment venue in the Los Angeles area, although there were no reports of sexual activity. He took a 14-year-old girl to an event by herself. Because he worked closely with Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, teenagers told the teachers that they were uncomfortable being taught, in particular, by von Metzke and Jane Doe 2. James Saba, executive director of the the theatre, was allegedly informed of the teens' wariness, say people close to the theatre. But he initially didn't do anything.
A female teacher, age 24, took a boy age 16 to Disneyland. They spent the night there. Even before he officially took his position, Saba recommended that the young lady be fired. She was. But later, according to a long-time employee of the theatre, Saba hired her back.
It was well known that von Metzke hung around socially with the Does 1 and 2 and a young man who is now estimated to be 20. Despite all the talk about the frequent socializing of the four, there was no action against von Metzke. The young man and Doe 1 "were caught in a closet together, in a compromising position," says one who worked at the theatre. The young man "was a good friend of Eric." Rumors roared, but apparently officials did not react.
Doe 2 was an aide to teacher von Metzke. After word got around, she was terminated. But he was not, at least initially, according to members of the reformers' group.
"The sleepovers involved a woman in her 30s," says a former theatre employee. "No one insinuated sexual happenings, but it was indicative of the culture there."
One theater pro, an outsider, directed one production. He got hold of von Metzke's text messages to underaged females. "The predatory behavior was pretty damned clear," he says ."I tried to warn the Junior Theatre about this." He called and got the runaround. He finally got to the person in charge of such matters and got the distinct feeling of a brush-off. "There is a pattern of protection there. The kids were aware" of what was going on.
A few days ago, when the von Metzke news broke, Saba sent out a message headed "Dear Junior Theatre Family:" The letter from Saba claimed "When the allegations were reported to Junior Theatre, we immediately contacted [the San Diego Police Department] and filed a police report. Mr. von Metzke was put on administrative leave, and ultimately terminated as an employee…Please be assured that all Junior Theatre employees undergo a full background check and complete State Mandated Reporter training before they are hired."
Junior Theatre certainly did not act "immediately," as Saba claims. That is clear from interviews. And people question the claim of training. In fact, the environment at Junior Theatre was dubious. One who worked there says, "They love Jimmy Saba and circle the wagons around him."
I tried to reach Saba. Today (June 24), telephone company information gave me a San Diego Couny number for him. But when I dialed it, I learned it was disconnected. I could not reach the media relations executive.