Moorhead native’s abuse by pastor inspires fictional play


By Rohan Preston / (Minneapolis) Star Tribune on Aug 28, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS—James Hanson, an actor and religion professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, was doing a solo show about the apostle Paul a couple of years ago when he shared a secret with John Woehrle.

Hanson told Woehrle that he had been molested as a teenager by a Lutheran pastor in Moorhead, where he grew up. The cleric, David L. Anderson of Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, was a family friend.

Woehrle, a playwright, actor, director and teacher who was helping Hanson stage the production, consoled him. He suggested that Hanson share his story in a play.

“While clergy abuse has gotten a lot of press in movies like ‘Spotlight’ and other shows, there hasn’t been a lot from the victims’ perspective,” Hanson said. “I wanted to show the ripple effects of the abuse on the victim, the family, the community at large. It’s corrosive and ugly stuff that took me 17 years to acknowledge, but I’ve gotten to a good place now.”

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