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Supporters rally to defend Children's Theatre

Nearly 100 persons rallied at City Hall Saturday to defend the theater and top staff members

Nearly 100 supporters of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre rallied Saturday at City Hall to support the theater, its suspended Director Pat Briggs and question the police investigation.

Mayor Larry Klein told the crowd that the theater will continue to serve Palo Alto area children as it did his children in the 1970s and 1980s, and has done for more than 75 years.

Some participants wore theatrical costumes, and others held up signs, including "We (heart) Michael," a reference to the late Assistant Director Michael Litfin, who died Feb. 1. He had been undergoing treatment for cancer, but the precise cause of death has not been announced.

Briggs, Litfin and two other staff members were abruptly placed on administrative leave Jan. 24 by City Manager Frank Benest, and a police department press release announced an investigation into "financial crimes" at the theater.

A statement released by the Friends of the Children's Theatre states that the staff members have not been treated with fairness and decency. Some rally participants said it is ludicrous to suggest that either Briggs or Litfin have been involved in criminal activities that hurt the theater they loved.

Police have searched the homes of three of the four suspended staff members as well as public storage units of the Friends group, the theater and five individuals affiliated with the theater. Police Chief Lynne Johnson said that "evidence was obtained" during the search, which she has said has become increasingly complex as it progressed and involves "tens of thousands" of dollars.

Equipment thefts from the theater were initially reported last June.

-- Palo Alto Weekly staff

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