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A co-production of L.A. Theatre Works,New York Theatre Workshop and Affinity Collaborative Theater

Top Secret: Battle for the Pentagon Papers
by Geoffrey Cowan, Leroy Aarons

Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers is an inside look at The Washington Post’s decision to publish the top secret study documenting U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The subsequent trial tested the parameters of the First Amendment, pitting the public’s right to know against the government’s desire for secrecy. The epic legal battle between the government and the press went to the nation’s highest court - arguably the most important Supreme Court case ever on freedom of the press.

The Washington Post Writes...

“Top Secret”: Pentagon Papers, for Your Ears Only
by Nelson Pressley
Published Feb 3, 2008

Publishing the Pentagon Papers was, of course, one of the great dramatic events in journalism. But can the tangled episode actually hold the stage?

It will try to in radio-theater style -- actors holding scripts and working behind microphones -- when “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers” plays at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at Maryland this Thursday and Friday. The radio troupe L.A. Theatre Works, which first produced the show for broadcast in 1991, is touring this lone theatrical effort by Geoffrey Cowan, a 65-year-old journalism professor who figured he knew a good drama when he taught one.

“I’ve always loved dramas based on fact,” Cowan says from Harvard, where he is a fellow with the Kennedy School of Government. Cowan cites the transcript-driven “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been” (1972) and “In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer” (1964) as favorites, and says he could feel the same kind of intrigue and tension in a media law class he taught at UCLA each time he came to the issues surrounding The Washington Post's decision to publish the Pentagon Papers.

 

The Philadelphia Inquirer Writes...

Set in 1971, current as latest news from Iraq
by Howard Shapiro; Inquirer Staff Writer
Published February 16, 2008

Some historical plays are all about the past, but really good ones are just as much about now. Watching Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, the lively L.A. Theatre Works production running this weekend at Annenberg Center’s Harold Prince Theatre, I was processing Vietnam - and thinking Iraq.

Top Secret vigorously maintains that the American press is not just a prodder and inciter; it has a rigorous job to do in order for democracy to work. The play is about the Washington Post’s bold 1971 decision to print details from the purloined Pentagon Papers, but it resonates directly into this decade.

Listen closely, and you hear Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction rearing their unfound warheads. Except for the now-dissolved Knight Ridder Washington bureau, widely acknowledged as the sole outfit skeptical about the Bush administration's prewar WMD line, where was media rigor?

 


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