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Excerpts from Jasmin Rosemberg, Daily Variety

“This isn’t just a birthday party, it’s a family reunion!” chimed JoBeth Williams — who’s starred in 20 LATW productions. She opened the show alongside L.A. Theatre Works actors and longtime supporters including Hector Elizondo, Judith Light, Susan Sullivan, Edward Asner and Marsha Mason, “We started out giving workshops in prisons and, now, we record plays with the most famous actors in the world,” said original founder and current producing director Susan Loewenberg, who wanted to make the theater experience a little less ephemeral and has now amassed a library of over 500 recorded plays — one of the largest anywhere. They’ve also developed an app used in schools, so students can hear Shakespeare performed while reading the esoteric prose. “It’s taking theater and using it to touch all these other aspects of life,” Sullivan said.

“Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers,” written by the night’s honoree, Geoffrey Cowan. “This is a play that started in a classroom and wound up traveling all over the United States, playing five weeks in New York, and then going to China,” said the USC professor, president of the Annenberg Foundation Trust and first-time playwright, to whom Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Mayor Eric Garcetti (in person) delivered words of praise. “It celebrates the importance of freedom of the press and an independent judiciary, two great American traditions and institutions,” he said, noting onstage how late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham “would be turning cartwheels if she knew Jane was playing her.”

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