Geoffrey Cowan and Leroy Aarons' historical drama, directed by John Rubinstein, whose troupers read from scripts, will be recorded to air on LATW's nationally syndicated, weekly radio theatre series, "The Play's the Thing."
Since October 2007, a cast of stage and screen veterans including John Heard, Gregory Harrison, Susan Sullivan, John Vickery, Bo Foxworth, James Gleason, Russell Soder, Peter Van Norden, Tom Virtue and Geoffrey Wade has been performing the piece at universities, colleges and civic centers across the country.
"In a democratic society, when should a government be allowed to protect secrets in the name of national security?" ask production notes. "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 need 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 tour is a wonderful way to fire up a national, nonpartisan conversation about the central issue of the play — national security vs. the people's right to know," stated LATW producing artistic director Susan Loewenberg.
"The issues presented by The Pentagon Papers case are sure to be with us as Americans as long as we are a democracy and as long as we face hostile forces in the world," stated playwright Cowan. "They have gained new currency, meaning and urgency in the era of international terrorism and the Internet." According to LATW production notes, "In 1966, United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned a study on the history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The document, which came to be known as The Pentagon Papers, contained more than two million words, including some that would prove politically embarrassing about Administration efforts to manipulate military information and the media. Only 15 copies of the Papers were circulated, and in 1971, one was leaked to the New York Times, which printed its first story before the government won a restraining order. Eager to get a piece of this remarkable story, The Washington Post, not covered by the initial injunction against The Times, obtained a copy of The Papers and had one day to read the documents and make a decision about publishing the sensitive material."
"Watergate cast a bigger shadow, but there was no time in Watergate when we had to tear everything apart and make a single decision that was fraught with such consequence," Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee said when he retired in 1991.
LATW's "The Play's the Thing" airs weekly on 89.3 FM KPCC in Southern California; 89.7 WGBH in Boston; 91.5 FM WBEZ in Chicago; 94.9 KUOW in Seattle; 93.5 FM KRTS "Marfa Public Radio" in Texas; 90.5 FM KUT in Austin; 88.9 FM KUNM in Albuquerque; 94.1 KPFA in Northern California; 91.1 FM KRCB in Sonoma County; 89.1 KUOR in Redlands; as well as on many other public radio stations nationwide and XM Satellite Radio. Selected programs from LATW are also heard internationally over BBC World Service, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Telefis Eirann (Ireland), Radio Hong Kong, and Radio New Zealand.
The L.A. Theatre Works Audio Theatre Collection is available in bookstores, libraries, through their catalog, digitally on itunes, overdrive.com, audible.com, and on the L.A. Theatre Works website at www.latw.org.
Performances of Top Secret: The Battle for The Pentagon Papers take place March 12 at 8 PM, March 13 at 8 PM, March 14 at 8 PM, March 15 at 3 PM and March 16 at 4 PM.
Tickets range $20-$47. The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., off the San Diego (405) Freeway (exit Skirball Center Drive). For tickets and information, call the L.A. Theatre Works box office at (310) 827-0889 or visit www.latw.org.