Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers Performance and Discussion Celebrating Leroy Aarons

The Sunday, March 7 performance of Top Secret was followed by a panel discussion honoring the late Leroy Aarons, a Washington Post reporter and bureau chief and founder of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) who was also one of the co-creators of Top Secret.

Click below to hear the audio from Sunday’s post-show discussion.

Audio: Top Secret 03.07.10 Caldwell, Kaiser, Miller, Alba Panel Discussion

Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr. of the NLGJA posted this reflection on Sunday’s performance and discussion, including the following reflections on Leroy Aarons and on Sunday’s event:

Leroy Aarons, the late founder of NLGJA, was a man of many talents. He fused his interest in the theater with his expertise as a news man by co-authoring the play “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers” with Geoffrey Cowan, who most recently was dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

Originally a radio play on NPR, it has been adapted for the stage at LA Theatre Works. In collaboration with New York Theatre Works in the East Village of Manhattan, it is making its first off-Broadway run through March 28.

A special sold-out matinee performance was held on Sunday, March 7, in honor of Roy. Joshua Boneh, Roy’s partner, was in attendance, as were many of Roy’s family, friends, colleagues and admirers.

A panel discussion was held after the performance to discuss Roy’s legacy. Esteemed journalist and author Charles Kaiser, one of the founding members of the New York chapter of NLGJA, was one of the panelists.

. . .

Wonderful acting made sure a good time, as they say, was had by all, capped off by a gathering at a local wine bar after the performance for those in attendance.

I strongly encourage NLGJA members to see this play. It’s a testament to Roy’s talents, but it’s much more than that. It’s a reminder of the important role that the news industry plays in our democracy.

Sunday’s post-show discussion at NYTW featured several people with distinct perspectives on Leroy Aarons and his work.  Earl Caldwell, a renowned former New York Times journalist and contemporary of Aarons, is currently the Scripps Howard endowed professor of journalism at Hampton University and host of the “Caldwell Chronicle” radio program.  Caldwell, who was the first black journalist to write a regular column in a major daily newspaper, also played a unique role in journalistic history, when his refusal to disclose the sources his New York Times reporting on the Black Panthers was one of three cases considered by the Supreme Court in Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972).

Also on the panel was Charles Kaiser, Author, Full Court Press and Founder and Former President, NLGJA NY Chapter.  Kaiser is a renowned commentator on gay issues in the media.

Also participating in the discussion was Rebecca Miller, who acted in the Golden Globe nominated 2009 Lifetime movie Prayers for Bobby.  Prayers for Bobby was based on a book by Aarons which told the true story of a religious, suburban mother struggling to accept her son after she finds out he is gay.  Miller described the numerous emails and letters the cast of the film recieved from teenagers and families across America who received help from the film in working on issues within their own families and community.

Monica Alba, a recent USC graduate, also spoke, describing the impact of a USC journalism course Aarons designed to introduce journalism students there about reporting on sexuality and gender identity.

**Note: In the post-show discussion Sunday, an audience member spoke about a July, 1967 article Aarons wrote for the Post about events in Plainfield, NJ that month that included riots and the death of a policeman.  Click here for access to that article, in which Aarons describes the successful efforts of Donald McDonald, a black NJ government employee, to stave off further violence.

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