Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers Opens at New York Theatre Workshop

On March 9, Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, the documentary play by Geoffrey Cowan and Leroy Aarons opened at New York Theatre Workshop’s Fourth Street Theater.

Reportedly, Washington Post reporter George Wilson, who played a key role in protecting the Post against the Justice Department’s efforts to enjoin publication, was at the opening.  Wilson is the latest of several Pentagon Papers participants attending the NYTW production.  At a March 7 preview, Linda Amster, a New York Times researcher who worked on that paper’s Pentagon Papers series borrowed the microphone during the post-show discussion (audio available here) to share her memories of the dramatic and passion-filled weeks she spent working on the project.  On Tuesday, March 16, Daniel Ellsberg, the RAND analyst who leaked the Papers to the Times and the Post will share his perspective in a post-show discussion sponsored by the Columbia Journalism Review.

Responding to the opening, theater critics found the play an informative rendering of events that continue to resonate today, with Peter Santilli for the Associated Press writing that although “[i]t has been nearly 40 years since the story played out in the national media, [] the perennial struggle by the press to illuminate government secrets never seems to get old.”  The New York Times’s Charles Isherwood agreed that Top Secret provided an “intelligent and informative” dramatization of a “historic chapter in 20th-century journalism” that “continues to resonate today, as the desire of the government to keep its secrets and the responsibility of the press to monitor its workings come into frequent conflict,” although he took issue with both the presentation of the play as a radio drama and with its focus on the Washington Post‘s perspective.

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