Cowan’s ‘Top Secret’ debuts at Beijing’s National Center for the Performing Arts

NCPA Beijing.JPG

At the invitation of TSChina2013.jpgBeijng’s National Centre for the Performing Arts and sponsored in part by the U.S. Embassy in Beijingand the U.S. Department of StateL.A. Theatre Works (LATW) returns to China in June, 2013 with CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan’s riveting historical drama, Top Secret: The Battle for The Pentagon Papers. LATW toured China with Top Secret in 2011, playing to sold out houses of Chinese professionals and students.

USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy has produced a series of educational conversations around these performances.

L.A. Theatre Works will be the first American theater company to perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China’s leading performing arts center (“The Egg”). Additional tour venues include the Tianjin Grand Theater as well as major venues in Hangzhou, Suzhou, Chongqing and Fuling.

Due to its historic debut on June 4, 2013 the play is receiving national press reviews noting the significance of the content in juxtaposition with the location.

According to The Atlantic:

The play is scheduled for a three-night run at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts in June, the first time any American play has appeared inside the grande dame of Chinese music and theater. It’s also set for performances in Tianjin, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Fuling, and Chongqing.

According to The New York Times:

Even more surprising is the fact that the play is back again in China, and this time it is being performed in Beijing at the National Center for the Performing Arts, which, just west of Tiananmen Square, is the most prestigious venue of its kind in China.

Notably, the play is receiving positive reviews from audiences attending the performances via China’s social media site Weibo. The following excerpts are translations from the site following the performances in the provinces of Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Tianjin.


“I watched the play Top Secret from Los Angeles Theater Works. There were only 13 actors and the stage property could not be simpler. However, it contains profound messages that are worth thinking.”

“It’s my first time to watch a play in English. I was able to skip the script screen and catch with the pace of the performance (since the script didn’t follow the performance). The plot was compact and full of humor. The actors from those familiar TV series were terrific. It surprised me that I could watch it on the first floor even though my ticket was on the second.”


“Yesterday, the artists from Los Angeles Theater Works gave us an amazing play, Top Secret: The Battle for The Pentagon Papers. It allowed the audience of Tianjin to have an opportunity to closely experience the American politics, media, law and culture. After the performance, the director, producing director and the actors answered the questions from the audience. The interaction was friendly and of high standard. It was impressive that the beautiful lady from the theater spoke perfect Chinese.”

The play concludes it’s run on June 10, 2013 at the Fuling Grand Theatre in Chongqing.

Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers in China is produced by L.A. Theatre Works and Ping Pong Productions (, whose mission is to promote cultural diplomacy through the performing arts.

Sponsors include the United States Embassy Beijing, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs-US Department of State including the Arts Envoy Program, Ford FoundationChina Southern Airlines Los Angeles Office and Marriott Hotels and Resorts, including the Imperial Mansion, Beijing-Marriott Executive Apartments; Renaissance Tianjin Lakeview Hotel; and JW Marriott Hotel Chongqing.

Talking with Chinese about Press Freedom: The Play “Top Secret” in China

On February 2, 2012, the USC US-China Institute and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy co-sponsored an event at USC called Talking with Chinese about Press Freedom: The Play ‘Top Secret’ in China. The panel, moderated by US-China Institute Executive Director Clayton Dube, included playwright Geoffrey Cowan, producing director Susan Loewenberg, and actor Joshua Stamberg, who played Ben Bradlee in the tour of TOP SECRET in China.  The event also included a special presentation by Jason Xia, a masters student at USC who coordinated a social media campaign to promote the play’s tour in China on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Continue reading

Top Secret attracts global media attention

The recent tour of Top Secret in China has received attention from media outlets all over the world. Below are links to the coverage:

Chinese Allow Play on Pentagon Papers, but Not a Talk About It
The New York Times
December 2, 2011

Pentagon Papers still causing controversy 40 years on (in China)
Los Angeles Times
December 3, 2011

and Beijing
New Yorker
December 9, 2011

In Beijing, you just can’t chat about things “Top Secret”
Shanghai Scrap, Bloomberg
December 3, 2011

American Play Center on Free Speech Tours China

Voice of America News
December 5, 2011

STL Students Attended a Performance of “Top Secret”
Peking University School of Transnational Law
November 30, 2011

PKU cancels talk after free speech play

Global Times
December 4, 2011

Le pari (in)sense d’une troupe de theatre americaine en Chine
Le Monde
December 9, 2011

Cowan’s play on press freedom completes tour in China

Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, a docu-drama co-written by CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan and the late Leroy Aarons, was performed in China in November and December 2011. The L.A. Theatre Works production was performed in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. The tour was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Top Secret was last presented during a successful Off-Broadway run at New York Theatre Workshop in 2010.

This China production of Top Secret was directed by award-winning director Stephen Sachs. The cast included well known actors from stage, screen, and television including Henry Clarke, JD Cullum, James Gleason, Nicholas Hormann, Amy Pietz, Russell Soder, Josh Stamberg, Peter Van Norden, Steve Vinovich and Tom Virtue.

In conjunction with performances, CCLP presented post-performance discussions with Cowan and other special guests in partnership with China’s leading law and journalism schools. This provided a valuable opportunity to contextualize the content of the play, which is authentically American, within Chinese society.

In addition to the performances and discussions, Cowan delivered the prestigious F.Y. Chang lecture, a joint program of Peking University Law School, Tsinghua University Law School and the Harvard University Law School East Asian Legal Studies Program.

Links to coverage:
Voice of America
New York Times
Los Angeles Times

Tour Details

November 21 – 26, 2011 / Shanghai
Seven performances in the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center’s Annual International Contemporary Theatre Festival
Panel discussions with Cowan and NYU Shanghai public interest law professors and Fudan University School of Journalism.
One performance at the Peking University (PKU) School of Transnational Law as part of the celebrations in honor of PKU Shenzhen’s 10th Anniversary;
Panel discussions, lectures, and workshops with bilingual law students, law professors, and local community led by law school Dean Jeffrey Lehman and Cowan.

November 29 – 30, 2011 / Guangzhou
Two performances at Sun Yat-Sen University
Panel discussions with Cowan about the role of journalists and journalism in society

December 1 – 5, 2011 / Beijing
Four performances at the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture’s Annual International Theater and Dance Festival
Panel discussions and lectures at the Comparative Law Program at Renmin University of China Law School; Peking University; Tsinghua University
Panel discussions with the American Bar Association.