The play, Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, concluded a five-week run at the historic 4th Street Theater in Manhattan’s East Village. CCLP presented the play in partnership with New York Theatre Workshop, L.A. Theatre Works and Affinity Company Theater. The New York Theatre Workshop’s founding trustee, Stephen Graham, is the son of the late Washington Post publisher and Top Secret protagonist Katharine Graham.
Co-written by Geoffrey Cowan and late journalism professor Leroy Aarons, the play is an inside look at the Washington Post’s decision to publish a top-secret study documenting the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. The subsequent trial tested the parameters of the First Amendment, pitting the public’s right to know against the government’s claim of secrecy. The epic legal battle between the government and the press went to the nation’s highest court and is perhaps the most important Supreme Court case ever on freedom of the press.
In conjunction with the New York production, CCLP presented a series of post-performance discussions with journalists, political leaders and scholars hosted by such organizations as the Columbia Journalism Review and the Asia Society. Among those participating in the discussions were legendary investigative reporter Carl Bernstein, New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson, Washington Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, Bloomberg Chief Content Officer Norm Pearlstine, and Daniel Ellsberg, the American military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers.
The play won the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Gold Medal for Excellence in Best Live Entertainment. The 2007-2008 national tour was accompanied by seminars and discussions with many with first-hand knowledge of the controversy–including Ellsberg and John Dean, then White House counsel to President Richard M. Nixon and later a key witness for the Watergate prosecution.