Politicians versus journalists, the public’s right to know versus the government’s desire for secrecy. Just in time for election season, L.A. Theatre Works — the nation’s foremost radio theater company — will present a rare live performance of Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers as part of the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series at Washington University.
Performances begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25 and 26. Tickets are $30; $25 seniors and Washington University faculty and staff; and $18 for students and children. Tickets are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or email Edison@wustl.edu.
The story of the Pentagon Papers begins in 1966, when United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned a study of the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Completed in 1969, the exhaustive report included frank and politically embarrassing revelations about administration attempts to manipulate military information as well as media coverage.
Though only 15 copies were circulated, one was leaked to The New York Times and on June 13, 1971, the paper published a story under the headline “Vietnam Archive: Pentagon Study Traces 3 Decades of Growing U.S. Involvement.” Two days later the Nixon administration sought and won a restraining order against the Times, yet another copy was soon given to The Washington Post, which was not covered by the injunction.
Top Secret — which is based on documents secured through the Freedom of Information Act as well as interviews and other sources — recounts the Post’s momentous deliberations about whether or not to publish the classified material. Led by editor Ben Bradlee, the paper’s staff sorts through documents and tries to decide if publishing the Papers violates national security. The play also explores the extensive legal wrangling that followed — wrangling that ultimately led to a historic Supreme Court decision reaffirming First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
The four-member cast is led by award-winning actor John Heard as Ben Bradlee. Heard has appeared in more than 80 films, including starring roles in Big, The Pelican Brief, Home Alone, Awakenings, In the Line of Fire, Pollock and, most recently, The Great Debaters. He has also appeared on numerous television shows, including Law and Order, Prison Break, CSI: Miami and Entourage. His 1999 turn on The Sopranos earned an Emmy Award nomination for Guest Actor in a series. Other honors include a Theatre World Award and an Obie Award for his Off-Broadway performances in Othello and Split.
Also starring is Gregory Harrison as Post lawyer Brian Kelly. Harrison has appeared in more than 40 movies-of-the-week, including Breaking the Silence, For Ladies Only and First Daughter, the latter of which set a basic cable audience record. He has also had recurring roles on Ed, Judging Amy, and Strong Medicine. Films include It’s My Party, North Shore, Razorback, Running Wild and Air Bud II: Golden Receiver.
John Vickery plays Post editor Ben Bagdikian as well as Nixon official Robert Mardian. Vickery’s Broadway credits include the role of “Scar” in The Lion King, as well as roles in The Sisters Rosensweig, The Real thing, Eminent Domain, Ned and Jack and Macbeth. Films include Rapid Fire, Big Business, Patriot Games, Murder by Numbers and Out of Bounds. He has also frequently appeared on television, including roles on NCIS, Without a Trace, Frasier and NYPD Blue.
Rounding out the cast is Obie Award winning actress Shannon Cochran as Post publisher Katherine Graham. Cochran has both acted and directed in numerous productions for the Steppenwolf Theatre and is on the staff at the School at Steppenwolf. She recently created roles in new productions at the Sundance Theatre Festival and the Goodman Theatre. Her film credits include The Ring, Star Trek: Nemesis, The Babe and Oliver Stone’s forthcoming Pinkville. Television credits include Grey’s Anatomy, The Unit and The Office, as well as a recurring role on the upcoming Fox series The Oaks.
L.A. THEATRE WORKS
Over the last three decades, L.A. Theatre Works has emerged as the nation’s foremost radio theater company, producing more than 360 radio plays performed by many of America’s top stage and screen actors. The company’s weekly show, The Play’s the Thing, can by heard on XM Satellite Radio as well as on public radio affiliates around the country. More than 4,000 libraries carry an extensive backlist of L.A. Theatre Works’ plays while the company’s “Alive and Aloud” program produces teaching materials now used by 2,000 middle and high schools nationwide.
Founded in 1973, the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis. Edison Theatre programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors. The OVATIONS! Season is supported by The Mid-America Arts Alliance with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
WHO: L.A. Theatre Works
WHAT: Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25 and 26
WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
TICKETS: $30; $25 for seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff; $18 for students and children. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.
SPONSOR: Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series
INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543 or edisontheatre.wustl.edu