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.
For those who may not be familiar with the Pentagon Papers saga, The New York Times first and then The Washington Post get embroiled in a struggle with the Nixon administration over the publishing of this official government review of the Vietnam War.
Many people credit the publishing of the Pentagon Papers as a major victory for freedom of the press and even go so far as crediting their publishing with helping to end the Vietnam War itself.
The play describes the details of how the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers was made by The Washington Post. The staging has kept the premise of it as a radio play with sound effects made by a person on stage, including paper rustling, ice cube swirling and lock twisting.
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.
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