Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs will travel to China this week to direct the docudrama, TOP SECRET: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers for LA Theatre Works. The play, written by Geoffrey Cowan and Leroy Aarons, dramatizes the Freedom of the Press confrontation in 1971 between the Washington Post and the Nixon administration over the newspaper’s right to print the government’s classified documents on the Viet Nam War made public by Daniel Ellsberg.
This unique international project has been initiated and launched by LA Theatre Works, under the leadership of producer Susan Loewenberg.
Top Secret will not be performed in LA Theatre Works’ usual “radio drama” format with actors standing in front of microphones reading from scripts held in hand. For this China tour, the play is being fully staged and produced with actors off-book, lines memorized, utilizing props, costumes, light and sound cues. Sachs and the cast have been in rehearsal for two weeks in Los Angeles. The cast includes Amy Pietz, Josh Stamberg, James Gleason, Henry Clarke, Nicholas Hormann, JD Cullum, Russell Soder, Steve Vinovich, TomVirtue, Peter Van Norden, and Myndy Crist.
Sachs and company leave for China on Saturday, November 19, for a 3-city performance tour to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Many Chinese in the audience speak English as a second language. The play will be performed in English with projected title-captioning in Chinese. The venues range in size from an intimate 300-seat proscenium theater to a much larger 2,000-seat performing arts center. Post-show discussions, workshops, and panels have been scheduled after each performance and throughout the run in each city. Sachs and company return to the US on December 5th.
At a time when intellectuals and artists are being imprisoned in China and the very issues the play raises are being challenged on all fronts, LA Theatre Works and its local institutional partners in China will use theater as a conduit to give Chinese audiences insight into the human struggles behind issues considered ‘taboo’ there, and thereby promote people-to-people cross-cultural understanding.
For Chinese students of the American court system and lawyers interested in international law, this docudrama is a compelling and engaging vehicle to provide an accurate and penetrating analysis and demonstration of the American judicial system and freedom of the press.
“It’s a thrilling once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to China and engage audiences there,” says Stephen. “I’m eager to see how Chinese citizens respond to this play and the issues of freedom that it raises. What an unforgettable experience this will be.”
Stephen will chronicle his adventures in China on the Fountain Blog. Stay tuned!