Posted by: mulrickillion | December 4, 2011

Play on Pentagon Papers Goes On in Beijing, but Not a Talk

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From left, Josh Stamberg, Amy Pietz and Peter Van Norden in “Top Secret,” at Peking University. The play, from L.A. Theater Works, is performed in English. Shiho Fukada for The New York Times.

By Andrew Jacobs, Dec 2, 2011 — BEIJING — As far as dramatic timing goes, the text message from the powers that be announcing the sudden cancellation of a post-performance discussion of “Top Secret: Battle for the Pentagon Papers” was, well, perfectly timed.

The message, sent to the cellphone of the play’s producer on Friday night, warned of “unforeseen consequences spreading beyond the theater,” should the audience at Peking University be allowed to openly discuss the work, which delves into delicate matters like press freedom, power-hungry political leaders and the Nixon administration’s desire to quash information it deemed embarrassing.

“It was rather ironic but it drove home the issues in the play,” the producer, Alison Friedman, said moments after the house lights came up, and the crowd, many of them students at Peking, China’s most prestigious university, drifted away. “I can’t say we were surprised.”

Perhaps the bigger surprise was that this spare, fast-paced docudrama, performed in English and financed partly by the American Embassy, was even staged in a country whose skittish cultural czars regularly block movies, books and plays they find objectionable.

In late August, for example, the authorities canceled “Dr. Sun Yat-sen,” a sumptuous new opera about that Chinese revolutionary that was weeks away from opening at the National Center for Performing Arts. Officials described the action as a “postponement,” but they told its producers that the opera was politically problematic. . . .

Play on Pentagon Papers Goes On in Beijing, but Not a Talk – NYTimes.com

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