Roy Aaron’s creative endeavors went well beyond his long-time profession, journalism. After leaving daily newspaper work, the prolific writer went on to pen a book, plays and operas. As an artist Roy combined his passion for social justice with journalistic flair to educate audiences through mesmerizing literary works.
Roy’s theatrical tendencies
were apparent from an early age.
As an editor with the Washington Post in the 1970s, Roy had a front seat when the Pentagon Papers story surfaced. The Nixon administration had been trying to prevent release of key information about the Vietnam War by classifying it as “Top Secret,” but two Post reporters broke the story. Based in Los Angeles as the Post’s bureau chief, Roy covered California-related events in the Pentagon Papers case, including information about Daniel Ellsberg’s time at the Rand Corporation and how papers were removed from Rand headquarters.
In 1983 award-winning author and longtime academic Geoffrey Cowan asked Roy to bring his intimate knowledge about the Post’s handling of the Pentagon Papers and his writing talents to co-author a docudrama. In 1991 their play, “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers,” aired on National Public Radio, performed by Ed Asner and Marsha Mason. The drama won the coveted Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Gold Award for best live entertainment program on public radio. “Top Secret” is still performed at colleges nationwide, as a production of LA Theatre Works.
Many people who knew Roy suggested that he write a memoir to recount his fascinating encounters with John Lennon, Bettie Davis and Judy Garland, among others. As this was not his passion, Roy was reluctant. He also hesitated to write about the pain of growing up with a difficult stepmother and as a gay youth in the conservative 1950s.
Roy did, however, author a full-length autobiographical work, “Home Movies,” a memory play in multimedia. Sad, yet funny and hopeful, the play focuses on his teenage years and his service in the U.S. Navy. He finished “Home Movies” the day before he died; it has not yet been produced.
Another of his plays, “Zeke the Profane,” deals with the ambivalent attitudes many reform Jews have towards circumcision. Based on experiences with friends who were facing the decision, Roy conducted in-depth research and wrote this humorous portrayal of a very contentious issue.
At the time of his death, Roy was working on a play, “Night Nurse,” about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for which he and Joshua Boneh had spent a month in South Africa earlier that year. At the time Peter Callender, an actor and producer with the California Shakespeare Theater, gave a rousing performance of the partial play at the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley, CA. To date the project has not been completed.