“So Proudly We Hailed” is a webseries which honors veterans by dramatizing and musicalizing their story in their own words.
We pair our honorees with an artistic team comprised of a composer, lyricist, director, and dramaturg, and shape their story into a short musical retelling in a digital platform.
We are launching the resulting videos over the next few months - so please check back here often to find out what’s next!
This project is hosted by New Musicals Inc. This activity is supported in part by generous grants from:
the Helen and Jose Colton Foundation
the Peter Glenville Foundation
the Anonymous Fund (Marin County)
the California Arts Council, a state agency.
Christmas in Afghanistan
“We laughed, and ate excellent bread with the rest of our meal, and nobody blew up that day”
By Addison Blue, with music by Michael Finke; and lyrics by Addison Blu and Michael Finke. A soldier stationed in Afghanistan accidentally buys an entire truckful of bread on Christmas Eve.
Watch the full episode now!
Also enjoy some song excerpts and an interview with Addison!
“Christmas in Afghanistan” - the full episode
Addison Blu is a comedy writer and a regular contributor for the military satire website The Duffel Blog. His approach to writing is that he uses sad stuff to make the funny stuff funnier and funny stuff to make the sad stuff sadder. Addison’s also an Army PSYOP combat veteran, former professional gamer, musician, member of Mensa, and entrepreneur. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his wife and kids, and he still loves playing video games, but at a slightly below-average skill level now.
An interview with veteran Addison Blu
“Here’s to Next Christmas” - a song excerpt from “Christmas in Afghanistan”
“Christmas in Afghanistan” - a song excerpt from “Christmas in Afghanistan”
MICHAEL FINKE (Music and Co-Lyrics)
Michael Finke is an award-winning New York based musical theatre writer. He’s had his work performed at Lincoln Center, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Joe’s Pub, the Christmas Day telecast on ABC, the Green Room 42, and many more. He’s written the book, music and lyrics for musicals such as Reporting Live, Caroline and George, Surrounded By the Water, and Powerline Road. His musical short Dead Flowers is now available for licensing with Theatre Now and MTI and his upcoming debut album “Get What You Want” will be premiering later this year. Michael’s a winner of the New Voices Project with New Musicals Inc. and is a proud member of ASCAP and the Dramatist Guild.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with NMI once again and to find another awesome collaborator in the process with Addison Blu.”
MEGAN REES (Director)
TONOCCUS MCCLAIN (Performer)
Tonoccus McClain could be seen hosting television shows like FOX Family’s California Summer Countdown, reporting and anchoring Channel One News, performing in Beauty and the Beast live at the Hollywood Bowl, Game of Thrones Live at the LA Forum, multiple shows at the Disneyland resort, and multiple performances at the Academy Awards. He also traveled North America touring in over 2400 performances of The Lion King (Banzai u/s) for six years. He’s crossed the globe singing in countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Germany, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Argentina, China, Canada, Australia, Finland, and across the Caribbean and back. Tonoccus was also featured in LA Opera’s Porgy and Bess at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and in the LA Master Chorale, performing at Walt Disney Concert Hall for almost a decade. He could also be heard singing on almost 50 television and film soundtracks and commercials including The Lion Guard theme song, Glee, The Good Wife, Once Upon A Time, King Kong, Avatar, A Wrinkle in Time, Smallfoot, and featured in 2019’s reimagined The Lion King.
“As an army brat, I’ve had a front row seat to the endless sacrifices the women and men of our armed forces make each and every day. For me, there’s no greater nobility than to risk and give your all for a general public that often times has no idea what our freedom actually costs. That is the definition of honor and nobility. To be given the opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless many to whom I owe so much is one of the highlights of my career. To Addison, and to each and every service member of the United States, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are a real life superhero.”
Addison Blu as a civilian
“What’s the war like in your country?“
By Paulo Jorge Machado Dias Gonçalves, with music and lyrics by Ryan Patrick Martin. A United Nations Peacekeeper from Portugal learns his life’s mission through a chance conversation with a five-year-old Bosnian boy.
Watch the full episode now!
Plus excerpts and interviews.
“The Messenger” - the full episode
Paulo Jorge Machado Dias Gonçalves
Paulo Gonçalves is a Portuguese Air Force retired Colonel. He joined the military at the age of 19, in 1991, and served for 39 years. He specialized in Air Traffic Control, having executed operational and commanding tasks on both national and international units. In addition to his specialization in air traffic control, Colonel Paulo Gonçalves was also an instructor at the Portuguese Air Force Academy and in instruction flight squadrons. He also obtained qualifications in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense; Military Information; Public Relations, Military Protocol and Strategic Communication. Throughout his military career, he operated in 25 countries, including NATO Baltic Air Policing in the Baltic countries, NATO HQ Brussels, NATO Rapid Reaction Force (Chemical /Biological/Radiological/Nuclear Unit), NATO Lessons Learned Centre, European Union Operation Althea (Bosnia Herzegovina), United Nations missions - UNAVEM in Angola, UNPROFOR in the Former Yugoslavia, UNAMA in Afghanistan, and several other peace support/crisis resolution operations, serving Portugal in bilateral missions. Since his retirement (2020) he decided to become a storyteller, sharing his military experiences with others, having drawn cartoons and written several articles, papers and books about peacekeeping missions and crisis resolution operations. Paulo is married to Lina Gonçalves and they have three adult children.
An interview with veteran Paulo Goncalves
“How to Get To Sarajevo” - a song excerpt from “The Messenger”
An interview with Eduardo Enrikez, as Paulo Goncalves, in “The Messenger”
NMI in Portugal!
This episode of our webseries, “So Proudly We Hailed,” was selected to be part of the celebrations of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers (May 29), in Lisbon, Portugal.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, 29 May, offers a chance to pay tribute to the uniformed and civilian personnel’s invaluable contribution to the work of the Organization and to honour more than 4,000 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948, including 130 last year. In Lisbon, Portugal, our episode was shown at a very prestigious event, which coincides with an exhibit at the Combatants’ Museum. We were excited and honored to be part of this international celebration.
RYAN PATRICK MARTIN (Lyrics and Music)
Ryan Martin is a playwright and composer. His original musical The Incredible Six Thousand-Foot Ladder to Heaven ran at the 2019 Chicago Musical Theatre Festival where it garnered six festival awards including Best Book, Best Music, and Best of the Festival. In 2019, he was named a recipient of New Musicals Inc.’s New Voices Project, a national distinction for emerging musical theatre writers. His original music has appeared on the podcast Lovett or Leave It. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives, works, and hides from the weather in Chicago, Illinois. More at ryanpmartin.com.
“I am deeply honored to work with Col. Paulo Gonçalves on this project. Collaborating internationally — across borders, time zones, and cultures — to bring to life this hopeful story about the importance of vigilance and global cooperation in order to maintain peace has been my great delight.”
JOHN COPPOLA (Director)
A native of Brooklyn, New York, John Coppola is a multi-talented director and acting coach, whose clients have starred on HBO, Showtime, ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, Netflix, FX, AMC, USA, Lifetime, Fox, WB, TNT and Showcase. As a director, John has helmed more than 100 theatrical productions in New York, Los Angeles and abroad. His credits include groundbreaking productions of Shakespeare, Brecht, John Patrick Shanley and Caryl Churchill, as well as critically acclaimed adaptations of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, the musicals Cabaret, Sweeny Todd, Anything Goes, and Godspell. As a film director, John’s accolades include the award for Best Director at the New York International Film & Video Festival for his film, Possibility, which also took the Grand Jury Prize for short film In Los Angeles. Then, he directed Bourbon Street, a New Orleans television pilot for Rampart Entertainment. Most recently, he directed In the Basement, a short film that is scheduled for screening at festivals across the country. John began his career as an actor, whose career took him from the footlights of Broadway to the soundstages of Hollywood. After attending Yale’s drama program, John first appeared on Broadway in Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, followed by Biloxi Blues, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, American Buffalo, and the National and European revival tours of Hair, West Side Story, Grease, and Anything Goes.
“It was a such a pleasure and an honor to be a part of NMI’s Veterans’ Project. These true stories are beautifully written and come straight from the heart. It’s always wonderful to work on a project that offers a powerful message. Thank you for the opportunity!
EDUARDO ENRIKEZ (Performer)
Eduardo recently returned to the South Coast Rep familia with American Mariachi, having previously graced the stage as Sebastian in Destiny of Desire which went on to play the Goodman Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the Cincinnati Playhouse. He was in the original London West End production of the musical On Your Feet, the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan at The London Coliseum. He will reprise his role as Emilio this fall at the Moonlight Amphitheatre. West End/European credits include: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, Eating Raoul, Time Square Angel, Saturday Night Fever, and Hair. Regional credits include: Destiny of Desire; American Mariachi; Chris in Miss Saigon (Inland Empire Award for best actor, Broadway World nomination); Vittorio Vidal in Sweet Charity (Inland Empire Award for best actor, Broadway World nomination); Emcee in Cabaret (Garland Award nomination); Mickey in Blood Brothers (Ada Award for best actor); Is This Any Way to Start a Marriage; Ragtime; The Musical of Musicals, The Musical!; Love Songs—A Musical; Bat Boy The Musical; Hercules On Normandie, and Schoolhouse Rock. Film and television credits include: Sin Frontera (best actor award, Seattle Film Festival; best actor nomination, Beaufort International Film Festival), Stigma, Emilio, Jornada al Norte, Dog Tags, The Immigrant, Infertile Hearts, The Bridge, Locked up Abroad, and Bluff. Eduardo has been awarded the ARAM Associate at The Royal Academy of Music in London. Visit eduardoenrikez.com and follow him on Instagram @eduardoenrikez.
“I’m grateful to be a small part of this wonderful series. It’s important that we honor these men and woman for their humanity in the face of adversity.”
“I’m not here to get her to confess.
Close up the case. Just get her out of this place.”
An interrogator grills the only female prisoner in Bagram on charges of terrorism. By Elaine Little; with music and lyrics by Joshua H. Cohen; featuring Megan Rees.
Watch the full episode now!
Plus song excerpts and interviews.
“The Interrogator” - the full episode”
Elaine Little served in the active-duty Army, then transferred to the Reserves and the National Guard, where she was deployed to Guantanamo, Bosnia, and Afghanistan while raising three children. She is a writer, who won first place at the 2019 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival for her essay, “Now It’s You,” and is a current semi-finalist in the Cinestory TV pilot retreat workshop. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines, most recently “The Tupelo Quarterly.” Her essay, “Edit and Spin,” about her experiences during a deployment to Afghanistan, was published in the acclaimed literary anthology: “Powder, Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq.” She was recently awarded a place in the 2021 cohort for the AT&T Veterans Media Fellowship. After many years of working at jobs she hated, she drove to California with two cats in the back seat during the height of the pandemic. Her day job is Veterans Outreach Coordinator at the VA, a job she definitely doesn’t hate. Since she enjoys writing television specs and original television pilots, she thinks Los Angeles is the place for her.
“NMI’s support of Veterans is truly inspiring. When I returned from Afghanistan, I was ready to make some changes in my life. Writing was my way of coping. Writing is not only my passion. It’s also therapy. But I also like to get my work out there. NMI understands that the experiences that Veterans go through, though often painful, have the potential to become art that not only entertains but educates. In a nation where less than one-half percent of the population has served in the military, getting this information out is vital.”
~~ Elaine Little
Veteran of Guantanamo, Bosnia, and Afghanistan
an interview with veteran Elaine Little
An interview with Megan Rees, as Elaine Little, in “The Interrogator”
An excerpt from the song “I Wanted”
An excerpt from the song “Out Of Place”
JOSHUA H. COHEN (Lyrics and Music)
Joshua’s honors include a Jonathan Larson Grant, the Anna Zornio Children’s Theatre Playwriting Award (lyrics, Keep On Walkin’), and a MAC Award nomination for his cult cabaret hit “The Sacrifice of Love” (a.k.a. the waxing song). Productions include play The Thirteenth Commandment (Libra Theater, 7 NY Innovative Theater Award nominations, 2 wins; published by Next Stage Press), musical Tamar of the River (Prospect Theatre, 2 Drama Desk nominations, world premiere recording from Yellow Sound Label), and children’s musical Flight School (Vital Theatre, OCR available, national and international tour). Many other productions, readings, and workshops across the country; for more details visit www.JoshuaHCohen.com.
“I am the son of a Vietnam Marine who was denied a veteran’s license plate because he wanted it as a vanity plate that said PEACE. I’m honored to be a part of telling the vital stories of the veterans of America’s 21st-century military operations. Many thanks to Elise, Scott, Megan, and especially Elaine for entrusting me with this story.”
MEGAN REES (Performer)
Megan graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Musical Theater from Weber State University. Favorite musical theatre roles include: Sibella in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and Mayzie in Seussical. She also enjoys directing, writing, and producing. Favorite directing projects include Camelot, The Importance of Being Earnest, and My Jo (a musical adaptation of Little Women). In her free time, Megan is a nap and puppy enthusiast, and is not opposed to combining the two.
“I am excited to be a part of NMI’s Veteran’s Project, and to help bring the real-life stories of American veterans to life. I am particularly grateful to be able to help tell the stories of female veterans; stories that are often overlooked or untold, but offer incredibly important and powerful messages.”
“Hidden sniper with telescopic lens
…perched and waiting for my friends….”
Based on the Iraq War memoir, An Angel From Hell, by Ryan A. Conklin; with music by Ron Barnett and lyrics by Christine Croyden; featuring Troy Armond Barboza.
CHASING GHOSTS - the full episode
RYAN A. CONKLIN
Right out of high school, Conklin enlisted in the U.S. Army and became an Infantryman. He served active duty in the famed 187th Infantry “Rakkasans” Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division. He served a yearlong combat tour in Iraq from 2005-2006, where he participated in the security of Saddam Hussein’s trial and combat operations in-and-around Tikrit, Iraq. Conklin spent a second combat tour in Baghdad in 2009. He published a war memoir on his first combat tour, titled: An Angel from Hell: Real Life on the Front Lines in 2010. He was Honorably Discharged that same year, at the rank of sergeant. Some of his military awards include: the Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, two Good Conduct Medals, the Air Assault Badge, the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Conklin earned a B.A. in Film and Media Arts from Temple University. He was a cast member of MTVs Real World: Brooklyn in 2009. He published his second book, The 18th New York Infantry in the Civil War in 2016. He currently resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he continually serves his community as a Professional Firefighter and EMT.
An interview with veteran/writer Ryan A. Conklin
A song excerpt from the title song in the episode “Chasing Ghosts”
An interview with Troy Armand Barboza, as Ryan A. Conklin, in “Chasing Ghosts”
CHRISTINE CROYDEN (Book and Lyrics)
Christine Croyden is a Melbourne-based playwright, lyricist and novelist. Her plays are licensed and published by Australian plays.org https://apt.org.au/playwright/ASC-3983. She writes character-based drama, and storytelling is her passion. In 2011 Croyden was selected for the Inaugural Stage and Screen Residency at Varuna. In 2012 she was the recipient of a Copyright Agency Ltd (CAL) Scholarship and was mentored by lyricist, Jack Robinson in Paris and MMD (Mercury Musical Developments) in London. She completed a six-month playwriting residency at the Cartoucherie, a French theatre company in Paris in 2017. Her play UNDERGROUND, inspired by the adventures of Nancy Wake – a WW2 special agent, was produced in March 2019 and toured various Melbourne theatres, and it is now available in French translation. Her most recent play, JOY was produced at Heide Museum of Modern Art together with the Joy Hester exhibition in February 2021. She is also the author of two novels for young adults and many short stories and articles.
For further information please visit Christine’s website www.christinecroyden.com
“I have enjoyed working with veteran, Ryan Conklin, and composer Ron Barnett for SO PROUDLY WE HAILED.”
RON BARNETT (Music)
Ron Barnett is Director of Music and Sacred Arts at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, Glendale. Full length musicals, as composer: Manson’s Girls with book by Scott Guy, lyrics by Mitch Glaser, When Butter Churns to Gold with book by Peter Welkin and lyrics by Randi Wolfe, and A Christmas Carol with book by Barry Kornhauser, published in 2013 by Dramatic Publishing Company. With lyricist Greg Edwards, Ron was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 Fred Ebb Prize.
“The songs in this project have the power to do more than just tell a story. It’s an honor to be a part of it and, in some small way, perhaps assist in narrating a recovery.”
TROY ARMAND BARBOZA (Performer)
Troy is an actor, singer, director, script consultant, and automation technician from Boston. Throughout New England and New York, he’s been involved in dozens upon dozens of productions with people you probably don’t know at places you’ve likely never heard of, except for maybe Ithaca College and the American Repertory Theater. He was nominated for his performance as Billy Downs in an award-winning production of The Libertine, directed by Eric Tucker, so that was cool. In addition to performing in Chasing Ghosts, Troy also works as one of the A/V technicians for the Veterans’ Project. Check out some of his work at TroyArmandBarboza.com or follow his shenanigans on Instagram @TroyArmandBarboza
“I am honored to be a part of this project honoring veterans. A second-generation American on both sides of my family, both of my grandfathers served in WWII fighting for the United States of America, their chosen homeland. They both passed before I was born, so this opportunity to engage with first-hand veteran stories has been insightful to the spirit of my family’s service.”
Judy & Me
A bittersweet story of a father and a son whose relationship with the military shifts over time. By J.A. Moad II; with music by Filip Holacky; featuring Michael Shepperd.
Stayed tuned for the full episode coming soon!
“There was this moment, Dad, this beautiful moment, when everything came together.”
A hospital Navy Corpsman discovers her personal losses intersect with the wounded soldiers in a hospital tent in Kandahar. By Billie Estes, with music and lyrics by Angela Parrish. Featuring Evelyn Halus.
Stayed tuned for the full episode coming soon!
“Sometimes all I see in them
is the casualties I know they’ll be.”
An English Major in Camouflage
By Melissa Milich; with music and lyrics by Katie Brady. A former English major is commanded to teach literature to a foreign general. Unexpectedly, the safety of her regiment, and even the entire region, depends upon her success.
Stayed tuned for the full episode coming soon!
““Sometimes the least important isn’t allowed to stay the least important.””
The Next Three episodes
We are currently working on our next three episodes, which range from comical to disturbing:
The Shooter, by Brenda Garcia. The U.S. Navy gave her a camera instead of a gun.
Still Standing Proud, based on the service of an anonymous soldier who endured a devastasting assault. A difficult but important personal story of Military Sexual Trauma.
Blowing Stuff Up, by Vietnam vet George Nolly, who left the Air Force with the award of Tactical Air Command Instructor Pilot of the Year.
You can help.
We have secured funding for the first ten episodes of this series, but we still have many submissions from many amazing veterans whose stories we would love to share. These episodes cost thousands of dollars, and we also make sure we pay the veterans themselves. Please help us fund future episodes.
Call for Submissions
Submissions are closed for this round.
Next submission date: summer or fall 2021. Email email@example.com if you’d like us to send you an alert when the submissions open up again..
This project is hosted by New Musicals Inc. This activity is supported in part by a generous grant from the Helen and Jose Colton Foundation, the Peter Glenville Foundation, the Anonymous Fund (Marin County), and the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more about the Arts Council at www.arts.ca.gov.