The HERO Highlights Reel
Footage and images are from the 2015 Princeton University thesis production of HERO, created by Eamon Foley.
After conducting interviews with veterans, Eamon Foley discovered parallels between the epic sonic quality and subject matter of Muse’s music and the shared-experience of the men who fought. Eamon would like to collaborate with Muse to create a musical that revolutionizes the form and brings the extremes of the human experience to the stage in a visually and emotionally spectacular way.
Muse’s music both encapsulates the essence of the Vietnam War and guides the story of a draftee’s transformative experience in HERO, the aerial dance musical. By marrying Muse’s sweeping score with aerial arts, choreography, and other high-octane forms of expression, the otherworldly intensity of the Vietnam War comes to life and helps the audiences grasp the vast scope of its tragedy, beauty, and senselessness.
The story follows draftee Zachary Zane as his heart and mind shifts within the surreal landscape of the Vietnam War. We meet Zachary after the war in the grey world of resentful America, on the verge of ending his own life (Soldier’s Poem). The ghosts of his past bring him to the beginning, where a younger, more naïve Zachary supports his girlfriend, Angelica, at a protest (Exo-Politics). He receives his draft letter, and is airlifted into the high-octane landscape of war. Vietnam is an alien world vibrating with danger and virility in which he is forced to accept a new code of morality. (Psycho).
After he makes his first kill, he's forced to reconcile the addictive validation against his resilience to becoming a killer (Time is Running Out). He’s promoted to sniper and paired with spotter Abe Jeramiah Green, a black poet and closeted homosexual. The men make a killer team, and are sent on a dangerous mission that veers deep into the mysterious landscape of Laos (Exo-Genesis Symphony, Part 2). While camping in an abandoned temple, the men experiment with hallucinogenic drugs and, aching for touch, they physically express their love for each other (Endlessly).
Zach and Abe become further entwined in the Vietnam War’s corruption while simultaneously clinging to a relationship that is both pure and scandalous. The story that unfolds will explore duty, race, masculinity, politics, sexuality, and how the intensity of each is accentuated in the surreal landscape of war. Zachary will lose everything: Abe, Angelica, his mobility, his youth, and the belief system that allowed him to exist in society. The war machine drops him back in his hometown of Akron, Ohio where, after his entire identity has been slashed and reshaped by war, he must figure out if and how he can go on.
Other songs that support this story include Knights of Cydonia, Uprising, Madness, Starlight, and more.
The mode of expressing the story separates the voice from the players. Three singers provide the voices of Zachary, Abe, and Angelica, and are backed up by a chorus of singers that allow the music to soar to new choral heights. As the singers express each characters’ subconscious through song, the actor/dancer/aerialists simultaneously express their journey through speech, movement, and aerial dance.
“Hero” is a term that helps civilians feel more comfortable with how little they understand about the soldier experience. It puts a complex journey into a neat, positive category, when we know that war is too big for clean explanations or clear judgement. War opens up a maze within ordinary men, forcing them to confront the ugliness, the animal, and the superhuman within them. To be a war hero does not mean that you did good, in fact “good” and “bad” make poor descriptors of wartime. To be a hero means you’ve endured a test of self, and the heroic, often cruel act is to restart your life in a society that will never understand the myth you’ve endured, and doesn’t want to.
Rigid western culture demands that we live by binaries that deny the multitudes within us. The Veterans that were interviewed divulged that Vietnam was like a drug that allowed them to discover new sides of themselves; grey areas that could never have been explored state-side. The war untaps aspects of man that are both beautiful and horrific, aspects that lie dormant in civilians.
Those multitudes exist within Muse’s music. The music soars with orchestral arpeggio, yet also exists within the spheres of hard rock and electronica. It contains the anger of a newly disillusioned America, yet the beauty of what man is capable of when pushed to his utmost limits. The grandeur of the music helps the emotions of these characters rise to the occasion of the Vietnam War, which exists on a heightened plane. Not to mention, the songs confront political corruption, providing a voice to the counter-culture movement of the 60’s and the men stuck within the cogs of war run for self-interested politicians and career brass. Muse’s music is the multifaceted, mythic nature of war, and the task is to create a stage production as powerful and moving as the music.
Eamon Foley began his career performing in six Broadway productions. He was a recipient of the Legacy Robe before switching his attention to writing, direction, and choreography. He conceived and mounted HERO as his Senior Thesis at Princeton University, for which the production received the Francis LeMoyne Prize for Excellence in Theater, The Santiago Dumont Award for Innovation, and The Outstanding Senior Thesis Award.
Eamon is currently the Artistic Director of the award-winning theater company Grind Arts Co., which specializes in innovative musical theater experiences, film, and virtual reality. He choreographs for artists such as Tony-nominated director Michael Arden at venues including The New Amsterdam Theater, The Hammerstein Ballroom, and The Hollywood Bowl, and directs music videos for artists such as Caroline Reese and Natti Vogel. His most recent music video, Brown Rice, is nominated for a Queerty Award.
“HERO is the best performance the University will see in the next decade - if not longer”
-The Daily Princetonian