She Went To War

In March, 2017, SHE WENT TO WAR  opened at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to rave reviews. A three week run concluded with sold-out houses and standing ovations. SHE WENT TO WAR  is new work by The Telling Project, an autobiographical performance by four female veterans, all of whom, in widely varying capacities, experienced significant combat exposure during their terms in the military. All of the women in SWTW  have performed their stories with The Telling Project previously. Their stories speak to and for many, many more women whose roles put them in the line of fire. SWTW  will be an opportunity for the American public to understand and acknowledge the distinctive and important roles women have played on the battlefield.

“She Went To War,” was supported generously by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Acton Family Fund, Adept Word Management and, of course, our very good friends at The Guthrie Theater.


Happening Now

The Telling Project Institute

Where the current work of The Telling Project focuses on community engagement at a grassroots level between veterans, military families and civilians, The Telling Project Institute (TPI) takes a top-down approach. Working with civic leaders and decision makers in business, media, education in communities across the United States, The Telling Project Institute hosts TPI Summits. Modeled after the Salzburg Seminars and the Aspen Institute, a Summit consists of two parts: a private staging of a Telling performance for decision-makers featuring local veterans and military families; followed by a series of structured discussions engaging leaders with veterans and military family members from their community.

Summit attendees then draft five or more resolutions to be taken back to their respective organizations and communities. These resolutions can address any area related to military service, military families and veterans, e.g.: employment, housing and service issues affecting veterans; issues surrounding the civilian/military divide; issues of citizenship and service.

After the Summit, TPI staff follows-up with participants at scheduled intervals to evaluate how well and how better these resolutions might be realized, and continues to work with the organizations and individuals involved to evolve their understanding, policies and programs regarding veterans and military families.

Bringing decision-makers into direct contact with a veteran cohort – one that is skilled in presentation and public speaking – accomplishes two things in particular. On a formal level, the resolutions coming out of each Summit provide host communities with a deeper understanding of issues facing veterans and military families while providing tangible, trackable benchmarks. TPI also provides a national network of organizations, institutions and individuals who are able to draw from the perspective and expertise of The Telling Project staff as well as from one another, adding a collaborative layer to the work.

Through the Institute, The Telling Project continues its work promoting and invigorating the military and military families as institutions of American communities and culture, providing public platforms at local and regional levels for communities to connect to, appreciate and understand their veteran and military family populations.  Through this work, The Telling Project continues to deepen public understanding of the military experience, easing veterans’ transitions back to civilian society socially, professionally and personally, and facilitating more robust engagement on the part of civilians in their communities, nation and the world.
For more information or to schedule a Summit in your community email

Benefits of Participating in a Telling Project Institute Summit

  • A chance to interact with those who have served by listening to their stories and engaging in meaningful dialog which can provide a competitive advantage to your organization when it comes to recruiting disciplined, highly trained and motivated individuals to take your enterprise to the next level.
  • A richer understanding of the military experience which can help attract veterans and their families to your business/organization.
  • A clearer picture of how to strengthen your organization/community by identifying the skills and talents veterans provide.
  • An opportunity to network with community leaders from a variety of disciplines.
  • Access to information on best practices from organizations and communities all over the country.
  • Supportive staff to help you implement these best practices in your organization/business.


Get Involved

If you are interested in sharing your story or would like to have The Telling Project come to your community, please email us at

If you’re a business and would like information about sponsoring a Telling Project in your community or becoming a national sponsor, call 281-772-2829 for more information.

About Us


The Mission:
The Telling Project is a national performing arts non-profit that employs theater to deepen our understanding of the military and veterans’ experience. Greater understanding fosters receptivity, easing veterans’ transitions back to civil society, and allowing communities to benefit from the skills and experience they bring with them. Through this understanding, a community deepens its connection to its veterans, itself, and its place in the nation and the world.

The Work
The most direct path to understanding veterans’ experience is person-to-person contact.  With the dramatic decline in the numbers serving in the military – less than one percent of the population over the last eleven years of war – this contact will not happen through day-to-day life. It must be created and supported.  Through performance, The Telling Project puts veterans and military family members in front of their communities to share their stories.  We give veterans and military family members the opportunity to speak, and their communities the opportunity to listen.

Since 2008, The Telling Project has produced 40+ original performances, put over 180 veterans and family members on stage and performed in 16 states across the nation.  It has been featured by PBS, the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, NPR, Inside Higher Ed and others, and supported by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution and others.  In 2009, The Telling Project, which is based in Austin, TX,  received 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit.

Telling Project Reviews:

“I cannot begin to put into words how important this experiencehas been for me. I could not recommend it enough for any veteran in America. We all have our own stories to tell, and the nation needs to hear them.”  – John K., Veteran

Telling was a life changing experience. It gave me strength and courage to share my story and a platform to heal.”  Salina L., Veteran & Military Spouse

“My unspoken truth kept me in dark places in my head, and the Telling Project shed light into that, which set me free. I could not heal alone.  – Dee B., Veteran & Military Spouse

No words can describe the brilliance of this performance. My heartfelt gratitude to the tellers. All your stories are so intellectually and emotionally honest and compelling. I salute you. You have given the public such important perspective.” – Janis J., Audience Member

The Telling did what theater at its best does: Start a conversation. The performances were very true and compelling, and the impact on the audience was extraordinary.” -Martha S., Audience Member

“We need these in every neighborhood, for every veteran…I know the needs vets have from the inside, and I know that your project meets one of our deep needs.-Harlan W., Veteran

Who We Are:

Jonathan Wei – Founder, Executive Director

Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz001Jonathan Wei is a writer, director and producer.  His work has appeared in The Village VoiceThe Iowa ReviewThe North American ReviewGlimmer Train and other publications and he is a past fellow of the Vermont Studio Center and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Jonathan’s work has been staged at the Guthrie Theater, the Library of Congress, Maryland Center for the Performing Arts and others, and featured by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, NPR and others.  Jonathan founded The Telling Project in 2008, and continues to serve as executive director.

Max Rayneard – Director of Research and Outcomes

IMG_0423Dr. Max Rayneard, co-creator of The Telling Project process,  is a South African Fulbright Scholar who has written, produced and/or directed for The Telling Project on a dozen productions.He has presented papers regarding his Telling Project work at both national and global conferences, and has been published in peer-reviewed academic and creative venues. He is a research affiliate of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program and the Program of Theater in the Department of English at Colgate University and holds a PhD in Comparative literature from The University of Oregon.

Julie Coan – Director of The Telling Project Institute

Coan1217As Director of TPI, Julie Coan works with community leaders across the nation to build stronger connections to local veterans and military families through regional Summits. Prior to the Telling Project, Ms. Coan spent twenty years in Public Television in production and communications. For her work, she has won over 30 national, regional and local awards for community engagement and journalistic excellence, including seven Emmy Awards. Most recently Ms.Coan served as Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer at KLRN in San Antonio. During her tenure she developed and led the station’s acclaimed VETERANS VOICES project, a multi-year initiative to serve transitioning military, veterans and their families through programming, convening and events. She has been asked to speak at several national and regional meetings on the topic of serving veterans and military families through innovative programming. Since 2004, Ms. Coan has served on the Lone Star Emmy Chapter’s Board of Governors and was recently elected to represent the chapter as a Trustee to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which recognizes excellence in television programming through the prestigious Emmy Award. Originally from the Boston area, Ms. Coan graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston with a degree in Political Science. She resides in Houston, Texas with her husband Patrick, a United States Air Force and Navy Reserve veteran.


In all productions, The Telling Project collaborates with local community organizations and individuals.  These collaborations are structured to the needs and resources of the community partners.  The Telling Project has worked with repertory groups, university theatre departments, veteran service organizations, community associations, governmental and professional organizations and private individuals.

The Telling Project interviews veterans and family members about their experiences with the military. All interviews are video-recorded, and The Telling Project then transcribes the interviews verbatim and constructs a script from the transcripts. Performers have the opportunity to think about, revise and shape the script at the beginning of the rehearsal process.

Performance Training, Rehearsing and Performing
When the interview process is complete, veterans and veterans’ family members interested in performing begin working with an experienced theatre director The prospective performers will undertake an 4-8 week course in performance.  When The Telling Project completes and hands over the script, performance training transitions to rehearsal. 4-8 weeks of rehearsal follow, culminating in performances of “Telling.”

Each performance is supported by a full-scale campaign to build interest and audience.  This campaign can be undertaken by The Telling Project, in collaboration with The Telling Project, or by the host community.

Production involves logistics and administration for the performance itself. This can be undertaken by The Telling Project, in collaboration with The Telling Project, or by the host community.

We are honored to be supported by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, allowing us to create more performances, reach more communities, and allow more veterans and military family members to tell their stories. The Woodruff Foundation’s mission is to ensure injured veterans and their families are thriving long after they return home.  That’s why they find and fund innovative programs in communities where veterans, their families and caregivers live and work.  That’s how The Woodruff Foundation tackles the problems that can prevent our veterans from fulfilling their dreams for the next chapter of their lives.