Michael Landes USA


Year of Residency: 2019


  • New York University College of Arts and Sciences, New York, NY 5/19 Bachelor’s, Dramatic Literature and Philosophy
  • Sorbonne University Theatre Summer School, Paris, France 7/18


  • Umbilical, New York, NY – Writer 7/18 Planet Connections Festivity (Nominated for nine Planet Connections Festivity Awards and Winner, Outstanding Playwright of an Experimental or Dance Piece)>
  • (The Play’s) The Thing, New York, NY – Writer 1/18 La Mama
  • La Mama Umbria International, Spoleto, Italy 8/17




My current project, outlined in depth below, involves an international scope and draws on many theatrical and mythic traditions. To access these other traditions, it is essential that I interact with international sources in international locations rather than remaining isolated in my corner of the world. The Belgrade Art Studio Residency is a perfect example of a space with a great deal of interaction with artists in other disciplines and from other traditions.
I have traveled and worked in Europe previously in Italy and in France, and both instances have been some of the most creatively generative and artistically transformative experiences in my life. Belgrade promises to be an equally compelling and transformative experience, judging by the immense amount of art and activity in the city, but at the same time unique and entirely distinct from my previous artistic experiences in Europe. For example, my experiences in Italy and France were exclusively theatrical, but interaction with artists and creatives across disciplines is critical to my writing practice in the States. Thus I hope that the Belgrade Art Studio Residency will generate this interdisciplinary transfer of ideas and work in a way that I have yet to experience in a residency or program.

The project I will work on at the Residency explores the nature of narrative and storytelling in relation to theatrical mimesis. Where does storytelling start and end, and where does mimetic “theatricality” begin? This work will exist in dialogue with artists such as Richard Maxwell, Gurshad Shaheman, Tim Etchells, Milo Rau, and Annie Baker. The audience, seated alongside three actors at a dinner table, will spend one hour each exploring creation myths, comedy, tragedy, love, war, anti-story, and destruction myths. The epic scale will allow for dramatic exploration of temporal limitations and deep engagement with each theme, while the limited production scale provides a tight structure for the piece.
I require time in Belgrade to dive deeply into this piece because such a residency would give me international perspectives, interdisciplinary collaboration, and a sharp split from my current surroundings, a split that I find generative. For these reasons I felt motivated to apply for the Belgrade Art Studio Residency.

Artist statement


Throughout my body of work I aim to engage deeply with the history of theater, performance and storytelling, often recontextualizing historical work and structures and placing them in conversation with contemporary ethics. I attempt to rehabilitate a theatrical tradition reaching beyond naturalism and 20th-century realism towards a more ritualistic, mythic and spiritual engagement with the activity of theater, transformed to interact with 21st-century ideologies of the self and the other. These big-picture questions often lead me to interact with the nature of language itself in the work––how has theater, poetry and prose interacted historically, and how do these genres interact today.
My serious theatrical practice began in 2015 as I started engaging with major 20th-century absurdist and European playwrights, particularly Ionesco and Beckett. In 2017 I developed an academic interest in Chekhov and used his “Seagull” as a model for my own adaptation of Hamlet, “Ghosts Aren’t Real” performed in an early version at a staged reading at La Mama in January 2018. Set in suburban America with a five-person cast, the play is a bleak comedy about a dysfunctional family in which pop culture and political anxieties became the locus of the play. This was the first explicit reference to an earlier play in my work, and the first significant public showing of any piece of mine.
My first full production, “Umbilical”, is where my poetic interests, theatrical interests, and engagement with historical modes fully merged together. “Umbilical” uses dramatic structure from Greek tragedy to tell the story of a post-apocalyptic world in which a woman attached by an umbilical cord to a body bag encounters a mute man raking a rock garden. Language used throughout borrowed from poetic forms, notably Ashbery’s long poems and contemporary experimental poetry. The play was produced in Planet Connections 2018 and won Outstanding Playwright of an Experimental Piece.
Recently I have begun an engagement with ecotheory and ecotheater, drawing on thinkers like Donna Haraway, Una Chaudhuri, Anna Tsing and Jane Bennett, and subject-object ontology, leading me to Julie Kristeva and Fred Moten. These philosophies deeply influence the content of my newer work. Thus my practice continues to evolve and change in response to new work and philosophies that I encounter, while remaining tied to concepts of storytelling, mimesis, and historical dialogue.