Writer Rachel Landsee, 2021 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts-supported fellowship for U.S. military veterans, will be in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) in Amherst, Virginia, in November 2021.
After twelve years of service as an Army lawyer, Landsee now embraces her dual lifelong intellectual loves: a deep, multidisciplinary study in the humanities and writing.
Her one-act musical Soar will debut this month as a part of the inaugural War in Pieces play festival at Firehouse Theatre in Richmond, Virginia. The autobiographical musical begins with a terrible jump out of an airplane where Landsee was forced to consider the wars she and her husband served with their bodies, minds, and marriage.
Following the play’s debut, Landsee plans to spend part of her VCCA residency developing and expanding Soar into a full two-act play. “When I wrote the one-act play, I needed many quiet hours daily to go through the intense memories of that period in my life and to craft them into something that an audience would enjoy, particularly for people without military experience,” says Landsee. “The truest gift of this fellowship is the permission to step away from a busy and mostly non-writing life to focus on the most meaningful writing projects that I have. I never would have given myself this permission in the absence of the award.”
Another playwriting project Landsee hopes to pursue as a VCCA Fellow is a two-act play set during the final years and aftermath of World War I, which will examine themes of freedom, representation, and power.
She also aims to begin outlining a nonfiction book on how assumptions of war affect war theory and decisions. As a nonfiction writer, Landsee contributed to the first edition of the Mighty Pen Project’s journal with “Ecuador,” a creative nonfiction story about her husband’s presence in a dining facility in Iraq during a suicide bomber’s detonation while she traveled in South America. She was also a finalist in an international law military writing contest with The Law of the Long War, an analysis of the conflict between the laws governing conventional warfare when modern warfare is uniquely about failures of governance.
“Overambitious?” Landsee asks of her goals for her fellowship. “Absolutely. Thank you, NEA and VCCA, for your institutional validation. It means the world. ”
The mission of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) is to provide time and space for national and international writers, visual artists, and composers of talent and promise to bring forth their finest works, because the arts are vital, diversity is a strength, and creativity is essential. The artists who come to VCCA, whether emerging or established, are selected by peer review on the basis of the important or innovative work they are doing in their respective fields.
In residence, VCCA Fellows are provided with an individual studio, a private bedroom with en-suite bath, and three meals a day in a community of cross-disciplinary artists. Life at VCCA is free of many of the distractions we find in everyday life. Artists are granted solitary time to focus on their art, and are also part of a collaborative community of accomplished artists that provides insights, new ideas, and stimulating conversation. VCCA Fellows are free to work at their own pace in quiet, spacious, light-filled studios, just a short walk from their residence overlooking the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.