Michael Lederer

Librettist Lyricist Playwright

Michael Lederer is a playwright, screenwriter, novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist. Born July 9, 1956, Princeton, New Jersey, where his father Ivo Lederer was a professor of Contemporary European Diplomatic History. He grew up in New Haven, New York City, and Palo Alto, California. Lederer has lived in London, Spain, Vienna, Dubrovnik, and Berlin. Member of Dramatists Guild, SAG-AFTRA, AEA, PEN International, National Arts Club, NYC; Players Club, NYC. B.A., Theatre Arts, Binghamton University. Original acting member of Tony award-winning TheatreWorks in Palo Alto. Founding Artistic Director of Dubrovnik Shakespeare Festival, 2009-2012. His script Saving America was a 2019 winner PAGE International Screenwriting Award. Lederer's first play, 1408 1/2, was produced when he was a student at Stanford University's inaugural Summer Theatre Workshop, 1979. Also at Stanford, Michael studied dramatic analysis with Martin Esslin and Andrzej Wirth; Robert Egan (Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seattle Rep., Mark Taper Forum) directed Michael as Yahoodi in Stanford's production of Sam Shepard's early rock fantasy Mad Dog Blues. At SUNY Binghamton, Lederer studied voice and movement with Arthur Lessac; appeared in Synge's Playboy of the Western World opposite Elana Greenfield (later Artistic Director of New Dramatists), and wrote his second play, Beckett's Babies, under the auspices of Tony award-nominee Loften Mitchell (Bubbling Brown Sugar). From 1979-80, Michael served as President of Civic Theatre of Binghamton. Continuing work as an actor, leading roles at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto included Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac, Prince Serpuhovsky in Tolstoy's Strider, David in Michael Frayn's Benefactors, Charlie in Hugh Leonard's Da, and Sigmund Freud in Fraulein Dora. TheatreWorks' Managing Director at that time was future Broadway producer Randy Adams (Junkyard Dogs). Michael was part of a Commedia dell'arte troupe in California for two years, writing as well as acting in many of their performances. While living in the fishing village of La Herradura in the south of Spain, 1984-85, Lederer wrote his first novel, Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore. It was published in Barcelona in 1999, republished in Berlin 2013. In 1989, while playing Claudius in a touring production of Hamlet for London's Performance Exchange (U.K., Hong Kong, Bahrain), Lederer helped break news of the discovery of The Rose Theatre, the first Elizabethan era theatre ever unearthed. After stumbling upon the archeological dig on London's South Bank, he alerted The London Evening Standard, issuing the first public call to save the ruins of The Rose from destruction by real estate developers. In 1993, Michael's third play, Faith: The Practically True History of the Final Days of Cyrano de Bergerac, had a staged reading at the Angel Orensanz Foundation in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Among those in the audience was Tony award-winning playwright John Guare. When Lederer's book of short stories, The Great Game: Berlin-Warsaw Express was published in 2012, Guare provided the following blurb for the book's cover: "Now that Michael Lederer has published his first book of short stories, and again lost his publishing virginity, his fans can hope he becomes a nymphomaniac as quickly as possible and keeps bringing his suave intellect to the printed page for years to come. He writes with the intensity of an ancient soul sitting around the campfire spinning ardent tale after tale to warm the winter night. A real treat." Reviewing that same book, Germany's leading newspaper Die Welt wrote "Michael Lederer is a true archaeologist among the great American writers." And Vladimir Sorokin, Russia's leading post-modernist novelist and playwright, wrote, "In the stories of Michael Lederer there is a beautiful sense of loss, as if the author deliberately and thoroughly erected a fine building, and then a ruthless movement destroyed it in front of you. These ruins are fascinating." Lederer's novel Cadaques was selected by the U.S. Embassy Berlin for their American Literature Series 2014. His next book, In the Widdle Wat of Time: poems and very short stories, published in Berlin, appeared in 2016. In 1998, Michael co-founded the Safe Haven Museum in Oswego, New York. Lederer's father, grandparents and aunt were among the only small group of Jewish refugees from Europe admitted into the U.S. during World War II. That group of fewer than a thousand were then interned behind wire fencing on an old Army camp in Oswego until after the war ended, when they were finally permitted to apply for permanent status. That story is the subject of Michael's play I Have Seen the Mississippi. An earlier play, Mundo Overloadus, first appeared in January 2010 as a staged reading at The Poetry Cafe in London's Covent Garden. Dubrovnik Shakespeare Festival then produced Mundo as part of its touring program in an AEA showcase production at New York's PS 122 in September 2010. Both London and NY performances featured Graham Sack (Lincoln in the Bardo, Broadway's Lost in Yonkers, Dunston Checks In, Law and Order) in the lead role of Gilbert. Based loosely on characters from the 60s TV sitcom Gilligan's Island, Playbill reported "Mundo Overloadus is about the attempt to preserve innocence in the face of a modern world where that seems practically impossible. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information. At a time when we view life through screens of our monitors and mobiles, Mundo Overloadus lifts our social shields and tackles the trials of our 24-hour world." Michael studied screenwriting with Richard Walter of UCLA, also with Venable Herndon at NYU. Early screenplays include To Kill or Not to Kill, One Step at a Time, and Callaloo. Shooting Stars is the screen adaptation of his novel Cadaques. His script Saving America, a modern take on Don Quixote, won the PAGE International Screenwriting Award for comedy 2019. (Logline: With the United States warming fast and splitting apart at the seams, a would-be hero takes it upon himself to save America. He enlists the help of a young stranger, convinced this will definitely be a two-man job.) Lederer is at work on a new script, Not Science Fiction, based on one of his published short stories. Michael's father's partner and constant companion for many years was Broadway legend Kitty Carlisle Hart. In an interview with Deutsche Welle television, Michael said "I've been a barefoot hippie on a commune in California, a poet in Spain, the virtual stepson of Kitty Carlisle Hart in Manhattan with all the trimmings that suggests...now I just sit in a room and write about that stuff." Michael and his wife Katarina presently divide their time between Berlin, Cadaques in Spain, NYC, and Palo Alto, California.


Michael Lederer's screenplay Saving America won the 2019 PAGE International Screenwriting Award for comedy. His novel Cadaques was selected by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for their American Literature Series.