RINDE ECKERT is a writer, composer, librettist, musician, performer and director. His Opera / New Music Theatre productions have toured throughout America and to major theater festivals in Europe and Asia. With a virtuosic command of gesture, language and song, this total theatre artist moves beyond the boundaries of what a 'play,' a 'dance piece,' an 'opera' or 'musical' might be, in the service of grappling with complex issues. Eckert describes many of his characters as "little men with big ideas whose consequences of their hubris are often disastrous." Sometimes tragic and austere, sometimes broadly comedic, entirely grounded by presence, his work is alchemical: moving from rumination and distillation to hard-won illumination, or its lack.
Rinde began his career in the 1980’s writing librettos for Paul Dresher (Pioneer, Power Failure, Slow Fire, Ravenshead) and performing. He composed dance scores for choreographers Sarah Shelton Mann and Margaret Jenkins, including the evening-length Woman, Window, Square for The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. In 1992 he began composing and performing his own music/theater work with The Gardening of Thomas D, an homage to Dante which toured in the United States and France. His staged works for solo performer include Becoming…Unusual: The Education of an Eclectic; the three one-act plays An Idiot Divine, Romeo Sierra Tango and Quit This House. Works for radio include Shoot the Moving Things and Four Songs Lost in a Wall. In February 2017 Rinde opened the inaugural season of Renée Fleming’s Voices Series at the Kennedy Center where he premiered his recital Rin: Tales from the Life of a Troubadour.
Theatre writing credits include Highway Ulysses, Horizon, Orpheus X, And God Created Great Whales, which was produced three times with the original cast and director for a total of 227 performances. And God Created Great Whales, Horizon and Orpheus X have all had off-Broadway runs, garnering Drama Desk Nominations and the Lucille Lortel Award. Other important awards include being named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist in 2012, receiving the 2009 Alpert Award in the Arts for Theatre, a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, and The American Academy of Arts and Letters 2005 Marc Blitzstein Award. In 2007 Rinde Eckert was the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
Eckert’s work has been produced in New York by the Foundry Theatre, Culture Project, Theater for a New Audience and the New York Theatre Workshop. American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Center Stage in Baltimore, Cleveland’s Dobama Theatre Company, REDCAT in Los Angeles at the Roy& Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, and Berkeley Repertory Theater have also produced his work. His directors have included Tony Taccone, Robert Woodruff, David Schweizer, Richard ET White and Ellen McLaughlin. Rinde has directed for The Asia Society, Juggernaut Theater, Opera Piccola and the Paul Dresher Ensemble. In 2013 he directed a remounting of Eye Piece for Barnard College students, and directed the operas Theotokia and The War Reporter by Jonathan Berger and Dan O’Brien for Stanford Live.
Writing and directing new music projects have included I Have Stopped the Clocks for Roomful of Teeth; the critically acclaimed CD Sandhills Reunion (music by Jerry Granelli, text by Eckert); The Schick Machine a solo-theater work for percussionist Steven Schick composed/produced by Paul Dresher; Imaginary City with So Percussion; Sound Stage for the ensemble Zeitgeist; Gurs Zyklus, a new music/performance/multi-media installation and collaboration with sound sculptor Trimpin; and Steven Mackey’s oratorio Dream House. Conducted by Gil Rose with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the recording received three 2010 Grammy Nominations: Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical. In 2014 Rinde performed Dream House with the New York Philharmonic.
Eckert wrote the text and performed in the multi-media production Slide with composer/guitarist Mackey and the new music ensemble 8th blackbird, which toured to major university campuses and the Ojai Festival. Renamed Lonely Motel by Cedille Records, the disc won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Eckert and Mackey are members of BIG FARM, a ‘prog-rock’ super group with drummer Jason Treuting (So Percussion) and bassist Mark Haanstra. Rinde Eckert’s own uniquely eclectic music is released on Germany’s Intuition label and through Songline/Tonefield Productions.
Recent highlights, upcoming projects and engagements include the Kronos Quartet’s production of composer Jonathan Berger’s monodrama My Lai, written for singer-actor Eckert, Vietnamese musician Vanh An Vo and the Kronos Quartet. Performances in the 2017-2018 season include the Singapore Festival, Brooklyn, major college campuses and Holland.
Rinde wrote the libretto and performs the lead in the new music-theatre work Aging Magician, a Beth Morrison Production. The work recently ran for 2-weeks at the New Victory Theatre in New York City and will be performed at UCLA this season.
Rinde has taught at Princeton University since 2007, working with graduate students from the English Department and School of Music. His extensive writing and directing residencies began at the University of Nebraska to create Horizon; the University of California at Davis Department of Theater and Dance to write and direct Fate and Spinoza; in partnership with Hancher and the University of Iowa to create, write, perform in and direct Eye Piece, a play exploring the loss of vision which Rinde again directed for Barnard College students; Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts to create, write and direct theater students in The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy; and a 2-week teaching residency with the Departments of Theater and Dance at Towson University. Rinde and Paul Dresher led a yearlong project with the University of South Maine in 2016-2017.
Rinde Eckert lives in New York with his wife, the playwright and actress Ellen McLaughlin.
Updated May 2017 – please discard any previous version.
Rinde Eckert and the composer-performer Ned Rothenberg, both honored veterans of the avant-garde, team up to create a piece that imagines how animals might perceive human beings, an illusion brought to life with an array of unconventional sounds and gestures. Collaborating with beatbox artist Adam Matta, and designer/co-director Mark DeChiazza, Five Beasts premiered in Lyon, France during March 2015 and is now available for touring.
Five Beasts Promo Video by Mark DeChiazza
Les Subsistances in Lyon, France
An album released November 1, 2004, Sandhills Reunion includes music by Jerry Granelli and text written and performed by Rinde Eckert. It is a multi-layered interweaving of words and music that Granelli calls an audio movie or play. The video featured at right was shot by Mark DeChiazza and Mark Andrews during a three day excursion to Nebraska. The text by Eckert is a glancingly linked sequence of reflections, imaginings, internal monologues and one historically accurate dialogue (“Twenty Questions for an Outlaw”) using the persona of Billy the Kid as a thematic touchstone and the Sandhills region of northwestern Nebraska as the landscape of memory and desire.
“...Granelli and the band really shine behind Eckert’s words, leaving perfect space for story…[but] Eckert really steals the show…His stories are some of the most vivid and amazing tales put to record recently.”
— Ryan McDermott, One Final Note
Steven Mackey - Guitar, Rinde Eckert - Vocals, Jason Treuting - Bass, Mark Haanstra - Drums
It answers a call to each of these musicians to a place where the rules normative to the hard genres of music (classical, jazz, folk, pop, blues, and world, for example) are set aside. Under the banner of ‘prog-rock’ it becomes possible for the group to express the eclecticism of its members, a place where serious counterpoint can meet burlesque, earnestness meet abandon; a place where we can kick it or take it to tea, reflect, attack, mourn, dance, pray, or mock with ease or determination, joy or fervor, using any and all means necessary. This world is a big farm – lots of different crops, changing weather, livestock, and a duck pond for good measure.
*Big Farm Live at Joe's Pub, New York City
"Given half the chance, I’ll take the photograph that lies / I’ll take the romance, the beauty of her less than truthful eyes."
— Lyric (excerpt), Ghosts
MY LAI with THE KRONOS QUARTET at HARRIS THEATER MILLENNIUM PARK
Created by Jonathan Berger
Performed by Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, tenor, Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, traditional Vietnamese musician
This World Premiere of My Lai, a new operatic work composed by San Francisco Bay Area composer and Stanford University Professor of Music Jonathan Berger will be performed by Rinde Eckert, Kronos Quartet and Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, traditional Vietnamese musicianat Harris Theater Millenium Park in Chicao, IL in January 2016.
"My Lai, an operatic monodrama for voice, traditional Vietnamese instruments, and string quartet, is composed by San Francisco Bay Area composer and Stanford University Professor of Music Jonathan Berger. An artistic portrayal of and response to the infamous 1968 civilian massacre by U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, My Lai approaches the story from U.S. Army helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson’s perspective. In lieu of a linear narrative, the story emerges in fragments as the aging and infirm Thompson reflects on the war and on decades of being maligned as unpatriotic and traitorous for attempting to stop the slaughter."